It was deja vu for Mexico, and a moment of total frustration for manager Juan Carlos Osorio.
In the 2017 Confederations Cup, Mexico lost Carlos Salcedo to a shoulder injury while Osorio lost his cool for the first time that tournament, cussing out a New Zealand assistant after the Kiwis played on with Salcedo on the ground.
In friendly against Croatia in March, Osorio kept his cool when Salcedo again took a hard fall and left the field clutching his shoulder, but the manager's frustration was obvious after the match.
"It’s very unfortunate," Osorio said after the game. "The guys in the locker room are really hurt, really sad because you often see it happening from afar and you think it happens to other national teams. When you have to live it in the flesh I think it’s devastating. It’s very sad."
Things are now looking up for Mexico, though. While Nestor Araujo, who also was hurt in that friendly, is still not back to 100 percent, Salcedo may be in better form than he was before the injury. He slotted back into the Frankfurt starting lineup on May 5 against Hamburg and went the full 90 again the next week against Schalke.
He then helped Frankfurt to the German cup title with a 3-1 win against Bayern Munich on Saturday. "El Titan" earned an early yellow card but stayed on the field and helped see out the victory.
Going from thinking Salcedo would miss out on Russia to seeing him lift silverware and earn a Europa League place with his club has been a remarkable swing. While the 24-year-old lines up as one of the outside center backs in a three-man back line for Frankfurt or as a center back in a 4-3-3, Osorio has leaned on Salcedo to play right back. Few options have emerged for Mexico at the position, so a healthy Salcedo gives Osorio a player he feels comfortable with on the outside. He also could be one of three center backs in a three-man back line.
Maybe more important to Osorio than where Salcedo has been playing at the club level is the simple fact that he did play for his club. While Hirving Lozano and Hector Herrera saw regular minutes for championship-winning teams, far too many players on Osorio's World Cup squad are coming off disappointing seasons in Europe.
"What we’re working on, more than being worried about, is a true and negative reality which is the limited participation our players had in Europe," Osorio said last week when announcing his provisional squad. Salcedo, though, is riding high after pushing to get back on the field, returning to the Frankfurt starting lineup and winning a trophy.
The former Chivas and Real Salt Lake center back isn't with the Mexico group yet, arriving Monday in Guadalajara for his FIFA-mandated week of rest between his final game in Europe and incorporating with El Tri.
He's in a good mindset, though. Not only has he closed out a quality season with Frankfurt, he signed an extension to stay on with the club after originally being on loan from Chivas. Now he can go into Russia not worried about his future. For Salcedo, his recent success can be an example for the entire national team that Mexico should set its sights beyond simply arriving to the fifth game.
"We've shown that we don't have to put limits on ourselves," he said upon arriving to the airport. "Life is like that. Important challenges come and you should take them on as they are, move forward and show why the Mexican also is capable of being the protagonist in these types of stages."
He'll have a chance to demonstrate that with 10 other Mexicans on the field, with Salcedo profiling as a starter against Germany (Osorio has mentioned on several occasions that losing Salcedo and Diego Reyes to injury forced his hand in a semifinal blowout against the reigning world champion in the Confederations Cup).
It's a remarkable turnaround from two months ago, when many were mourning the loss of Salcedo's World Cup. Sacledo turned a frustrating situation into a position of strength in a matter of weeks, and Mexico is much better off for it.
"The truth is, I said it from the beginning, I wasn't expecting that my body would react like this. I said that we were going to say, that I'd be honest with Profesor Osorio and see," Salcedo said. "I think the discipline, the work, I always am doing that and I can't let that go. Today the work has borne fruits and I hope it also will be like that in the World Cup."