PASADENA, Calif. — A pair of Mexico's biggest injury doubts appear ready to play a part in Saturday's Gold Cup final against their archrivals, the United States. (FOX Soccer, 8:30 pm ET)
Left winger Andrés Guardado (ankle) and left back Carlos Salcido (heel) have been labeled injury question marks ahead of the match, but Tri head coach José Manuel de la Torre is taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding to sit the duo or allow them to play.
"We'll wait [before making a decision],” he said on Friday. “They took a few knocks and if they are not 100 percent to start, then we'll have that conversation then.”
The fleet-footed Guardado has been labeled by many to be the most important player in Mexico's effort to repeat as Gold Cup champions. Prior to being subbed out in the 53rd of Mexico's semifinal 2-0 victory over Honduras with a sprained ankle, Guardado's play in the midfield had been a revelation for Mexico.
The service that Guardado has provided will be vital as El Tri look to involve their most dangerous player, Javier "Chicharito" Hernández, in their attack. Ahead of the final, Guardado is certain that he’ll play a part in the match despite the injury knock.
"I'm ready to play [on Saturday],” said Guardado. “We trained in the morning and we tested the ankle. It bothers me a little, which is normal, but I feel fine to play."
Salcido, who also came out in the second half against Honduras, has been battling the left heel injury since the end of the European season. After beating Honduras on Wednesday, Salcido told reporters he had re-injured it in Mexico’s group-stage win against Costa Rica and that the hard surfaces of the practice and playing fields hadn’t helped it get better.
“It’s complicated, but we’ll see,” Salcido said Wednesday night. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know what will happen. Still, if I have to be on the bench and support my teammates, I’ll do it.”
The potential loss of Guardado will likely create many more questions for the Mexicans. If he’s unable to go, it seems likely that Mexico will shift Giovani dos Santos to man the left wing while super sub Aldo de Nigris will line up alongside Hernández.
As for left back, Jorge Torres Nilo should step in should Salcido not be available.
For Guardado, the focus is not on whether he plays a part but more importantly that El Tri are crowned champions.
"No one wants to lose," said the Mexican midfielder. "We're looking for what's best for the team. Here, the important thing is the team, not the person. If I have to sit on the bench, then that's what's best."
Adam Serrano covers MLS for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter: @AdamSerrano