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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

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Miguel Layun's versatility will be a real asset for Mexico at the World Cup

If you consider all the positions and places in the world Mexico full-back Miguel Layun has played, it can be hard not to place blame on someone whose fingerprints can be found all over when things go wrong. That's especially true for Layun because "todo es culpa de Layun." That is to say, "it's all Layun's fault," a hashtag-worthy grievance that originated with his arrival, aged 21, to Club América in 2009 when critics deemed him unworthy of wearing the colors of one of Mexico's most successful clubs.

He laughs about it now but admits that it was a difficult period in his career when the club couldn't get over the hump. It took over three years and a title-clinching penalty in a shootout win over Cruz Azul in the 2013 Clausura final to erase doubts.

Layun would become a mainstay with America and was the captain during the club's run to the 2014 Apertura title. He has since plied his craft in England, Portugal and Spain along with a brief stint at Serie A's Atalanta prior to his arrival at America. He has also been all over the pitch since making his first-division debut with his home state Veracruz's Tiburones Rojos in 2007. After doing the math in his head, he rattled off 15 positions where he's played: in short, everything but forward and goalkeeper.

His favorite position?

"Being on the field," he told ESPN Deportes' David Faitelson during an in-depth interview from the practice facilities of Sevilla, where he is on loan from Portuguese side Porto.

With Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio's penchant for frequently tweaking his lineups, the versatility of Layun -- who turns 30 between Mexico's World Cup group matches against South Korea and Sweden -- will become more important as Russia 2018 nears. Count Layun among the believers regarding the method to Osorio's madness.

"I don't have a problem saying it: to me [Osorio is] a genius," said Layun. "And like any genius, he has different ideas that are beyond the parameters of what's considered normal. Perhaps that's what can be unsettling [to critics]."

Layun has played more or less every position and will do whatever's required for Mexico at this summer's World Cup.
Layun has played more or less every position and will do whatever's required for Mexico at this summer's World Cup.

Layun and his teammates' devotion to Osorio comes at a time when the manager is under scrutiny for his unorthodox tactics despite racking up 30 wins in 46 games while in charge of Mexico. The veteran player counters by pointing to a newfound camaraderie within the team, a joy that comes from time spent together during FIFA dates.

"He got results during qualifying," said Layun. "Now, we have more time to prepare for the World Cup. Let's see what happens. We have to keep believing in that and trust in him like we've done until now. Maybe it's that stepping-out of the routine, the day-to-day, that generates anxiety. It's like something new... maybe his routine involves changing things up."

To have a chance of beating Germany in their World Cup opener on June 17, Layun insists that El Tri will need complete concentration and ramped-up intensity against a champion that is unforgiving when it comes to opposition errors. He's not overlooking the other Group F opponents, either, but believes Mexico is in fine form with players like Hirving "Chucky" Lozano, Hector Herrera and fellow veteran Andres Guardado, the latter of which is now at his La Liga crosstown rival, Real Betis.

Layun also didn't discount adding the U.S. to the list of places he's played, saying that he had received an offer from an MLS club.

"My passion is here, this is the most demanding situation," he said about Europe. "I feel fortunate to discuss this topic [Mexican players such as Carlos Vela and the dos Santos brothers signing with MLS]; I think it's unfair the way these guys are crucified. This is what makes me happy, what I do and where I do it. For them, that's what makes them happy and that's what is most important. We're here to be happy."

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