When I’m old and grey, I’m going to tell my grandchildren that I lived through the Financial Crisis of the early 2000’s and the Mexican national team “win drought” of 2013.
I keep telling myself that all of our games this year have just been small speed bumps on our journey down “We’re not a dark horse anymore, in fact we will beat Spain 8-0 in the final next summer” road, but it’s time for a reality check. We have a tenuous grasp on third place in the Hex, we’ve only had two wins so far this year, and we can’t score. The recent win against Japan was much needed but is completely over-shadowed by all of our mistakes and blunders that have cost us so much this year. I definitely took all of our victories from last year for granted and now it’s a little awkward to justify my countless hours of researching, analyzing, and preparation for ninety minutes of hesitant soccer. The issue at hand here is not at all about my time wasted. My worry is that after seven months of assuming “Mexico will do better next game,” I began to question whether there was anything concrete at all about all of the praise and potential we were putting on the team. I still believe Mexico has the talent to rise above, but it’s becoming more difficult to do so with each game.
Suddenly, this tournament which seemed inconsequential at the beginning of the year, has become so much more significant. The Gold Cup was honestly an afterthought for me, but now holds my hopes for some sort of a resurrection for the team. It seems like every Mexico fan (including myself) is now looking towards this tournament for a semblance of a winning team, a goal, anything. It genuinely feels weird though, if the “A” squad had it’s act together I probably wouldn’t worry so much about the Gold Cup. A year ago, I would have never predicted that Mexico would need a morale boost from the Gold Cup squad. Maybe as a cruel joke they wont do well. Perhaps Carlos Pena will mistime a pass or two look at me and say “Maybe next season you’ll watch more Leon games than Manchester United or Real Sociedad ones.” I would of course defend myself and declare that I did watch Leon play, but would occasionally (ahem), look up La Liga and EPL news during those games. If Holden Caulfield were a soccer fan, he would be the first to call me a “Gold Cup phony.” Then he would mumble something about Carlos Vela and walk away.
Now players from the so-called “B” squad are salivating at the idea of maybe sneaking onto the “A” squad and they should, only a few positions seem to be locked down. There are issues at right-back, left-back, in the middle of the field, and even on the wings. There is some good potential in this inexperienced yet talented squad and if they want a chance to go to World Cup, now is the time to shine. Certain fringe players like Darvin Chavez and Israel Jimenez will need this tournament to prove that they deserve a spot on the “A” team, while others like Isaac Brizuela need it to showcase the talent that they have. It should be an exciting opportunity and I look forward to it immensely.
We need to do well. Confidence levels are at an all-time low and the spark in our team is seldom seen. An underwhelming performance at this tournament will not only be detrimental for morale, but for young players on the squad, and for momentum going into the last four qualifiers of the year. I need a little more of this and a little less of this.
Alright, this is the internet after all and the internet loves lists (boy do I love lists too), so here are a few reasons why this Gold Cup will matter:
Like I mentioned, I can’t think of a scenario worse for Mexico than to have a bad tournament. It won’t help with momentum going into qualifying and it won’t help with the search for some more depth in our “A” squad. We have had a serious lack of wins this year and it will be nice to not only see some goals, but some wins as well.
2. 2017 Confederations Cup
Times are changing my friends. Now, the winners of the 2013 Gold Cup and the 2015 Gold Cup will have a playoff match to determine who will qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup. This seems like an obvious ploy to get people to care more about the Gold Cup and an excuse to get another Mexico-U.S.A. game, but it does seem more fair to have the two winners play against each other. If we were to win both, there would be no need for a playoff game but I would pay big bucks to watch Mexico vs Mexico.
3. Opportunity for new players
We’ve got a decent roster with a few players who I believe are much better alternatives than some of the ones that we have seen starting so often this year (Carlos Salcido and Gerardo Torrado for example). These new players on the Gold Cup roster are some of the few who will benefit from Mexico’s recent lackadaisical playing. Our weaknesses in certain positions have been highlighted this year and there is now a need for new talent on the squad. This will be chance to prove to Chepo, the fans, and the media that they deserve a chance.
4. Respect from the CONCACAF
Like Bryan W mentioned in his article, we haven’t exactly been doing well in our respective region. We haven’t had a convincing victory yet and the Gold Cup should hopefully be able to change that. This will prove to other teams in the region that we have the capability to win games and the players to do so.
5. My sanity and blood pressure
I can’t take another 0-0 game. I openly welcome the new roster for a change of pace.
I’ll be there July 7th for the home opener. It’s going to be a nerve-racking tournament, but I believe we will do well. Maybe we just need the right pump-up song before the game.