There was likely a reason Mexico’s players didn’t speak to the press after Thursday’s training session.
Aside from the constant rain falling outside the Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts, coach Miguel Herrera had already told the players the starting team to face Portugal on Friday. And he has been consistent in stating that in this game – the last before next Friday’s World Cup opener against Cameroon – he would be starting what he considers to be his strongest side, even if there still remains an outside chance of changes in case of some really poor displays or injury.
Players like Marco Fabian, Carlos Pena, Javier Hernandez and Diego Reyes will all be disappointed. You could make the argument that all have done enough – over the short or long term – to justify their place in the starting XI at the World Cup.
But all must’ve also seen the warning signs. Herrera has never been enamored with Fabian, Pena is in average form, Hernandez is not in rhythm and Reyes saw Francisco Rodriguez get plenty of playing time in the friendlies.MORE: U.S. Soccer MVP rankings | USA vs. Turkey photos
None can be as disappointed as free agent Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa, who is set to warm the bench in his third consecutive World Cup.
Ochoa burst onto the scene as a teenager, was taken to Germany 2006 for experience and was set to become the undisputed number one for many years to come. But after Ochoa featured regularly during qualification for South Africa 2010, Javier Aguirre decided that veteran Oscar “Conejo” Perez was the right person for the actual tournament.
In the four years ahead of this World Cup, Ochoa has started fewer national team games than he did in the four before the last one.
The infamous clembuterol scandal at the Gold Cup in 2011 certainly harmed the ‘keeper. The problems with Ochoa and the Mexican national team can be traced back to that Gold Cup. It was the moment he was supposed to nail down the spot and not doing so affected not just his national team chances, but also his club career, with interest from big clubs like Paris Saint-Germain suddenly going quiet. Ligue 1 minnow Ajaccio then swooped in for the Mexican that summer.
Still, Ochoa took the risk, after he was cleared of all wrongdoing. He went to Europe when the easier option would’ve been to stay in Mexico. The idea was to use the club as a stepping stone, moving on to one of the giants of the European game after he had established himself.
In making the move, the 28-year-old became the first Mexican ‘keeper to play in Europe in the modern era and spoke earlier this year about Mexico’s Europe-based legion being undervalued. It is clear he will be upset.
Ochoa’s form for Ajaccio since then has certainly warranted a national team place and a move to a bigger club. According to France Football’s weekly ratings, Ochoa was the sixth-best goalkeeper in Ligue 1 this season. A major move will still likely happen, even if not being the starter at the World Cup is a blow and means he won’t be in the shop window on the world’s biggest stage.
The other major obstacle for Ochoa has been the form of Jesus Corona, who established himself as a national team player in the 2012 Olympics, after being on the fringes for years. Corona kicked on from there and started 10 World Cup qualifiers, including a couple of key performances for a struggling side.
The Cruz Azul ‘keeper – who has never played his club football outside of Mexico – remains the more solid option between the posts, but is capable of losing his head, as he did in May 2011 against Morelia and as he almost did in last season’s CONCACF Champions League.
Brazil 2014 is Corona’s turn. At the next World Cup in Russia, Ochoa will be 32. Surely then, it’ll be his time.