Richard Sanchez - Chicago Fire - saving penalty kick during US Open Cup
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Fire's Sanchez: Mexico "definitely a contender" to make World Cup final run

ATLANTA – Chicago Fire goalkeeper Richard Sanchez thinks the Mexican national team has a chance to go deeper than ever before in the World Cup following their 1-0 upset victory over Germany in Moscow last Sunday.

“If they continue doing how they started off with the first match against Germany, I think they have the potential to go ever further than what is talked about in Mexico,” said the 24-year-old, a former Mexican youth international, speaking to MLSsoccer.com after the Fire’s 1-0 defeat of Atlanta United in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday. “They always talk about the fifth game out there. And the way they’re looking right now, it seems they’re definitely a contender for the final.”

Though born in California and raised in Texas, Sanchez’s parents are from Mexico and he grew up idolizing keepers like Oswaldo Sanchez and Jorge Campos. He has not made a senior team appearance for El Tri, though he made 22 appearances at the youth level for the U-17, U-20, and U-21 teams. He played every match of the country’s title-winning run on home soil at the U-17 FIFA World Cup.

Unfortunately for Sanchez, he wasn’t even able to watch the entire Mexico-Germany match live, because he was busy training with his teammates.

“I watched it at the stadium in Chicago,” he said. “We had a training session that day. We were able to watch the first half. The second half, I couldn’t watch it, but once I found out they were up and they finished it out 1-0, I was happy.”

That match featured several players will MLS ties, including LAFC’s Carlos Vela, who put in a quality shift against the Germans in an attacking midfield role.

Mexico’s manager Juan Carlos Osorio has previously coached in MLS, having led the Fire for half a season in 2007, followed by two up-and-down seasons with the New York Red Bulls. Sanchez holds a high opinion of Osorio for the way he’s bonded with the Mexican players.

“I feel like once Juan Carlos Osorio jumped on, the players more than anything believed in him,” he said. “He believed in the players as well, and apart from tactics and everything else, I think the connection and the chemistry between players and coaches has been outstanding. That’s what I think has been helping them to be successful so far in the World Cup.”

El Tri currently sit atop Group F, and face South Korea on Saturday and close out group play against Sweden on June 27.

“I hope that they go to the final,” said Sanchez. “They’re definitely a talented group and you’ve always got to think big. Chicharito [striker Javier Hernandez] once mentioned in an interview to think big things and dream big, so why not?”