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Containing Chicharito and Gio key to USMNT game-plan vs. Mexico

Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos


MEXICO CITY— The Mexican National Team’s attack is loaded with talent all across the field, but the keys to their success, particularly against the U.S. Men’s National Team, lie with how Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos perform.

The two young attackers have terrorized American defenses for years, most recently together in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, and both are in form heading into tonight’s showdown at Estadio Azteca.

Hernandez is the key to the Mexico attack, as evidenced recently by his two-goal performance in the team’s 2-2 draw vs. Honduras last week. His movement and aerial prowess could cause problems for the U.S. team all night.

“He is a player who is fun to watch. There is a reason he is playing for Manchester United – because he is good,” Klinsmann said. “So, we watch him, we scout him, we talk about him and we are sure that our centre-backs will take care of him.”

“He’s a pure number nine, a pure striker,” U.S. defender Damarcus Beasley said. “He’s not going to beat you one on one, you don’t have to worry about that. He’s not going to take the ball and beat two or three guys. He’s going to sniff out the balls in the box, rebounds, for him being small he’s very good in the air. He’s a very good header of the ball.

“You just have to watch him wherever he goes,” Beasley added. “He makes good movements on the back-line.”

U.S. defender Geoff Cameron had some modest success against Hernandez in the U.S. team’s 1-0 victory over Mexico last August, though Hernandez still found his share of chances.

“You have to get tight to him, keep close to him because his movement is fantastic. He kind of reads off your movement,” said Cameron. “He’s just got a knack for goals. He’s always sniffing around, you have just got to be prepared, keep an eye out all the time, because you never know where he is.”

“From a striker’s perspective – and for me, my whole game is movement, his movements are unreal, amazing,” said U.S. striker Herculez Gomez. “He finds gaps, spaces, makes himself available. His goals sometimes aren’t the prettiest but he is such an effective player with his movement.”

Dos Santos presents just as many problems as Hernandez, and has enjoyed some standout performances against the United States, most notably the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final.

“He’s unpredictable,” said Beasley of Dos Santos. “He can go right, he can go left. He’s quick. He likes to go at people. He likes to beat people one-on-one. He always has that confidence on the ball when he has it. He’s a good footballer and he’s hurt us for a couple of years now.”

Whoever Klinsmann turns to as a replacement for Jermaine Jones will have his hands full trying to keep tabs on Dos Santos, who likes to float all over the field underneath the Mexican forwards. His performance in the 2009 qualifying victory at Azteca was key to Mexico’s comeback, and his virtuoso performance in the 2011 Gold Cup Final was one of the most memorable parts of Mexico’s triumph.

“I’d argue that, look he played well in the (2011) Gold Cup Final, but I think in other games we’ve done a good job on him,” Bradley said. “He’s skillful, in his own way very athletic, with a low center of gravity. He’s strong and balanced. He’s one of the guys that now is able to find little spots in between the lines, play off of guys, and then with his vision and way of moving with the ball and passing, is able to cause trouble.”

Bradley could be tasked with trying to contain Dos Santos, but with Klinsmann talking about having the U.S. attack more, Dos Santos could have room to roam, which could spell doom for the U.S. defense if they aren’t careful with both Dos Santos and Hernandez.


  1. Time having healed the wounds a bit, I have to say Gio’s goal in the Gold Cup was one of the best I’ve seen in real time.

  2. I think people are over-estimating Mexico. I understand all of the things that make the U.S. underdogs in the match (Azteca, injuries, “form”), but the U.S. central midfield is still better than Mexico’s, Clint is in form, Michael is in form, and Jozy is in form. If you add in Herc, that is pretty potent attacking force, and considering the the Mexican back 4 is disjointed with 2 starters missing, I think that attacking force can give them fits. I wouldn’t be surprised to see us lose, but I agree with MB, we can play toe to toe with them. This idea of us needing to play like we did against Spain or Italy when we regarded those wins is ridiculous. Mexico, especially now, is a team we can play even with.

    • So many spelling errors! That’s what I get for trying to keep one eye on the lookout for my boss and the other on the computer screen. Apologies, world!

      • +1 we are strong in the middle. On paper both are good and strong as long as they dont dominate the wings we should be able to keep it close.

  3. Gio is no big deal! USNT dealt with far better players.

    Guardado speed and cross could be trouble.

    USNT has to do what Jamaica did (don’t be pussies and attack), cause mexico trouble size and speed, proper tempo control, and be careful of the ref, the refs always help mexico in Qualifiers.

  4. Guzan and Altidore will have to be important players for the US in this game. Guzan will need to make at least a couple of those shot stopping saves he has been making at Villa because Mexico is going to have chances. Altidore will need to covert 100% of his chances because he may only get one and that one chance could be the difference.

  5. This game will be no different than most US-Mexico matches. The formula for a US win is: take advantage of set pieces while hoping that our keeper (this time Brad Guzan) is playing out of his mind. I predict one US goal off of a set piece, another off of a counter attack, and about 10 saves by Guzan plus a couple saves by the posts–equals a 2-1 US win. Dare to dream…

  6. Survive the first 20 minutes, then hope that frustration, nerves, and a dissatisifed crowd begin to affect El Tri. Nick a goal on a counter and then hold on for dear life.

  7. My concern is Aquino and Reyna on the wings. In the middle you got Dos Santos and Chicharito. So, to help apply pressure to all four players I hope we go with two DM’s. Of course those two DM’s need to get up field when when we have possession and attack. Our outside backs need to get up field as much as possible and support the midfield on attack. I can see Mexico taking shots from the top of the penalty area and perhaps even longer range shots in an attempt to move our defensive backs up. The best way to take pressure off of our defense is for our midfield and forwards to hold play up as long as necessary, use speed on the wings/backs, maintain possession, and force Mexico to play defense too. This could be a good game for players like Shea, Boyd, and Corona.

  8. I seem to remember a dude named Peralta being pretty good too. I don’t think you can go to sleep against them, but if we can demoralize them early, we have an opening to get out of there with a famous result.

    • Peralta is injured and De Nigris was not called . This time they don’t have much as far as established forwards in the bench.

  9. so look:

    we’re underdogs.
    Mexico is desperate for a win and playing at home.
    we’re underdogs.
    we’re playing our #2 GK (who is great, but still our #2)
    our back line is relatively young and untested and folks playing tonight especially on the flanks are deep into the depth chart.
    we’re underdogs.
    We’re missing one of our most dominating midfielders.
    we’re underdogs.
    Mexico will be under a lot of pressure and we might be able to nick a win or draw, BUT…
    we’re still underdogs.

    Enjoy the match, root for a win, but please folks, be reasonable and take it for what it’s worth if we lose.

  10. It would be nice if Landon Donovan was here in Mexico City to play instead of rejoining his team for the first time just to see the White House.

    You love soccer enough to be training with college soccer teams and wearing your jersey at the White House for photo shoots, but not enough to be on a flight down to your nation’s biggest rival?

    Can’t imagine how the players with real heart feel about Donovan at this point.

    • Maybe Donovan is a source and hates Klinsmann. Plus I’m not sure what good an out of shape and out of form Donovan would do.

    • I disagree entirely. Landon Donovan has meant more to US Soccer than anyone. He has put his heart and soul into growing soccer in the US, representing us with class and professionalism. If the guy needs a break, let him have a break. The goal against Algeria is my all time favorite. He’s earned the right to take a break.

    • ?..he hasn’t played in like half a year and you want him to fly down to Mexico and play? He said he would be back in late March and he is showing that to be the case, calling him in for this or these matches would have screamed of desperation for JK.

    • I totally respect him for what he has done for US soccer over the past 13 years and I do understand that playing in MLS then EPL then USMNT for so long without having a break creates the need for a rest. But I would give my left arm to play in this game. I would love to have Corona take the field in the 2nd half and make his presence felt just like Donovan did when he was young. We need that person that the other team needs to always keep an eye on just like Mexico has with the Pea and Dos Santos.

      • Not to pick on you specifically, Sheriff, but I don’t buy it when people say they’d “give anything” to have the chance to play. Or anytime people question a professional’s heart or hunger.

        Almost all of us are commenting on soccer rather than playing it because we did NOT give everything to play. We didn’t spend hours working on our game every day since we were 9 years old the way donovan did.

        We chose to do other things. Now we cheer on the players who made the sacrifices we didn’t.

      • According to the Galaxy and Wisconsin university Landon has been training with them recently and if the students are to be believed he is already in game shape.

      • I’d buy that he’s physically in shape enough. He’s always been able to run for days.

        I’m talking about game form, i.e., not having played in real games for a long time, the mental aspect, etc.. A Nats game is a different level than an MLS club game and a qualifier at Mexico is at a completely different level than your average Nats game.

    • ya im sure the past few weeks has prepared him for the game!!! Not, he wasn’t invited!!! Neither was bocanegra, gooch, tim howard, john o’brien or joe max moore.. the 24 in Mexico City are the best available, match fit, in form Americans out there. It could be a completely different group next time, but until he is playing well again LD is neither available, match fit nor in form! Get over it!

    • represent at anything as long and as well as Landon and earn a sabbatical. It’s not weird or odd or anything in life. He was the leader for 3 WC cycles. If the USA qualify again and he plays, he’ll join around 50 players to have ever made 4 WC teams. If he plays, which he would, the number shrinks to around 25 players all time to PLAY in 4 WC’s.

      your and others constant moan on this is weak

  11. Chicharito is only as good as his service. Cut off the supply lines, and you stop Hernandez. Gio is the real danger man for Mexico.

    • Mine should suffice for a bit. What I’m hopeful for (a 4-4-1-1 a la Man U to give cover on the wings while still being attacking yet dangerous on the break):

      —————Capt ‘Merica————-

      Zusi would tuck in on the second

  12. I am more than just a little concerned for tonights game. El Tri have their backs against the wall and I think will come out attacking directly. When they start to get quality chances early and get the crowd gowing they will be nearly impossible to stop. I really don’t beleive we can try to play an open attacking style or we could get our wheels blown off (5-2 sound familiar). I hate to say it but a defend and counter style will give us the best chance to win. I would love getting pummled in the stats i.e. Mexico having far more shots and corners, as long as Shea or Corona could come in at 80 and tally the tying goal. A point would be great.

  13. I disagree that Chicharito is the key to Mex’s attack. For me it’s Gio more than Chicharito. Chicha doesn’t have the ball that much. I think Chicha’s a great player but he’s not good at much except finishing and making incredibly smart runs and knowing where to be. Defenders probably aren’t going to be able to stop that and if he’s on his game he’ll get some chances and score. Even when the D played about as well as you could expect them to at the Azteca in August, Chicha still got his chances.

    Stop Gio and you limit the number of chances Chicha gets. Gio will also have the ball a lot more and he’s fast and tricky and creative.

      • Fair point. If things go like they’ve almost always gone @Mex, they’ll dominate possession and get their chances. We have to limit those and counter effectively. But with JK talking about taking it to Mex offensively, who knows? We might see something else.

      • This assumes that Gio is the only one that can create space on the field. Look at the HON game. Chich scored twice, and neither was set up by Gio. One was a break to the goal line by Guardado and the other was a set piece serve from Salcido. You can’t just focus on Gio. It has to be both.

    • I think the argument is that Chicharito’s movement creates space for Dos Santos to operate between the lines. Hernandez is fast enough to stretch the backline, but also shifty enough to find space if the defense is packed in. Pulling the defenders around creates holes for gio to dribble into or play passes through. At least, that’s the argument.

      • Good points. I still think you focus in on Gio since he’ll be having more of the ball. Limit what he does and Chicha gets less opportunities to hurt you.

    • I think you have it backward. Chicharito is much more dangerous than Gio. He is, unfortunately, one of the best finishers around and can turn entry passes from anyone into goals.


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