SAN DIEGO -- Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez isn't going to score every time he takes the field, and when he failed to finish Pablo Barrera's feed at the start of Tuesday night's Mexico-Venezuela friendly at Qualcomm Stadium, it signaled he wasn't at his sharpest.
Hernandez, who would have put the ball away on Saturday, when he scored twice in El Tri's victory over Paraguay in Oakland, has become so automatic that it's almost more perplexing when he misses, no matter how difficult the chance.
Hernandez's inability to finish, therefore, had plenty to do with the result: a 1-1 draw that might have flattered Venezuela a little, but not too much. The South Americans' organization and ability to pressure Mexico's backs was impressive; their ability to do so in front of 60,808 green-shirted fanatics is something they can build on when Copa America begins in July in Argentina.
“We have a big wish, to keep moving forward …,” Venezuela coach Cesar Farias said after the match. “We played against Mexico, which has [so many quality players] like 'Chicharito' and Giovani Dos Santos. It's a team that went to the World Cup -- they even have starters on their bench. It's great for us to come here in this stadium, with so many of their fans. It helps us to come to Mexico and get a draw.”
Well, we're about 20 miles north of the border, but Qualcomm certainly was part of Mexico on Tuesday, and the place erupted when Dos Santos, from a short corner, chipped for an Aldo de Nigris header to give El Tri a 59th-minute lead. There could have been more: Dos Santos hit the right post with a shot that deflected off Venezuela goalkeeper Leonardo Morales in the 68th minute, when it was still 1-0, and Nestor Calderon hit the left post in the 84th, when it was 1-1.
Oswaldo Vizcarrondo scored the Venezuelan goal, a header from Yohandy Orozco's corner kick to the near post after defender Edgar Duenas was screened away from the play and goalkeeper Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa left his line way too late to get to the ball.
Venezuela might have won had Orozco's 35-yard blast two minutes before Vizcarrondo's goal been a couple of inches lower. It slammed off the crossbar.
La Vinotinto for generations was the weakest South American nation in soccer, but they've made big strides the past decade, had a worthy 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign and believe they can do some damage at Copa America, the continent's nations championship.
“I think people don't realize how close we were to making it to the World Cup. We were only two points away from that fifth spot [that advanced to a playoff],” said forward Alejandro Moreno, who plays for Chivas USA. “A result here or there goes our way, and all of a sudden we're talking about making our first World Cup appearance. It was disappointing to be so close, but it also gave us something to work on, and something to believe on. We believe in what we're doing, we believe in the work we're putting in, we certainly think we're capable players. As a group, we really come together, sacrifice for each other and commit ourselves to a cause. …
“Coming into a stadium where there are 60,000 fans -- and all of them except probably my wife and my two kids are supporting Mexico -- it allows us to have an experience where you can manage that and you can handle that and you can still put the ball down and play. We're proud of being able to come here and get a result against a team that is in form with a lot of players that are doing quite well and going through good spells with their club teams.”
Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego)
Mexico 1, Venezuela 1
M -- Aldo de Nigris (Giovani Dos Santos) 59
V -- Oswaldo Vizcarrondo (Yohandry Orozco) 73
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa; Efrain Juarez, Rafa Marquez (Edgar Duenas, 46), Hector Moreno, Carlos Salcido; Luis Perez, Gerardo Torrado (Israel Castro, 46); Pablo Barrera (Nestor Calderon, 82), Giovani Dos Santos (Zinha, 71), Andres Guardado (Carlos Vela, 46); Javier Hernandez (Aldo de Nigris, 46).
Venezuela: Leonardo Morales; Roberto Rosales (Franklin Lucena, 82), Grenddy Perozo, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Gabriel Cichero; Angel Chourio (Jesus Gomez, 62), Tomas Rincon, Giacomo Di Giorgi, Luis Manuel Seijas (Yohandry Orozco, 66); Alejandro Moreno (Daniel Arismendi, 78), Nicolas Fedor (Evelio Hernandez, 86).
Yellow cards: Rincon 10, Di Giorgi 69, Vela 69.
Referee: Ricardo Salazar (U.S.). Att.: 60,808.