One of the greatest Mexican goalkeepers retired today from football in a emotional goodbye with Cruz Azul. Oscar Perez said goodbye to the team and sport with whom he lived his greatest moments. Perez came back to say goodbye to the sport and started the match before bowing out in a tribute made by Cruz Azul, who brought him back just for this moment. Perez had his best moments with Cruz Azul, but also excelled in Pachuca, where he played since 2003, as well as also having spells with Tigres, Necaxa, San Luis and Chiapas.
With the Mexican National Team he went to three World Cups and was a starter in two of them (2002 and 2010), as well as being the starting keeper in the 2001 Copa America where Mexico finished in second place. With Cruz Azul he was the starting goalkeeper in Cruz Azul’s run in the 2001 Copa Libertadores where they were the first Mexican team to get to the final. He was also the starting keeper in 1997 when Cruz Azul last won their final title, Invierno 97.
Oscar Perez started his career with Cruz Azul, making his debut way back in 1993. With Cruz Azul he slowly gained the starting position, and in 1997, Cruz Azul defeated Leon and won the title, which most people didn’t expect it would be the last league title for more than 20 years. Perez’ level was enough to make him national team material as he went to Copa America in 1997 and the 1998 World Cup as a backup goalkeeper. Oscar Perez kept improving his performances, and it culminated in 2001, which was probably his best year ever. That year he was Cruz Azul’s keeper during a Copa Libertadores run which historically is considered the best performance for a Mexican team in that competition. With Perez in goal, Cruz Azul was able to eliminate teams like Cerro Porteño, River Plate and Rosario Central and get to the final with Boca Juniors. In the final, they lost at home, won in Buenos Aires, but would finish in second place after losing the penalty shootout.
The level Perez showed with Cruz Azul meant that when Javier Aguirre was hired as Mexico’s national team coach to save a drifting campaign that had Mexico out of World Cup qualification, Perez was chosen as the starter. With Perez and an improvement in play, Mexico was able to qualify to the World Cup in the final game of the World Cup qualifiers. Perez had been key in qualifying a game before that when he had a monster performance away in San Jose, Costa Rica. There, Perez was vital in getting a 0-0 tie that allowed Mexico to qualify with a win against Honduras in the final game, which they were able to do. Then in the 2002 World Cup, Perez was the starting goalkeeper, having a good performance especially in the World Cup opener against Croatia.
Perez continued with Cruz Azul for many years, continuing being a backup keeper with Mexico during Ricardo La Volpe’s tenure, as well as starter with Cruz Azul as they failed to match the level of past seasons. Perez finally made a move to Tigres, and then later to Chiapas. His level had dropped and he had no longer been a national team member until Javier Aguirre returned to the national team as head coach following another NT emergency in qualifying. Perez moved to Necaxa and started improving his level with Necaxa, which allowed him to get back to the National team. There, controversially Aguirre decided for him to be the starter and he would do so in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, even though most fans (me included) thought that Guillermo Ochoa should have been the starting keeper. After the World Cup, Perez moved to San Luis and later on to Pachuca, where his career took a second wind. With Pachuca, Perez became the starter with a team that was a contender. With Pachuca, Perez was finally able to win his second league title when Pachuca won the Liga MX final against Monterrey in the 2016. Previously, he had gotten to the Liga MX final in 2014 but lost against Leon. With Pachuca he also won the 2016-2017 CONCACAF Champions League, his final title, while also playing in the 2017 Club World Cup, his final international tournament with club and country.
After failing to continue with Pachuca, Perez retired with Cruz Azul at age 46. With Perez retiring, he becomes the last of an era of Mexican footballers who shined in the 90’s. Perez was also a historic player both in the Mexican league and in the national team. As tears rolled down his face, saying goodbye in Estadio Azteca with the team his legend was made, Oscar Perez closes and era which most Mexican fans were glad to have lived through and to have been able to have seen such a great goalkeeper.