After injury to Montes, Mexico can't delight in strong showing

A strong win against Ecuador was exactly what Mexico would've hoped for as it continues World Cup preparations, but an injury to Luis Montes clouded the 3-0 triumph.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Mexico entered its pre-World Cup friendlies needing a run of positive results, but there will be little celebration after Saturday’s 3-1 win here against Ecuador.

While El Tri outplayed the South Americans and would normally take heart from a rollicking victory against a fellow team in the World Cup finals, everything turned on a 35th minute collision between Mexico midfielder Luis Montes and Ecuador midfielder Segundo Castillo.

Montes looked to have suffered a fracture in his right leg and after being stretchered from the field was rushed to Memorial Hospital in Arlington, Texas for evaluation and treatment. Castillo made it off the pitch but later also ended up in the hospital with his right knee sustaining injury.

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The probable loss of the Leon man for the World Cup put a cloud over the Mexico camp, even after a win.

“The truth is yes, everything good that happened today like the victory, the good play, was completely (counterbalanced) with what happened to Chapito,” Mexico veteran Andres Guardado said after the match, using Montes’ nickname.

After the incident, players from both sides were visibly upset, with some Mexican players brought to tears, and the remaining few minutes of the first half were played extremely tentatively. The pace picked back up after the break, but things had clearly turned.

The somber tone continued after the game, with manager Miguel Herrera nowhere near his normal self in his news conference, in part because the exuberance and desire the 28-year-old brings to the squad was missing.

“Sometimes things happen when that player has that will,” the manager said through a translator after the match. “Unfortunately it shouldn’t happen. It was an accident. Two players got injured. It hurts when you’ve got a young player full of life to pass on to the group what he has. It hurts us all.”

Yet despite the injury to Montes, an earlier injury that forced Juan Carlos Medina to pull out of the World Cup squad and with Rafa Marquez also in the hospital with a foot injury he later said on social media wasn’t serious, the Mexico manager noted that these friendlies are still necessary even if they can come at a cost.

“At the end of the day, we have to have those friendlies,” he said. “We have to play to prepare for the World Cup. The team right now what they want is to be with the player.”

If the doctors’ report is as perfunctory as expected, Montes will miss the World Cup with Javier Aquino the replacement player. The Villarreal midfielder is currently in Hong Kong, but Herrera said he’ll make the call as quickly as possible once the decision is made.

Either way, the Mexican team must continue to do what it did in the second half, playing with momentum and cohesion, even in the face of a match-changing clash.

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