When Miguel Herrera was relieved of his duties as coach of the Mexican National team in July 2015, a void was left. The spunky, crazed little coach had been released following an altercation with a journalist, but he’d just led El Tri to their 10th Gold Cup in convincing fashion with a three goal lead an hour into the final. Ricardo Ferretti stepped in as the interim manager and continued the team’s success but a full time replacement was due before 2018 World Cup Qualifiers in November. Enter Juan Carlos Osorio. El Tri’s first Colombian manager signed a three year deal conveniently ending after the 2018 World Cup.
Osorio began the job red hot, winning his first seven games in charge leading up to this summer’s Copa America Centenario. Mexico continued their form to start the tournament with wins over Uruguay and Jamaica before a hiccup of a 1-1 draw against Venezuela saw them up against defending champions Chile in the quarterfinals, with Chile having finished second in their group behind Argentina. Chile inflicted upon Mexico their worst loss in an official tournament ever, a 7-0 thrashing.
Mexico rebounded nicely with two wins and a draw since, but there’s a player in their current squad we’d like to see get a real run before Mexico’s first Hex games in a month’s time: Isaac Brizuela.
Brizuela has played all 12 games for Guadalajara in what has been a strong start to the season; 20 points from those games has them sitting fifth. Brizuela himself did not have the best start; he was without a goal or an assist in his first six games while he was subbed off four times. However, since August 28, Brizuela has scored four goals (T-2nd in Liga MX) and his cQxG per 90 (0.37) has been good for fourth. Yes, it’s a small sample but in the same time frame only Giovani dos Santos has scored more goals (5) or accumulated more cQxG (2.6) among Mexican players called into the squad for these friendlies than Brizuela.
These performances have been strong enough to warrant a call up to the national team and a cameo role against New Zealand, but we’d like to see him get a chance to start against Panama tomorrow.
Mexico beat 88th-ranked New Zealand 2-1, but the performance against the All Whites was not one to inspire confidence in the scrappy squad, without its teammates who earn their keep in Europe. The match against Panama tomorrow is the final opportunity for Osorio to test the players he’s brought into the fold before the beginning of World Cup qualifying. After Panama, one can count on El Tri Europeo – Tecatito Corona, Andres Guardado, Chicharito Hernandez, Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun and Hector Moreno – to headline qualification, with even more limited opportunity for Brizuela to contribute.
Brizuela has been capped six times since the 2013 Gold Cup, but has never really been a regular in the team. Given his current form (and his age), it very well could be now or never for el Conejo Brizuela.