Mexico were absolutely brilliant in the first half of their friendly against New Zealand last night, scoring three goals and possessing the ball for what seemed like 75 percent of the time. Both wingers got whatever they wanted, Gerardo Torrado dictated the pace of the game and most importantly, Giovani dos Santos looked like the player all El Tri fans have been waiting to see.
They took their foot off the gas a bit in the second half of the game, but there was one thing in particular about the second half performance that stood out: Christian Bermudez was brilliant. The man called 'Hobbit' entered for dos Santos at halftime and, though he did not put in the quantifiable brilliant performance that Gio did, he was still fantastic.
The most glaring thing about these two performances was how much better the two looked than Sinha, the man who seemed set to start when the Gold Cup began. Recently, Sinha has taken a brief leave from the team to tend to family issues after the death of his father. The circumstances which caused dos Santos and Bermudez to see extensive playing time last night are incredibly unfortunate, but the circumstances do not make their performances any less significant.
If Sinha loses his place, he won't really be losing it because he went to be with his family following the death of his father. Yes, that was the sad event that caused light to be shed on what the depth chart should look like at the No. 10 spot for Mexico, but the real reason that he will lose his place is that he is the third best attacking midfielder in the team. Sinha is a legendary player and still incredibly skillful for 35 years old, but his age has caught up to him to a degree. Gio and Hobbit are the better players, and as a result, they should see more playing time.
It should be that simple, but most followers of Mexican football know that will not necessarily be the case. Most managers have their favorites that they trust even when they are not in good form, but Jose Manuel 'Chepo' de la Torre does this to a fault. Loyalty is a fantastic quality in a friend, but it's not always a fantastic quality in a football manager. They don't seem to come any more loyal than Chepo.
The truth is, had Victor Manuel Vucetich taken the Mexico job back in January, Sinha would not be in this team. He might have started Luis Ernesto Perez over dos Santos anyway, creating essentially the same problem, but that seems entirely less likely than the Mexican national team's current situation. Sinha was not at his best over the last two tournaments in Mexico. He finally started to show his age. And he cracked this team anyway.
Now, both Chepo's loyalty and judgment will be put to the test. Obviously, friendlies against New Zealand and an Ecuador B+ squad are not up to the standard that Mexico will face when they play Costa Rica and the United States in competitive fixtures, but those two games were not simple run-outs for Gio. Both are good teams, and in both games, Gio looked fantastic. Whenever Sinha has played recently, he has looked mistake-free, but entirely average.
If Giovani dos Santos doesn't start in the Gold Cup, it's already time to start questioning Chepo de la Torre's judgment.