Los Angeles Soccer: Oswaldo Vizcarrondo
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.