Pachuca may have Mexico’s future midfield, but consistency remains elusive

CF Pachuca is one of Mexico’s most historic clubs, founded by Cornish miners in 1901. But it doesn’t take much digging to see the lode of talent the club has coming to the surface.

Consider 22-year-old Jurgen Damm, who used Friday’s visit to Tijuana as a showcase for what North American soccer fans may see for years to come. The right winger battled it out with Xolos and United States left back Greg Garza until the American was forced to withdraw late in the first half because of a leg injury, flashing talent that leaves little doubt as to his future with Miguel Herrera’s Mexican national team.

That talent is immense. Starting with his speed and extending to his control of the ball, Damm has already flashed enough potential to draw interest from Manchester United, where he’s gone on trial, and Chelsea, whose initial bid for the young winger was rejected. His vision is coming along as well, with Pachuca’s 3-1 win at Atlas on Feb. 14 his current master class.

That night, Damm had a hand in all three goals, each displaying a different aspect of his standout talent. On the opener, he forced an own goal by cutting in from the wing and playing a low cross into the six-yard box. He scored a goal of his own when he darted past the left back onto a through ball, pulling the pass back to keep it from the onrushing goalkeeper. The third began with a run from his own half and finished with him squaring the ball for Hirving Lozano after the `keeper had been lured off his line.

With his talent now regularly on display, Pachuca won’’t be able to fend off too many more offers for Damm, though he’s not the only Tuzo playing himself into the shop window. The club may also struggle to hold onto Lozano, who was reportedly named Hirving (instead of Irving) because of a clerical error. Also known as Chucky for hiding under bed covers to scare teammates, the 19-year-old midfielder is already frightening Liga MX opponents.
That fear began with his debut in February 2014, when Lozano (above, left) scored a game-winning goal at Club América five minutes after entering the match. Since, the youth level standout’s shown he can play all over the midfield, setting up teammates as well as scoring goals of his own. Those same traits were on display at the recent CONCACAF U-20 tournament, where “Chucky” went on to share the tournament’s Golden Boot.

If Pachuca only had Damm and Lozano, its young talent would already be enviable. Yet resting just in the shadows of those two standouts is Erick Guitiérrez, a defensive midfielder who earned his first start in the 2013 Apertura and won the starting job in the next tournament at age 18. True to his position, Guitiérrez can put in a tackle, but it’s his vision which shines, especially on counter-attacks where the rest of the Pachuca’s young talent can start pouring forward.

There’s also forward Rodalfo Pizarro, 21, a regular starter who scored the second goal against Tijuana. And Diego de Buen, 23, rounds out the team’s midfield. He had the first at Estadio Caliente.

Still, it’s the midfield of Damm, Lozano and Guitiérrez that stand out. It’s a trio that looks poised to be the next generation of Mexicans to be reviled by United States fans, as well as El Tri’s other CONCACAF rivals. Already pushing for moves to bigger clubs, call-ups will start rolling in for what could be a ferocious midfield in Herrera’s 5-3-2 formation.

Even before that happens, Liga MX fans can enjoy what Pachuca’s produced. Offering glimpses of its core’s potent future, the Tuzos have become Mexico’s most-watchable club, undoubtedly drawing glances of envy from the rest of Mexico. Fend off the Chelsea and Manchester Uniteds of the world for a little longer, and Pachuca may mature into an actual challenger.
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Unfortunately, in the present, the Tuzos haven’t found a way to harness that potential week in, week out. Having scored first only to drop points six times this season, Pachuca remains wildly inconsistent. Currently sitting 13th in the Clausura, the team can’t even harness enough of its talent to claim a postseason spot, let alone threaten Mexico’s upper echelon.

That reality was a flashing neon sign after last week, when the Tuzos twice suffered adverse results. Midweek, they rallied to match the Montreal Impact’s two goals and send their CONCACAF Champions League tie to Canada level. Friday, with manager Diego Alonso deploying a mix of regular starters and reserves at Tijuana, Pachuca gave up a two-goal lead, eventually losing to Liga MX’s leaders after being reduced to 10 men.

Pure youth isn’t solely to blame for Pachuca’s imbalances. After all, the defense has Aquivaldo Mosquera and Walter Ayoví, both defenders in their 30s, and also Óscar Pérez, a 42-year-old who seems to be on the club as a peace offering to the elderly. But the Tuzos’ youth does leave the team in a strange middle ground. In time, if it can keep its young stars, Pachuca has a core that can challenge. In the interim, it will have to settle for being the most exciting, inconsistent show in Mexico.