Mexico Are Still in Good Shape Up Top Despite Losing Chicharito for Gold Cup

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 6, 2015

Mexico's Carlos Vela, left, celebrates scoring a goal during the international friendly soccer match between the Netherlands and Mexico at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Peter Dejong/Associated Press

Mexico's chances of winning the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup took a hit on Wednesday when Javier Hernandez left El Tri's friendly against Honduras with an upper-body injury. 

As SportsCenter's official Twitter account confirmed, Hernandez suffered a broken collarbone, which will force him to miss the critical tournament that Mexico need to win in order to force a playoff for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. 

Despite the absence of Chicharito in the Mexico attack, manager Miguel Herrera still has plenty of worthy options at his disposal. Since El Tri made winning the Gold Cup their top summer priority, Herrera's squad is loaded with dangerous attacking talent. Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Oribe Peralta are all capable of carrying El Tri to the title. 

"It's hard, it could have happened to anyone, but it's Chicharito and we know what that means, he is our scorer, he is our top player. It is a big loss. Now as a team we must regroup and be stronger," midfielder Andres Guardado told ESPN's John Sutcliffe, per an ESPN report.

Dos Santos enters the Gold Cup as one of the top players in the North American region. With Chicharito no longer participating in the competition, the 26-year-old has a chance to prove his worth as the best active Mexican player.

Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press
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The Villarreal forward has plenty of experience at the Gold Cup as well. Dos Santos was a part of the 2009 and 2011 squads that took home the top honors in CONCACAF. He was also a vital part of the Mexican side in the infamous 2011 final that saw El Tri embarrass the United States in front of more than 93,000 fans at the Rose Bowl.

Dos Santos, who has never been effective on a consistent basis at club level, could also enhance his standing on the club scene with a terrific Gold Cup. He is already being linked to the LA Galaxy, per Goal.com's Ives Galarcep. But one would think a few European suitors might come calling if he shines up top for El Tri.

While Dos Santos has plenty to play for at the club level this summer, Vela needs to show he can produce on the international scene following his extended absence from the Mexico squad. The Gold Cup marks Vela's first competitive action in the green and white of Mexico since the 2010 FIFA World Cup. 

Although he has plenty of class in his game, one has to worry if chemistry will be an issue for Vela at the start of the tournament. The Real Sociedad player, who has 11 goals in 39 international appearances to his name, looked fine in the friendly against Honduras, but playing in a tournament match brings more pressure to the table.

Goal.com's Jon Arnold mentioned what Vela is facing with Chicharito out on Twitter following the Honduras match: 

The good news for Vela is he will have time to mesh into the squad since El Tri's opponents in Group C aren't quite the best in CONCACAF. Mexico should cruise to first place in the group with wins over Cuba, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago. While you can't rule out the unlikeliest of scenarios, it looks as though El Tri's path to the quarterfinal round will be an easy one.

But despite the seemingly smooth trail paved in front of them for the group phase, Mexico are without a victory in their last seven games, their worst winless run since 2001, per ESPN's El Tri Twitter account: 

If Dos Santos and Vela can't find the back of the net at the Gold Cup, Herrera should be able to rely on 31-year-old Oribe Peralta. With Chicharito out of the squad, an argument can be made that Peralta is now the most consistent scorer on the Mexico roster. 

Peralta's domestic record with Santos Laguna and Club America is an impressive one, as he has scored more than 10 goals in each of his last four seasons. He has also netted five more strikes than Vela in the same number of international matches. Sometimes at competitions like the Gold Cup, an experienced hand makes a world of difference. 

Jul 1, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Mexico forward Oribe Peralta (19) dribbles the ball against Honduras midfielder Brayan Acosta (6) in the second half during a soccer match at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

We could also get a look at 27-year-old Javier Orozco at some point during the tournament if Herrera wants to give the owner of 11 caps a chance to prove himself against lesser opposition. 

With three dynamic options at forward to choose from throughout the Gold Cup, Herrera shouldn't have an issue getting production out of his side as the pressure grows on the squad to come out on top in Philadelphia on July 26. 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90