AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Mexico’s quinto partido curse isn’t particularly ‘cursey’

2 Comments

Far be it from me to defend Mexico, but let’s talk about this fifth round “quinto partido” curse for a minute.

And it really shouldn’t take much longer.

[ RECAP: Brazil 2-0 Mexico ]

There’s obviously no denying that Mexico continues to lose in the Round of 16, and that 2002 was an absolute nightmare.

For them. Let’s be clear: It was pretty much the best day in American soccer history.

But if anything, look at the wonderful below graphic assembled by our beautiful NBC Sports Soccer crew.

Mexico has lost to better teams more times than not, and their only crime of this World Cup, one in which they beat Germany, is that they didn’t win the group and play Switzerland instead of Brazil.

[ MORE: Kovacic, Plea in PL transfer links ]

[ MORE: Real denies Neymar offer ]

But that Dos a Cero aside, look at the teams that knocked them out and the margins. Mexico scored in the majority of the contests. And they mostly lost to giants.

The curse scales runs from level 1 (no shame) to level 10 (Come on, Mexico).

1994: A team largely devoid of superstars came up against Hristo Stoichkov and Bulgaria. Both teams scored inside of 20 minutes, and Mexico blew it in penalties. Bulgaria, for what it’s worth, then took eventual finalists Roberto Baggio and Italy to the wire in a 2-1 quarterfinal lost. Curse level: 6

1998: This one feels a bit curselike, but only on account of how the match played out. A Luis Hernandez goal put El Tri ahead just after halftime. But Germany, led by Jurgen Klinsmann, scored in the 74th and 86h (Oliver Bierhoff) to win it. Those are a pair of German legends on a team with fellow legends Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Moller. Curse level: 2

2002: Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Curse level: 100

2006: Given a group with Iran, Angola, and Portugal, El Tri had four points before losing to favorites Portugal in the finale. That led to Argentina, who had emerged unscathed from a group with Serbia, the Netherlands, and the Ivory Coast. Rafa Marquez and Hernan Crespo traded goals inside of 10 minutes, and extra time saw a 19-year-old Lionel Messi touch the ball twice in the build-up to this outlandish 98th minute Maxi Rodriguez goal. Curse level: 1

2010: Hopes were high thanks to an upset of chaotic France, but Mexico again drew an Argentina side that went 3-0 despite the absence of a single Messi group stage goal. He didn’t score in the Round of 16 either, but losing to two goals from Carlos Tevez and a Gonzalo Higuain goal shows just how loaded the Argentine contingent was in South Africa. Curse level: 2

2014: El Tri was feeling great under Miguel Herrera, as Piojo oversaw wins over Croatia and Cameroon along with an impressive draw with hosts Brazil. Tiebreakers meant a meeting with eventual semifinalists Netherlands, and Giovani dos Santos scored to give Mexico a 48th minute lead. This one, however, carries a bit of curse for how it ended; Wesley Sneijder scored in the 88th minute before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted a penalty won… well… controversially by some clown Arjen Robben. #NoEraPenal. Curse level: 8

Which brings us to 2018: Is losing to a tournament favorite in any way considered a curse? No. Not at all. Is losing to the third-best player in the world while he dives around like the worst example of a soccer stereotype cursey enough to go past curse level zero? Sure, but you did step on the dude’s leg with an immense amount of cameras around. If Casemiro did the same to Javier Hernandez, the little pea would still be rolling on the ground as you read this. Curse level: 1

Mexican national team defender off to Celta Vigo

@RCCelta
Leave a comment

Mexican national team defender Nestor Araujo is the latest member of El Tri to join a La Liga outfit.

Araujo, 26, is off to Celta Vigo on a five-year deal after a half-decade at Santos Laguna in Liga MX.

[ MORE: Putin interrupts Russian press conference ]

Left off the Juan Carlos Osorio’s World Cup roster, Araujo joins Miguel Layun (Sevilla), Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), and Oswaldo Alanis (Getafe) in Spain.

Araujo has 27 caps for Mexico with three goals, but oddly enough none of those caps have come against the United States.

Osorio: Jonathan Gonzalez has a “promising future” with El Tri

Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Jonathan Gonzalez situation still stings for many U.S. Men’s National Team supporters, and the encouragement from Mexico’s camp regarding the midfielder’s bright future isn’t making things better for Americans.

[ MORE: Where does Zlatan rank among stars to come to MLS? ]

El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio reaffirmed his belief that Gonzalez is one of the many promising prospects within the Mexican national team ahead of the country’s friendly against Iceland on Friday.

Gonzalez, who switched his national team allegiance to Mexico from the U.S. earlier this year, has been called up for the match after the 18-year-old made his Mexico senior team debut against Bosnia back in January.

“Jonathan, to start with, is part of a group of Mexican players that I’ve referred as having a good present and a promising future and that excites me to continue, along with Edson Alvarez, Omar Govea and others that aren’t here like Orbelin [Pineda] and Erick [Gutierrez],” Osorio said at a news conference on Thursday.

“Gonzalez is a good midfielder and can fight for a place with anyone. Like everyone, he has to improve a lot of things to win a place.

“After deciding to play for Mexico, it is our responsibility to give him a platform to develop and consolidate himself as a player.

“That’s why he’s in this call-up, and hopefully he can establish himself and show the qualities I mentioned.”

The former USMNT youth prospect has quickly become a regular for club side Monterrey, who currently sits sixth in the Liga MX table.

Gonzalez has appeared in 38 matches across all competitions for the four-time league champions and earned honors in the Liga MX Best XI following the 2017 Apertura season.

Giovani Dos Santos on a new season with the Galaxy, El Tri, and more

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s a new year, and that means a fresh start for Giovano Dos Santos.

2017 was a trying year for the 28-year-old. In his second full season with the LA Galaxy, the Mexican star battled injuries and poor form as his MVP-level production from 2016 dropped to scoring just six goals to go with three assists (he had 15 goals and 13 assists in 2016).

There were some worried that Dos Santos, and his brother Jonathan, a holding midfielder for the Galaxy, would drop in form so far that they wouldn’t be able to make as much of an impact with the Mexican National Team.

[MORE: North American bid “afraid” to lose 2026 World Cup]

But after some time off during the winter, Giovani Dos Santos appears fresh and ready to go with a re-vamped LA Galaxy side and for the green, red and white of El Tri.

“I feel we have a really strong team this year,” Dos Santos told PST as part of the Pepsi Generations global soccer campaign. “We’ve been training together for almost two months already, I think the chemistry between everyone is getting better every single day. As a Galaxy player, we know the responsibility and expectations are always high for this team.”

Last season, the Galaxy missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade as the team couldn’t overcome a rash of both long-term and short-term injuries. Robbie Rogers and Sebastian Lleget missed nearly the entire season, while the likes of Dos Santos, Baggio Husidic, Gyasi Zardes, and Daniel Steres all missed significant time due to injuries.

Sigi Schmid was brought in midway through the season but even he couldn’t keep the Galaxy in the playoff picture.

“It’s difficult to explain what happened last year,” Dos Santos said. “Of course expectations are always high for us but I think it was a learning year for everyone. The past is in the past, we learn from it and we’re ready to take over this year.”

With the new year comes a lot of new faces, as well as others returning from injury. The Galaxy signed Giovani’s brother Jonathan last summer and then over the offseason they rebuilt the team’s spine, signing goalkeeper David Bingham, midfielder Perry Kitchen and striker Ola Kamara to go with other role players.

Those moves paid dividends in the first week of the MLS season, with the Galaxy knocking off the Portland Timbers 2-1.

Dos Santos called it a “dream” to be playing again at the club level with his brother, as the pair did together in the Barcelona youth ranks and at Villarreal.

“It’s been incredible to be together with my brother again, to share a moments together in our careers and our lives,” Dos Santos said, noting Jonathan lives with him in Los Angeles. “It’s our dream to be together so we feel blessed to be together again.”

The pair will be spending plenty of time this year together on and off the field, not only in the Galaxy shirt but also the green, white and red of Mexico.

In the prime of his career, assuming he stays healthy, Dos Santos will be expected to make a massive impact for Mexico at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with El Tri opening up against defending World Cup champion Germany before taking on South Korea and Sweden.

Expectations are sky high for El Tri this summer, with a crop of players who won FIFA youth tournaments in the past finally coming into their prime as well as a number of high-profile players excelling overseas. While Dos Santos has ventured back to North America, the likes of Carlos Salcedo, Hrving “Chucky” Lozano and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona are beginning their European journeys and are expected to help bring Mexico over the fifth-game wall it’s failed to overcome in the past.

Amazingly, despite all the success of El Tri in CONCACAF and even on the world stage, Mexico has never made it past the quarterfinals.

“Obviously we’re going to go to the World Cup with the best expectations,” Dos Santos admitted. “We’re going to go game by game, hopefully we can get through.

“I think we have great players and a great squad,” Dos Santos added. “This is the most important year for the national team, we have the World Cup coming and I’m so excited for it.”

Although he’s left his European career behind for the project of winning a title in MLS, Dos Santos still keeps his eye on his former club in the Premier League, Tottenham, as well as a coach who he never worked with directly but knew from his time in Barcelona.

With the eight-hour time difference between London and Los Angeles, Dos Santos can’t watch many games live, but he said when he gets a chance, he tunes in to the Premier League. He said he’s been particularly impressed with Manchester City this year.

“I was in the first team when he was there,” Dos Santos said, referring to Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola. “I think he’s a great coach and he deserves all the success he’s having now.”

Being an El Tri star, Dos Santos has continental appeal, and he’s making use of that. Dos Santos is part of the 2018 global “Pepsi Generations” soccer campaign, joining forces with former teammate Lionel Messi along with U.S. Women’s National Team star Carli Lloyd, Tottenham’s Dele Alli and Real Madrid pair Marcelo and Toni Kroos.

“I’m really excited to be in this campaign with such an iconic brand like Pepsi around the world and to be able to be alongside with such great players like Messi, Marcelo and Kroos is a blessing,” Dos Santos said.

Report: Gonzalez set to file one-time switch to play for Mexico

Getty Images
1 Comment

It appears Jonathan Gonzalez’s future lies with El Tri.

According to a report from Univision, the Monterrey starlet has decided to switch his national-team allegiance from the United States to Mexico, after speaking with Mexico National Team sporting director Dennis te Kloese. As Gonzalez has featured for the U.S. in official FIFA-sanctioned youth competitions, he would have to file a one-time FIFA switch in order to represent Mexico, which would tie him to El Tri for the rest of his playing career.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Both U.S. Soccer and the FMF have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Gonzalez had captained the U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team and even helped lead the U.S. U-20s to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship last year as a 17-year-old but after a breakout season for Monterrey, Gonzalez was shocked to learn he wasn’t called up to a youth-laden USMNT for a friendly in Portugal.

The report states that Gonzalez had always been set on playing for the U.S. – against his Mexican-born parents wishes – but recent events changed his mind.

It looks as if Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio will be calling up Gonzalez for the January 31 friendly match against Bosnia and Herzegovina and perhaps with another good season in the Clausura, Gonzalez could make his way into Mexico’s World Cup roster. If he stayed with the U.S., he’d have to wait another four years.

If true, it’s a big blow to the U.S. pipeline, though not a death-knell. It’s another sign of how U.S. Soccer struggles from a scouting standpoint, having not discovered Gonzalez until he took part in the famed Alianza de Futbol camp as a 14-year-old and moved from his home in California to Monterrey, where he developed and made his first-team debut three years later.

While former U.S. coach Bruce Arena was in touch with Gonzalez, according to the report, it seems as if interim USMNT coach Dave Sarachan didn’t remain in touch, leading to Gonzalez’s switch.

It’s one of the first times in recent memory that a Mexican-American has switched from the U.S. to Mexico. In the past we’ve seen FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, left back Edgar Castillo and William Yarbrough all suit up for the Red White and Blue after featuring for Mexico at the youth level.