It had been almost four years to the day since 33-year-old Omar Bravo last received a call-up to the Mexican national team. That’s an entire World Cup cycle.
Since then the Chivas youth team product has gone from Tigres, returned to Chivas, failed at Cruz Azul and fallen on the other side of the tracks in Guadalajara with Atlas. There seemed little hope he would ever return to the national team fold, or even see out his career with a shred of decorum.
Atlas fans protested vigorously at his signing and there were even threats made towards the player during his unveiling. The feeling was that the player not only hadn’t produced since leaving Chivas back in the summer of 2008 to head to Spain’s Deportivo La Coruna but that he was forever tainted by his association with Chivas.
But Bravo’s performances and attitude this season have been exemplary. He has somehow managed to turn all that vitriol from the supporters into positivity on the pitch. With hindsight, it was the motivation he needed at the tail end of his career and he has been the spark for Atlas’ incredible season so far that has seen them climb to a lofty second position in the league.
Of course, Jose Manuel de la Torre knows exactly what he is getting. Bravo was a crucial part of Chivas’ last title in the Apertura 2006, when Chepo established himself as a coach with a bright future and Bravo finished the season with 11 goals.
While arguments will rumble about whether other players were more deserving, what this version of Bravo brings to El Tri is versatility, experience and a refreshing attitude that Chepo will hope rubs off on some of the younger players.
It’s not just the five goals in ten games this season for Bravo, but his assists and on the field leadership that have leap-frogged him above other more obvious names in Chepo’s depth chart.
The call-up, along with that of Leon’s Jonny Magallon, is also a reminder that experience is a valued commodity for De la Torre and that the much-praised youngsters have to be on their toes.
Olympic gold medalists Hiram Mier, Jorge Enriquez, Israel Jimenez and Darvin Chavez are some of the names that miss out.
The call-up of a certain other 33-year-old, however, is perplexing.
Despite the pedigree and experience that holding midfielder Gerardo Torrado has, in many ways he is going through the opposite of Bravo right now. The Cruz Azul player has not been in top form in a team that is drastically underperforming.
Torrado’s thigh injury a year ago was caused by years of hard toil and a lack of proper rest during his career. The player turns 34 next month, pouring doubt on whether, at 35, the midfielder with 137 caps can play a role for Mexico come Brazil 2014.
If a solid, experienced defensive midfielder is what Chepo wants, Salcido appears to fit that particular bill, but perhaps the coach has one eye on keeping it extremely tight in that first game down in Honduras.
Aside from the aforementioned medalists, Chivas’ Rafa Marquez Lugo and Pumas duo David Cabrera and Javier Cortes will think themselves unlucky not to be included in the latest squad.
Nevertheless, barring the continued exclusion of Carlos Vela, Chepo’s squad to face Honduras (March 22) and the United States (March 26) is nicely balanced and the inclusion of a few new faces - however old they might be - should freshen things up after the Jamaica fiasco.