PASADENA, Calif. — Juan Carlos Osorio acknowledged the obvious after Mexico's draw Monday night with Wales — that he's concerned about Giovani dos Santos' fitness following a recurrence of his hamstring strain — but that he was happy with what he saw from the LA Galaxy attacker in the Rose Bowl friendly.
Whether the two-time World Cup veteran will make El Tri's roster for the coming World Cup isn't certain, but he certainly didn't harm his chances in a rather tedious clash played in front of 82,345 at the iconic Southern California stadium.
dos Santos, who started every game for Mexico in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, got a little more than 20 minutes as a withdrawn forward in the 0-0 tie, and Mexico's manager said he was pleased with what he saw.
“Yes, yes [I was happy with Gio],” Osorio said during his postgame news conference. “I think we all know his ability, his technique, and in a very tight space, he can be a very influential player. ... He touched the ball I don't know how many times. He only played for 15 minutes, and considering that, we hope that against Scotland [on Saturday at Estadio Azteca] he'll have more minutes.
“We hope that he starts and that he shows all that we expect him to do.”
Gio’s little brother Jonathan also impressed off the bench for Mexico, but LAFC's Carlos Vela, the other Major League Soccer player on Osorio's 27-man preliminary roster, didn't suit up after going 90 minutes in Saturday's 1-1 draw with D.C. United.
Jonathan and Vela are expected to head to Russia, but Giovani's chances of making the final 23-man list depend on how well he's recovered from a hamstring strain that forced him out of two LA matches before he made a brief appearance at the end of the Galaxy's 1-0 victory Friday night over the San Jose Earthquakes.
“Giovani, we were very concerned to see how he's doing athletically,” Osorio said. “That's why we went to the game a couple days ago with the Galaxy against San Jose.”
Gio got a chance to run around a bit in that one without making much of an impact, but he looked fresher and sturdier on Monday after coming on for Jesus Manuel Corona in the 69th minute. Playing underneath striker Oribe Peralta, who had replaced Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about an hour in, Gio had a handful of forays with the ball and did well to pull down a ball over the top in the 84th minute.
His touch betrayed him soon after, and he was unable to finish, but he recovered the ball on the right flank and sent the ball into the middle of the box, where Javier Aquino tapped it back. Jona's 18-yard chip sailed just past the right post.
Jona's versatility makes him valuable for El Tri — he can play in any of the midfield positions, and probably elsewhere, too — and he looked solid Monday on the right side of midfield.
“I think we all know what he can bring to the team,” Osorio said. “He's a very dynamic player. He has high competition with Hector Herrera and probably Miguel [Layun].”
Jona made Mexico's 2010 preliminary roster but not the final list, and he wasn't considered for the 2014 team because of injury.
Neither Gio nor Jona stopped to speak to media in the postgame mixed zone.
Vela, who started two games in 2010 and missed the rest of the tournament after sustaining a hamstring injury in the victory over France, is in sizzling form in his first MLS campaign. He's scored seven goals, just one off the league lead, and assisted five more in a dozen games for LAFC.
“Carlos is having a great season playing behind the No. 9, or behind the striker,” Osorio said. “[That's the] position where we see him, as well as playing on the right side as a false winger.”
Osorio was asked what he thought was the best spot on the field for Gio, whom the Galaxy prefer as a No. 10.
“It's not where I see him, it's where he sees himself,” he replied. “He sees himself behind the 9, or more inside, or interchanging on the right.”