Mexico looks to leadership for Gold Cup edge

Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado (left) and head coach Miguel Herrera (right) attended a CONCACAF Gold Cup press conference on July 8, 2015, in Chicago. (Photo: Mexsport)

CHICAGO – Andres Guardado smiled. The Mexico midfielder then broke into short laugh when asked if how he is enjoying being “El Tri’s” captain.

“It’s good,” he responded, during a press conference at Soldier Field on Thursday night.

The 28-year-old tried to not extend his answer, but the assembled media urged him to elaborate. The national team veteran complied.

“When Miguel (Herrera) gave me the responsibility to be captain it was something new to me,” continued Guardado. “I got used to it and it is nice to be the mediator between player coach and administration. I am enjoying it. But the nice thing about this group is that each one gives its qualities to the team, in this case the same with me.

“I wear the captain’s arm band, but there’s an entire team that helps us become a unit.”

Herrera has a unit at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup that is the base one of the he took to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. And that could be a good thing for the man that is under constant scrutiny for his formations and lineups.

Guardado is one of those Brazil 2014 competitors returning to Gold Cup action after missing the 2013 version. He has earned the captain’s armband and a leadership role on the team that is expected to be a contender for the title.

Having a group of players with European soccer experience can be a blessing for a coach. Herrera also views it as a challenge.

“It makes it more difficult for me as a coach to pick the first 11, but as I told them, I have to prove why I chose them,” said the 47-year-old. “And the ones I didn’t choose, they have to show me that they have earned a possible spot. I think they have showed me that and they’ve done it well.”

Herrera believes he is fortunate to have a side that raises the bar through in internal competition.

“I like their attitudes the way they play how they fight for a spot among them,” the former Club America manager finished. “I set the (starting) 11 and they kill themselves to do it well and the ones that don’t start, they kill themselves to have a chance to start. That makes me happy to have 23 players fighting to start.”

Mexico will open its Gold Cup campaign on Thursday against Cuba at Soldier Field.