While Carlos Vela’s on-off-on situation with the national team is filling column inches down in Mexico, there’s another player that is almost certain to return to competitive national team action for June’s World Cup qualifiers: Pablo Barrera.
The 25-year-old right winger scored Cruz Azul’s second goal in his team’s 3-0 victory against Santos Laguna on Thursday and it was the final confirmation that the former Pumas player is back in the kind of form that had European scouts drooling at the World Cup in South Africa.
Barrera took his time, lined up the shot and cut a right foot drive into the top corner. But that wasn’t the only positive. The former West Ham player radiated confidence on the ball and put in his shift defensively, too.
Barrera’s directness and ability to not over-complicate plays has been a key factor in Cruz Azul’s seemingly unstoppable charge to the Liga MX title.
One of Mexico’s biggest positives at the 2010 World Cup, Barrera’s career nose-dived after a poor spell at West Ham and an indifferent one at Real Zaragoza.
Then just seven games into his return to Mexico with Cruz Azul in the Apertura season, Barrera injured his cruciate ligament and was forced out for almost six months, only returning to competitive action in late February.
Having Barrera – a favorite of Chepo - bursting down the right for El Tri will be a refreshing sight for Mexico fans, with teams increasingly finding reward from shutting up shop and parking the bus against Mexico
But Barrera isn’t the only reason Chepo will no doubt be smiling at Cruz Azul’s form. Right back has onsistently been a problem for El Tri since the last World Cup – as the coach himself has admitted – and Gerardo Flores is raising his hand and looks the strongest contender to nail down a permanent place.
The former Atlas man scored a second minute header on Thursday and again showed he is a well-balanced right back that can contribute at both ends of the pitch. A player in his prime, the full back is another shoe-in for the World Cup qualifiers and Confederations Cup squad, especially after his fine display for the national team last month against Peru.
Flores and Barrera also enjoy a good understanding on the right, which Chepo won’t have failed to notice.
Elsewhere, there has been a real revival in Gerardo Torrado’s play. The 34-year-old has been rolling back the years in the second half of the Clausura and is a reassuring presence at the heart of the Cruz Azul midfield.
Torrado is another player that Chepo seems to be intent of giving every opportunity to prove himself with El Tri and it might well be that he is named in the upcoming El Tri squad ahead of some of the younger talents.
Finally, Jesus Corona in goal is making crucial saves seemingly every recent match and has been a calm, reassured presence at behind the defense.
The debate over whether he or Guillermo Ochoa should be charged with being El Tri’s No. 1 is not going away and is a genuine headache for de la Torre, but Corona couldn’t really be doing much more at present.