MEXICO CITY — Shutting down Manchester United's Javier "Chicharito" Hernández will go a long way toward determining whether the USMNT emerges with points from Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier against Mexico in the Estadio Azteca (10:30 pm ET; ESPN/Univision, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Chicharito netted another two goals last Friday afternoon in San Pedro Sula, putting Mexico up 2-0, only to get subbed out with cramps and watch Honduras tie it up late 2-2. He's already in sixth place on the all-time El Tri leader board with 30 goals, just 16 behind all-time leader Jared Borgetti.
"Get tight to him. Always keep an eye on him," said US defender Geoff Cameron when asked for the formula for stopping Chicharito. "His movement is fantastic. … He's always playing off your back shoulder and he just has a knack for the goal. He's always sniffing around. He's a good forward and a goalscorer. You just have to be prepared and keep an eye out all the time because you never know where he is."
But Cameron will likely be playing at right back in Tuesday's match, with many projecting centerback Omar Gonzalez to maintain his starting spot alongside Clarence Goodson.
Gonzalez recalled facing Chicharito in the 2010 MLS All-Star Game when both came on in the second half, with the Mexican forward getting his first goal for the Red Devils.
"He's just a great goal scorer," Gonzalez said about Chicharito. "He's very mobile. He moves around a lot. During crosses you can look back and you see him one place and the next thing you know he's somewhere else. You just have to be able to keep your eye on him and the ball. If you can manage to do that and play tough on him I think we can hopefully not let him get a goal."
US forward Herculez Gomez sees several parallels between his game and Chicharito's.
"I think he's a very opportunistic player," Gomez said on Monday. "I see a lot of his characteristics that I have. I don't consider myself a guy that's going to dazzle doing step-overs or what not and he's not either. I depend on my movements, I depend on getting into good positions. I depend on being mentally tough. Whatever the situation is, I weather it and I try to overcome and I think he's the same type of kid.
"My whole game is movements and his movements are unreal. They're amazing," continued Gomez. "He finds these gaps and these spaces and makes himself available. His goals sometimes aren't the prettiest, but he's such an effective player in his movement."