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Alvarez unsure whether he'll pick Mexico, U.S.

 By Nayib Moran

Chicharito helps West Ham get draw; Salcedo needs consistent playing time

It was a slow weekend for Mexican footballers in Europe. Many of them didn't see playing time after the recent World Cup qualifiers. Nevertheless, the schedule is about to get busy as Champions League and Europa League games are scheduled in the following days. But there's a trend that bears watching as the season picks up steam: Many of Mexico's important players aren't having consistent playing time.

It doesn't matter if Juan Carlos Osorio and his staff have prepared individualized training plans for their players in Europe. The extra drills won't have much of an effect if the players lack playing time.

A key component heading into these next few critical months is for several of Mexico's players in Europe to become dominant on their respective clubs. So far in the new season, only players like Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Herrera, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Andres Guardado and Hirving "Chucky" Lozano sort of fit that bill. And when looking closely at the stats, only Guardado and Lozano have excelled expectations and immediately garnered attention in their leagues.

Here's a look back at the Heroes and Villains:

It was Chicharito's passing that helped West Ham survive a playing down a man against Burnley.


West Ham got its second consecutive away draw of the season, but once again, as was the case in the last game, Chicharito didn't play the entire game. A 1-1 draw against Burnley -- a side in the top 10 of the Premier League table -- can be considered a good result, especially after the Hammers played down a man for close to 60 minutes. Chicharito started the game playing up top alongside Andy Carroll, but after Carroll was sent off, the Mexican striker was left as lone striker. Chicharito's performance wasn't brilliant, and for the second game in a row, he didn't take a single shot on goal, but his contributions in the passing department were satisfactory. He made three key passes and completed 85 percent of his passes.

Because many of Mexico's European legion didn't see action this weekend, Carlos "Gullit" Pena was able to captivate many viewers with his performance. It generated a certain curiosity as to how Pena was able to get a brace in Rangers' 3-0 win over St. Johnstone. No one can deny that under Pedro Caixinha's coaching, Pena is re-establishing his career. His move to Scotland was interpreted as a fresh start and a chance for him to regain a certain level that allowed him to be one of the Mexican standouts in Liga MX. However, when Pena was given opportunities in the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Copa Centenario to become an important national team player, he never rose to the occasion. So while he might be lining up an important season with Rangers, his chances of reaching next year's World Cup are very scarce.

Ochoa's Standard Liege will head into Week 11 with a place in the top 10, and that should produce a sigh of relief from the Mexican goalkeeper. Standard's 3-1 win over KV Cortrique gives Ochoa's club with 12 points ahead of an interesting meeting with Omar Govea's Royal Excel Mouscron on Friday. It will be the first time the Mexican audience can watch Govea on television, whose debut season with Mouscron has been notoriously good.


After one of the craziest games in the current La Liga season -- which saw Betis lose to Valencia 6-3 -- Real Betis manager, Quique Setien, was asked about his thoughts about Guardado's game as the team's central defensive midfielder. "I don't think that Guardado playing as CDM had any determinant influence in tonight's loss. It's true that perhaps with Javi Garcia, we would have been better off in the aerial game because he's good in the air, but with the ball, it was going to be very similar as tonight."

Guardado didn't fail as Betis' central defensive midfielder, but the fact that he played so deep prevented him from helping out the team offensively. Let's not forget that in the current season, Guardado has six assists. He's the league's best in that department, and when he plays a deeper midfield role, his offensive contributions are clearly missed by Betis' attackers.

Carlos Salcedo played 90 minutes in Mexico's 3-1 win over Trinidad and Tobago, but his performance was one of the weakest among the starters. The last World Cup qualifying week showed that several of Mexico's top defensive options aren't going through their best times. Salcedo came on in the last minutes of the match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Hannover 96, so at least he's back in Frankfurt's mix. It will be important for Salcedo to increase his playing time because it was clear in Mexico's last camp that the lack of competitive minutes is hindering his game.

Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.


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