Chicharito returns to site of memorable goal
By Ivan Orozco

HOUSTON -The shot was a lob that bounced into the lower back corner of the net. The ball had sailed over goalkeeper Nick Rimando. It was a goal sent in with the tap of the right foot of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

That moment is tattooed in Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez's mind.

How could he forget the goal? It was his first goal with Manchester United.

"Of course I remember it," said Hernandez, Mexico's forward with a baby face and buzz cut.

Chicharito entered last year's Major League Soccer All-Star game in the 63rd minute at Reliant Stadium. Fans anticipated his debut with his new team in the English Premier League. They got to see it and were treated to Hernandez' goal in the 84th minute.

"I was very happy but obviously I was very nervous under those circumstances," Chicharito said. "It is something incredible to me because I knew there were a lot of Mexican people in the stadium."

Chicharito will set foot in that stadium for the first time since that first goal on Wednesday when Mexico takes on Honduras in a Gold Cup semifinal in the nightcap of a doubleheader. The United States takes on Panama in the other semifinal.

The 20-year-old son and grandson of former Mexican soccer stars downplayed the moment he scored his first goal for the Red Devils. He said he wasn't sure he'd think about that moment when Mexico runs out on to the field against a close rival in Honduras.

Chicharito is always careful with his words. It's unlike him to dwell on the moment.

He might have other highlights to speak about after Wednesday night. After all, he is leading scorer in the Gold Cup with six goals. He has been the star of the tournament. Everywhere he goes, fans go into a frenzy just to get a glimpse, a photo shot or try to get an autograph.

Players on opposing teams say they don't fear his potential, which threatens a goal with every touch of the ball. But he has been a priority for defenses.

Honduras won't be an exception.

Los Catrachos are expected to play Mexico with a defensive approach. They know Chicharito must be neutralized and his supporting cast slowed.

Honduras might just copy or use a similar strategy used by Guatemala against Mexico in Saturday's quarterfinal. Guatemala relied on its counterattack to take a 1-0 lead and keep El Tri from dominating.

Carlos Ruiz's fifth-minute goal put Mexico behind for the only time in four games in Gold Cup so far. Guatemala defended its advantage until Mexico broke through with second-half goals by Aldo de Nigris and Chicharito.

"There'll be a bunch of circumstances in which they show they are a strong team and at times they show, depending on what we'll do, that they are a team that can make mistakes," Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said of Mexico. "We hope that our game will expose their vulnerability and their bad side and not their good side. I await a very good Mexican team that if we want to beat them, we have to be better than them."

Mexico's players recognize what Honduras can bring. Both teams know each other well, having played five times in the past four years. The last time both teams met in the Gold Cup, Honduras beat El Tri 2-1 in the group stage in 2007.

"It's going to be perhaps more difficult than Guatemala," Mexico defender Rafael Marquez said. "Lately, Honduras has been complicated for us, but we know this is distinct era now. The team is now in a good moment and has a lot of strength and I think if we do thing rights we can have a good result."

Carlos Salcido echoed Marquez' thoughts.

"We know them real well. That's the truth," Salcido said. "They also know us perfectly. I think it will be a good team. hopefully we'll have luck on our side and we'll reach the final."