Know thy enemy: Although Herculez Gomez won't be appearing for Santos this Saturday, it should be a good matchup for both teams nonetheless. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
The Fire may not see MLS action again until next Wednesday vs. Toronto FC, but our Men in Red will face Santos Laguna is an international friendly at Toyota Park this Saturday. I had the opportunity to get a bit of intel from Jason Marquitz over at FMF State of Mind. Some Fire fans are undoubtedly familiar with Santos Laguna. For those of you that aren't we have got you covered. USMNT fans may know Santos because Herculez Gomez plays there. Although he won't feature this weekend at Toyota Park due to WCQ duty vs. Jamaica, there will still be plenty of talent on both sides of the roster Saturday. The first question will appear below, and the rest after the break. For those of you that need your FMF fix, you can follow Jason through the Twitter handle @soccermexicana. You can also check out www.soccermexicana.com for all the latest FMF news.
Enjoy, and head out to Toyota Park Saturday night to cheer on your Men in Red!
Hot Time In Old Town Asks FMF State of Mind
1. What is the impression of MLS in the Mexican league at the moment? Do they believe it has improved in the past 5 years or so? (via Stephen Piggott)
It does seem as if the general view has shifted to MLS being a more respected league. Whereas in the past, a matchup with an MLS squad could produce nothing but an expected thrashing or an embarrassing loss, now it seems that victories in CONCACAF Champions League are a matter of pride. Mexican football fans are generally proud of their superiority in this event (although most don't pay attention until the later rounds). With the sense of accomplishment comes a certain respect for those that are beaten. It's a backhanded compliment kind of progress, but progress nonetheless.
2. Who are the likely players to replace the Internationals away on duty right now? (via Rudy Gomez)
Santos will be missing five players to international duty this weekend (Oribe Peralta - MEX, Gerardo Lugo - MEX, Darwin Quintero - COL, Herculez Gomez - USA, and Felipe Baloy - PAN). With the exception of Baloy, all of the missing players are forwards or attacking midfielders. Manager Benjamin Galindo emphasized this week the need to get youth more experience playing with the first team. This seems like a great chance to do so. I'd expect to see some fresh faces for Santos, especially at forward. Some combination of Carlos Parra, Candido Ramirez, or Alejandro Martinez could be expected to be mixed in with the regular starters that remain. With that being said, the player to watch will be Santos mainstay, Daniel Luduena. Toronto supporters could tell you a great deal about him.
3. How good is the academy currently compared to an Atlas, Chivas, America, or Tecos? (via Rudy Gomez)
Based on the results of U-20 and U-17 sides, Chivas and America would still clearly have the superior wealth of youth prospects in their system. However, it seems as if Santos are gaining momentum in their youth development. Their U-20 squad made the final a year ago. With their new facilities, success of the first team and the money that is available, it would stand to reason that the Santos youth system will continue to grow.
4. What or who do you credit for the success of US International Herculez Gomez? He has been on fire since coming to the FMF in 2010. What is the main reason for his success? How do Santos fans view Herculez? (via Ryan Sealock)
I could try to sell you something about the style of play in Mexico and how that suits his game, but for me the answer is much simpler. I think it would be a mistake to credit anyone or anything other than Herculez himself for his success. Since coming to Mexico, he has been with four different clubs and has played well for each. He even thrived with the relegation bound Estudiantes Tecos. It's not like he had top-notch teammates delivering him the ball there. While the quality around him has certainly gone up a grade or two with his move to Santos, his play has as well. Gomez has been able to play consistently great football while often not cracking the starting eleven. He has also avoided prolonged injuries since coming to Mexico, which had not always been the case previously.
5. What is the general view of this friendly in the eyes of the team and the fans? Are friendlies generally well regarded? What about friendlies against MLS teams? (via Ryan Sealock)
Friendlies are neither regarded negatively or positively, they are just barely regarded. For the most part they are largely ignored, unless of course the team is facing Real Madrid, as was the case last month. Although after that friendly, Santos went into a tailspin of form in the league. The fans aren't likely to be very happy with these friendlies if they continue to have that effect.
Both manager and players are coming out with plenty of quotes about improving as a team, getting experience for younger players, and maintaining consistency over the break. But the team undoubtedly looks at this as an opportunity to fill an empty calendar date with a fixture that will provide United States-level ticket revenue.