'Chicharito' finally scores, but a lack of playing time plagues Mexico's players
This 2017-18 season in Europe hasn't been mesmerizing for Mexican football. A lack of minutes has been a common theme for many members of Mexico's European legion. Juan Carlos Osorio, El Tri's manager, is preoccupied with the lack of playing and the idea that several of Mexico's players could be switching clubs this January.
Here's a look back at the Heroes and Villains:
There's certainty that Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez will stay with West Ham until the end of the season, but manager David Moyes said Hernandez will be important to the club in the coming weeks. The question is, how important will Chicharito really be? Will Moyes continue to use him off the bench? Or will he give him a good string of starts where the team will try to feed him more passes in the box to put in the back of the net?
On Saturday, Chicharito scored his 42nd goal in Premier League play and the Hammers got a 1-1 draw against Bournemouth. Hernandez hadn't scored a goal since October, so Saturday's events were important for his confidence. However, after scoring the goal that rescued a point for West Ham, he wasn't even included in the ballot for the Hammers' best player of the match.
Standard Liege and Guillermo Ochoa started off the year with a 3-2 win over KAS Eupen. Standard sits in sixth place after 22 games. Four years ago, Ochoa gave stellar performances in the World Cup, but they were only good enough to move from Ajaccio to Malaga. If Ochoa plays well again during the World Cup this year, how good does he have to play in order to leave Standard for a club that could potentially be involved in next season's Champions League? If there's not a convincing offer, Ochoa might remain at Standard another season.
Hirving "Chucky" Lozano's PSV got a 2-1 win over Heracles on Sunday, and although Lozano didn't score, he created four key passes. With each passing day, Lozano's Mexico jersey, with the No. 22 or No. 8 in the back, is becoming more popular among the Mexican faithful. There's a lot of excitement surrounding him, and if he's able to lift the Eredivisie in his first season with PSV, an entire country will see him as Mexico's go-to guy in the attack in Russia.
Since October, Omar Govea's Royal Excel Mouscron has only won one league match and lost eight. It's a disappointing turn for a club that started the season with four wins in its first six league matches of the season. In Mexico, Govea's first division minutes in Europe has gotten a lot of praise. At only 22-years-old, he's one of the few Mexican footballers in Europe who has managed to play more than 1,000 minutes.
But his story also reflects Mexican footballers' current state in European football. While Govea is getting consistent playing time, but he's having these golden minutes at a young club, in a developmental competition like the Jupiler Pro League. Players like Chucky, Uriel Antuna and Ochoa can be put in this category of Mexican players in Europe's low tier leagues. It's also the same for Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun, Diego Reyes, Jesus "Tecatito" Corona and Raul Jimenez in Portugal's Liga NOS.
The recent results suggest that Govea's team doesn't have the spark it showed at the start of the season, and even though he has worn the team's captain armband during this negative period, he should contribute more assists and goals, so the club can finish among the top 10.
Hector Moreno didn't expect that in 2018 he would be at a top club like AS Roma, but that he would only have played a total of 317 minutes by Jan. 21. He's likely to head into this summer's World Cup with no clear idea of what level he's in because he has hardly competed since signing with the Serie A club last summer. This past week, Osorio has lamented about Moreno's debut season with Roma.
For Moreno, this is an unexpected situation, which will require him to get a confidence boost between now and the World Cup. When Moreno is at his best, there's no Mexican left-footed center-back who can match his level, but the problem is that as the weeks go by, it's becoming more unlikely that Moreno will arrive in Russia at an optimal level, unless Roma loans him for six months to a club that needs a center-back of Moreno's playing style.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.