IRVINE, Calif. – Mexico already was dealing with fitness issues ahead of Saturday's CONCACAF Cup showdown against the US national team at a sold-out Rose Bowl, with Andres Guardado and Rafael Marquez coming back from injuries, but they suffered another blow when Giovani Dos Santos was forced to pull out of the match after getting hurt in the LA Galaxy's game Sunday evening.
Dos Santos suffered what was termed a “muscle strain” in a 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders on CenturyLink Field's artificial surface, and his absence deprives the Tricolores of perhaps their most dynamic attacker.
The Yanks don't believe it will slow Mexico in the least.
“I think they have a couple of [other] good players, too, players that could replace him,” defender Ventura Alvarado, who plays in Mexico for Club America, said before the US training session Tuesday morning at UC Irvine. “He's a great player. He has a lot of presence on the field. But they're going to have a couple players [ready to step in].”
Dos Santos pulled out of the game, a playoff between the last two Gold Cup winners to determine the region's representative at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, on Monday after playing into the 87th minute of the MLS match in Seattle. Interim Mexico coach Ricardo Ferretti replaced him with Club America's Javier Guemez.
Ferretti has several options up front, and, as midfielder Kyle Beckerman noted: “Whether his coach was going to use him or not, I'm not sure.”
Dos Santos had been controversially omitted from Mexico's roster for last month's friendlies against Trinidad and Tobago and Argentina – Ferretti called it a technical decision, but it was widely considered punishment for Twitter posts the 26-year-old forward made in support of Miguel Herrera, who was dismissed as El Tri coach following an incident with a reporter after Mexico's Gold Cup win in July.
Ferretti teamed Real Sociedad's Carlos Vela and Toluca's Carlos Esquivel up front in the 3-3 draw with Trinidad and Tobago in Sandy, Utah – Esquivel scored his first international goal – and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who just joined Bayer Leverkusen, with Benfica's Raul Jimenez in the 2-2 tie with Argentina in Arlington, Texas. Hernandez converted a penalty kick.
Club America's Oribe Peralta and Porto's Jesus Corona, who started the Gold Cup final against Jamaica, also are options.
Not having Dos Santos, who has made 90 appearances for Mexico with 17 goals – including a phenomenal strike to complete El Tri's 4-2 victory over the US in the 2011 Gold Cup title game, the last time the teams met at the Rose Bowl – certainly isn't a plus for Mexico.
“He's another quality player they have,” Beckerman said. “They have a lot of quality on that team, but that's a quality player they won't have in their squad.”
Guardado and Marquez, among five starters in the 2011 meeting on Ferretti's roster, were surprise inclusions after they sustained injuries with their European clubs. Guardado hurt his left ankle in mid-September, but he returned to the field last weekend for PSV Eindhoven.
Marquez suffered a groin strain with Hellas Verona on Sept. 20; Ferretti said while announcing the roster that he wasn't certain if Marquez would be ready, and there's been no updates from the team's camp in Mexico. El Tri arrive Thursday night in Southern California.
Mexico's problems aren't affecting US preparations one way or another. The Yanks are getting ready for the game in south Orange County, near head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's home – and away from distractions closer to and in Los Angeles and Pasadena.
“We're not focused on them, we're focused on ourselves,” defender Geoff Cameron said. “We'll do our research this week – we've started already – on what kind of players they have and what they're going to bring to the table, but as of right now, we're focused on ourselves as a team and individually what we can do on Saturday.”
Cameron said there's confidence in the US camp.
“With all the hype and everything behind [this game], we still have the same frame of mind, that we want to win and nothing's changed,” he said. “I think just this week so far, everybody's come into camp energetic, they're happy, there's a good vibe around the camp, and we know we're working as one, as a team. Our main goal is to have fun and get a win this weekend.”
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