Two Times Mexico’s Unlikely Heroes Saved Their Team From U.S. Defeat

Read more

Paul Aguilar is an americanista: he likes to talk shit on the field, and he is not technically very talented. On paper, most Mexican fans that don’t root for América should hate him – and they do – but this past Saturday, wearing the now traditional black jersey of El Tri, Aguilar rose as an unlikely hero for all Mexican soccer fans.

With a final score of 3-2 in the game between Mexico and the United States, it would be an understatement to say Paul Aguilar was essential for El Tri’s first victory over the U.S. since 2011; he assisted the second goal and scored the third when it was nearly time for penalty kicks.

Aguilar’s unlikely status as MVP of the night reminds me of two similar incidents of non-fan-favorite players taking the day. So jumping on the bandwagon of victory, here they are.

1993 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final – Nacho Ambriz, Luís Roberto “Zague” Alves, and Guillermo Cantú

The former Necaxa player and current América manager Ignacio Ambriz was never much of a conqueror of fans’ hearts, and the same can be said of now FEMEXFUT official Guillermo Cantú. Luís Roberto Alves, better known as Zague, was the laughingstock of children around the country for his goofy Chicharito-style misses. If you don’t believe me, just look at this video of the 1994 World Cup game against Norway (which Mexico lost 0-1).

Zague also had the stigma of playing for América and scoring lots of goals for them despite his lack of talent.

But despite the differences – or indifferences – Mexican fans could have with these group of players, they all became immediate heroes when they led Mexico to a crushing 4-0 victory against their arch rivals. Ambriz opened the score, Zague scored the almost fatal 3-0, and Cantú gave the final stab that killed any hope the Americans could have of a comeback.

2010 World Cup Qualifiers – Israel Castro and Miguel Sabah

It had been one of those rocky CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers Mexico has been having in the last few years. Under the hands of Swede manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, Mexico had come close to elimination in the third round and was having a terrible final qualifier round, which meant Eriksson was fired and Mexican coach Ricardo Aguirre was brought in to save the day.

The game against the United States was one of the last of the qualifiers, so a victory against Mexico’s arch rivals was not so much about bragging rights, but about the three points and making it to the World Cup.

At minute nine, American striker Charles Davies opened the score in the Azteca Stadium and had every Mexican fan trembling from the get-go. Every minute that passed was miserable, but then the light came in the form of player Israel Castro, who was definitely not known for scoring. With a great kick from outside the box, the game was 1-1.

The second goal didn’t come until eight minutes before the game ended, and it came from the feet of a man who once stated he was afraid of playing against América. Just two minutes after coming in as a sub, Miguel Sabah respected a great play by now-forgotten Efraín Juárez and scored what was probably the most important goal in his career.