Guardado heroic for Betis but three main Mexico strikers are misfiring
MEXICO CITY -- It hasn't been a swift start for Mexican footballers in Europe, as only a few have been able to showcase significant performances that directly influence their respective clubs' fortunes. This season, very few of Mexico's internationals will compete in European tournaments and after the first week, only Carlos Vela and Real Sociedad were able to get a win in Europa League play, while FC Porto, who have a significant Mexican presence, suffered a 3-1 loss to Besiktas and Raul Jimenez' Benfica lost 2-1 to CSKA Moscow in Champions League play.
Here's a look-back at the Heroes and Villains from the Mexico national team players in Europe:
After four La Liga matches, Andres Guardado already has three assists. Guardado is becoming one of Betis' main creators. As one of the captains of the team, his presence in the XI is becoming vital. Manager Quique Setien described Guardado as an extraordinary player after Betis picked up its second home win of the season. Though it was Joaquin, veteran and Betis idol at the age of 36, who got a brace in the win over Deportivo La Coruna, Guardado was the one who once again found a way to mesmerize the crowd at Estadio Benito Villamarin. His assist for Joaquin's second goal of the night included an interception, a long run with the ball that started at Betis' end and a sublime through-ball that left Joaquin with a lot of space to fire a hard shot well beyond the keeper. Betis' next league match is a visit to Real Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
It was a good weekend for Hector Herrera, who got his first league start with FC Porto on Sunday night. Porto got a 2-1 victory over Rio Ave, which put the team top of the league table with 18 points. Teammates Jesus "Tecatito" Corona, and Diego Reyes were part of the bench crew but didn't see playing time, while Miguel Layun wasn't even included in the matchday roster. Herrera completed 81 percent of his passes and his direct rival for starting minutes will be Oliver Torres, who has three assists so far this season. Herrera is a footballer who needs to recuperate his best form, especially with the upcoming World Cup nearing.
Since Guillermo Ochoa's last two World Cup qualifying games against Panama and Costa Rica, he's participated in two league games with Standard Liege, and the Belgian side has gotten two draws. In its recent 1-1 tie against K.A.S. Eupen, Ochoa made important saves like this one:
Standard currently sits 13th in the Jupiler Pro League table with six points. It's not a great spot to be -- Standard are just five points off the bottom -- but nevertheless, Ochoa is making a name for himself in European football and this past week, FC Barcelona goalkeeper, Marc-Andre ter Stegen told sports newspaper, Mundo Deportivo, that Ochoa has been one of the best opponents he's faced. "An opponent that I liked was Guillermo Ochoa when he was at Granada. I didn't know about him, but I was impressed. I saw him again at the Confederations Cup, and it was a great pleasure to greet him again," he said.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Raul Jimenez and Carlos Vela combine for three goals so far this season. To be exact, Chicharito is the only one who has scored in league play this season, while Jimenez's only goal came in a Super Cup final.
The numbers are worrying considering that the trio represent three of Mexico's best available scoring threats. At the moment, it looks like Chicharito will finish the season with the best scoring numbers while Vela, who has yet to start a league game with Real Sociedad, might finish his time in Europe on a low note. Vela is scheduled to fly to Los Angeles next January to start his new chapter with LAFC. With Jimenez, it appears that as long as he stays at Benfica, he will be an eternal substitute.
The season is young and there's still plenty of time to go, but three of Mexico's most important forwards are having a hard time at the start of the 2017-18 season.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.