After a disappointing Confederations Cup — and an even worse Gold Cup — the Mexican national team will be hoping for better things next summer. Confederations Cup and Gold Cups mean nothing compared to the glory of the World Cup and all will be forgiven for a forgettable 2017 if El Tri can put forth a stellar performance in Russia.
A handful of clubs in Europe will have a major impact on the success of El Tri at the 2018 World Cup.
With that in mind, these are the European clubs Mexico fans (and coach Juan Carlos Osorio) will want to follow closely during the 2017-18 campaign leading into next summer’s World Cup.
No team outside of Mexico currently fields more Mexican players than FC Porto’s four, all of whom are experienced national team players. Midfielder Hector Herrera, defender Miguel Layun and defender Diego Reyes all have at least 47 caps while forward Jesus Corona has seven goals in 28 appearances with El Tri.
A successful season for the Mexican contingent at Porto could go a long way toward helping Mexico at the World Cup as all four players could be included in the squad in Russia.
Last year Corona, Layun and Herrera combined for 68 appearances with Porto. Reyes played 29 times on loan at Espanyol. Corona made 20 starts, supplying five assists and three goals for the Dragons, including a beauty of a goal against Leicester City in the Champions League. Herrera and Layun both had three assists in 14 and 12 starts, respectively. Herrera tallied two goals.
— Marek (@Konsantrasyone) December 8, 2016
Porto finished second to Benfica last season and will be in the Champions League. The Blue & White start their season on Aug. 9 against Estoril. The more opportunities for the El Tri foursome to play together in Europe, the better for Mexico.
Aside from Porto, Eintracht Frankfurt is the only European club with more than one Mexican player on its roster. Defender Carlos Salcedo joined midfielder Marco Fabian at the club this summer.
Fabian was Eintracht’s leading scorer last season with seven goals. His four assists were tied for the team lead. Fabian featured 24 times, all but one as a starter. At 28, Fabian is a reliable player for Mexico, scoring eight times from midfield in 37 appearances for the national team.
— Eintracht Frankfurt (@eintracht_eng) July 22, 2017
Salcedo, not to be confused with Carlos Salcido, made the move to Eintracht on loan from Chivas Guadalajara following a loan stint at Fiorentina, where he made 18 appearances. However he was injured during the Confederations Cup and will be out at least a couple months following shoulder surgery.
At Frankfurt, where they’re joined by U.S. men’s national team rival Timmy Chandler, Fabian and Salcedo play for a mid-table club that was one of the Bundesliga’s most boring. A whopping 79 goals were scored during Eintracht matches last year, the lowest in the league. But Mexico fans will still want to tune in as much as possible to check on the progress of Fabian and Salcedo, who begin their club season on Aug. 20 against SC Freiburg.
Javier Hernandez returns to England for the first time since he left Manchester United, having had stints with Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen. At West Ham, Chicharito will hope to perform closer to his 2015-16 form than his 2016-17 form.
Hernandez proved to be a good signing for Leverkusen, scoring 39 goals in two seasons. His first in Germany was his best, racking up 26 goals as Leverkusen finished third in the Bundesliga. But the club, and Chicharito, took a step back last year, finishing 11th as Hernandez scored 11 league goals.
Chicharito is a Hammer pic.twitter.com/LFOxTugBOX
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) July 25, 2017
The move back to England brings a brighter spotlight to Mexico’s biggest star. How he lines up with West Ham will likely vary from his role with El Tri, but the bottom line remains the same: he must score goals for his teams to win.
Playing for West Ham will make it easier for Mexico fans to watch Chicharito than when he was in Germany, so there will be plenty of eyes on the Hammers and Hernandez as he builds up toward his third World Cup. The season will start with an anticipated rematch with Manchester United on Aug. 13.
Rooting for a goalkeeper is a bit different from rooting for field players. A Mexico fan watching FC Porto will obviously want Porto to maintain as much possession as possible and obtain the highest possible goal differential. For Guillermo Ochoa’s Standard Liege, Mexico fans could care less about how much the Belgian club scores.
Ochoa, with 87 caps for Mexico, will undoubtedly be in Russia barring injury. His form depends on how the defense in front of him performs. Last year Liege allowed 49 goals in 40 matches, an improvement over Ochoa’s last club. In 2016-17, Ochoa saw plenty of action on loan at Granada, which was relegated after allowing 82 goals in 38 matches.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio will want Ochoa to face enough shots to stay sharp while not too many that he loses confidence. Ochoa has been relegated twice since 2014. He began his season with a 1-1 draw on Sunday, which included this double save.
— Standard de Liège (@Standard_RSCL) July 31, 2017
Six more Mexican national team players currently play for European squads, though their success isn’t quite as entwined in that of their clubs as the aforementioned teams.
With 139 caps to his name, midfielder Andres Guardado remains an important figure for El Tri and made the move from PSV Eindhoven to Real Betis in La Liga over the summer. Defender Hector Moreno also left PSV over the summer and joined AS Roma in Italy. PSV still has one Mexican: 22-year-old Hirving Lozano, who moved over from Pachuca this year.
— LaLiga (@LaLigaArab) July 29, 2017
Carlos Vela will be in La Liga with Guardado, once again featuring for Real Sociedad. Vela has had a rocky relationship with the national team, but remains one of the country’s top strikers. Fellow forward Raul Jimenez will likewise compete against national teammates in Portugal, playing for Porto rival Benfica. Jimenez has scored 23 goals over the last two seasons with Benfica. Finally, midfielder Carlos Pena is the lone Mexican in the Scottish Premier League, joining Rangers in the offseason.