Jon Arnold: Herrera continues quick path to the top with Champions League goal

The Mexican midfielder isn't exhibiting any signs of a World Cup hangover, with his tap-in giving Porto an advantage in its Champions League playoff.
The football landscape is dotted with players still recovering from World Cup campaigns, but it looks like Mexican midfielder Hector Herrera is having no trouble acclimating to being back with Porto.

Maybe it's foolish to think he would've had trouble - Herrera rarely takes long to settle in. The 24-year-old already has conquered the Olympics and was a standout in Brazil. And while his tap-in on a rebound to give Porto a 1-0 advantage over Lille wasn't stunning, it was the latest highlight in a remarkable rise from the Baja California native.

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That rise accelerated rapidly this summer. Herrera keyed the El Tri attack and was at home in Miguel Herrera's 5-3-2 system at the World Cup. When Mexico needed a spark, the man who has become known simply as "HH" was there to provide it, whether it be a long-range shot or cutting by a defender to play in one of the forwards (his eight successful balls in the final third led the team).

That much was somewhat expected, but what wasn't known was just how much he added to the team's defensive efforts. Particularly against Croatia in the final group match, Herrera put in a tireless shift, consistently getting back to defend and challenge the European side's midfield. He ended up leading the team in recoveries.

“I’m in my best moment," he said at the time. "I’m playing a World Cup, I think I’m doing well and I hope to continue with this good rhythm."

His hot form has continued since returning to Porto, where he started the club's season opener and then went the full 90 in Wednesday's Champions League triumph. He moved to Porto just last summer, two years after his top-level debut with Pachuca in 2011. Two summers later he starting with Porto's second team before becoming a regular starter in the latter parts of the season. Both Luis Castro and current manager Julen Lopetegui have rated him at a club known for being stacked with talent.

As seen during the World Cup, most of his goals aren't of the "right place, right time" category where Wednesday's winner belongs. He strikes set pieces well and has excellent vision. He also is rarely afraid to give it a go from outside the 18-yard box, which was on display earlier in the match when his long effort was blocked by a diving Lille defender.

He'll be pleased that the Champions League started off right. In an October 2013 game against Zenit, he made his first start in the competition and was booked twice in the opening six minutes. It put Herrera's name in the record book as the recipient of one of the quickest red cards in tournament history.

As evidenced, Herrera doesn't stay many places long. He still has work to do at Porto, but if he continues to grow it's only a matter of time before the frequent market participants get an offer that sparks their interest.

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