Jimenez, not Chicharito, Mexico's top No. 9 - Tata
DENVER -- Mexico head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino jumped to the defense of Raul Jimenez, after being questioned over his form for El Tri, telling reporters he -- and not Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez -- is the country's most important forward.
Martino was asked whether he wanted more from the 28-year-old Wolves striker, who scored twice in Mexico's 7-0 victory over Cuba last Saturday, but also missed easy chances.
The Argentine responded by backing Jimenez, who has only netted 19 times in 73 games for the national team, unequivocally, indicating he is more important to Mexico than even the country's all-time leading goal-scorer, Hernandez, who missed out on the Gold Cup due to the birth of his first child.
"Raul is our most important forward, I'm talking about Mexican football, not just this competition, but overall," said Martino one day out from El Tri's Group A Gold Cup clash against Canada. "I'm not bothered if my No. 9 is a goal-scorer or not if others are scoring goals. I'm not concerned, as long as the football he provides is the same that he has shown so far."
Martino said Mexico isn't at the Gold Cup to test players but "to win" the tournament, and is expected to name many of the same stars who helped thrash Cuba when they face Canada on Wednesday night.
Rodolfo Pizarro and Hector Moreno trained separately on Tuesday morning and are unlikely to feature in what should be Mexico's most difficult group game, although Edson Alvarez and Jonathan dos Santos are expected to be back in contention for a starting spot.
"Canada has a great generation of players right now," said Martino. "We don't play against Canada's history, we play against this Canadian team. The important thing isn't history, the important thing is right now.
Canada comes into the game against Mexico off the back of a 4-0 victory in the first Group A game against Martinique and with coach John Herdman hinting that there could be changes to the starting XI.
"What we're doing in these three games in such a short spell, you have to manage our players carefully," said Herdman in a news conference after the win against Martinique. "As a coach you always have to weigh that up. Do you want to go back to back for certain players, or do you want to rest knowing you've got a tough match coming up against Cuba in the third match in 36 degree [96.8 degrees Fahrenheit] heat in Charlotte coming off the back of altitude?"
Mexico-based striker Lucas Cavallini could be in line for minutes after starting the victory over Martinique on the bench and is keen for Canada to make a statement against the 2015 Gold Cup champion.
"There's a lot of difference between Mexico and the majority [of CONCACAF] countries," said Cavallini on Monday after training.
"We aren't coming just to participate this year, we're here to fight for the cup," said the Puebla man. "Mexico will always be our rival. We're prepared for what's to come."