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Mexico coach says soccer team 'on the right path'

Javier Aguirre's squad plays Angola on Thursday in a World Cup tuneup. He admits, 'We're missing some details.'

May 12, 2010|By Kevin Baxter

Reporting from Houston -- No one needs to remind Mexican Coach Javier Aguirre that his team's World Cup opener is less than a month away. But if that makes him nervous, he's doing a good job hiding it.

Aguirre's team ends its six-match U.S. tour Thursday night in Houston against Angola before flying back to Mexico City to meet Chile on Sunday in its World Cup sendoff.

That gives Aguirre two more chances to tie up any remaining loose ends before his team takes a huge step up in class by playing England, the Netherlands and Italy — three countries ranked among the top eight in the world in the latest FIFA rankings — in its final tuneups for this summer's tournament in South Africa.

And though recent results — scoreless ties against Iceland and Ecuador and a sloppy 1-0 win over Senegal — would seem to indicate there are many loose ends to tie up, Aguirre says he's happy with his team's progress.

"I think we're doing well," he said in Spanish. "Everything's going to plan. I have the team I wanted. We're playing like I wanted.

"We're missing some details. We're missing some things we have to do. But we're doing well. We're on the right path."

That's one way of looking at it.

Another way is to say that, 13 months after Aguirre took over the national team and 29 days before its World Cup opener, El Tri remains a work in progress. Defenders Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Salcido and Ricardo Osorio, who have played just once with the national team this year, didn't return from Europe until Tuesday, And five other European-based players will be following in the next week.

Which is why Aguirre has set only the vaguest of goals for Thursday's match.

"Specifically, continue progressing," he said. "Continue building a style. And I'd like to see us generate more scoring opportunities.

"Winning would be good. Play good soccer. Return to Mexico with confidence regarding the results and the way the team is working. And if we can't accomplish that, at least you'd like to be satisfied with your play, with your style."

A sellout crowd of more than 70,000 is expected at Reliant Stadium, with organizers saying they've sold tickets to fans in 34 states and four countries. It is the fifth consecutive sellout for Mexico, which has played before crowds totaling more than 360,000 on its U.S. tour.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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