While other players were still showing signs of preseason form in Liga MX's Apertura opening weekend, Pachuca's Hirving Lozano only needed 22 minutes on Saturday against Leon to make an impact.
After receiving a well-timed cross in the box from Raul Lopez, the 20-year-old from Mexico City controlled the pass with his chest, let it bounce once, then hit the ball with an immense amount of power toward the opposition's net. Leon's American goalkeeper, William Yarbrough, had no chance of stopping Lozano's impressive strike.
Eighteen minutes later, Lozano scored another goal, this time from an eye-catching distance. With little hesitation and uncertainty in his movement outside the box, Lozano looked up and then placed the ball perfectly into the net. He was not finished. The winger provided a well-timed pass and ensuing assist for Pachuca's Jonathan Urretaviscaya during the 75th minute.
With Lozano leading the attack, Pachuca dominated in the one-sided 5-1 victory over Los Panzas Verdes. Some have pointed out that a direct red for Leon's Juan Cuevas put the visiting side at a disadvantage, but even then, Lozano still scored his two goals before his rivals went down to ten men in the 63rd minute.
It's taken just one week of the season to reaffirm that Lozano appears to already have outgrown the Mexican league. The winger is the focal point of Pachuca's attack and a constant catalyst moving forward with his blistering pace and dribbling. The performance on Saturday wasn't a fluke or a lucky happenstance, either. It's more proof that the player has been able to constantly rise to the occasion.
After making his professional debut in January of 2014, Lozano has quickly gone from a promising youngster to a fringe starter on the Mexican national team. During the Copa America Centenario in June, the winger was the youngest member of the Mexican roster and started two matches. One week before the Copa, he helped Pachuca win Liga MX's 2016 Clausura title and was selected as a member of the Best XI in the tournament.
With a key role on the national team, an exciting amount of potential, and arguably the best individual showing during the first week of the Liga MX season, a move abroad to a bigger side appears undeniable and imminent. At the moment, English Premier League giants Manchester United are leading the chase.
Earlier this month, Pachuca vice-president Andres Fassi stated that although nothing was set in stone, the club was negotiating a move for Lozano to the EPL with Manchester United. Days later, Lozano's father-in-law claimed that a deal to the Red Devils would be finalized after the player's participation in the Olympics.
Mexico fans and media devoured the rumors. It was difficult not to remember the last and only Mexican to play for Manchester United: Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.
Before Hernandez left for United, the striker racked up ten goals in 11 games during the 2010 Clausura. With plenty of confidence and a high morale, Lozano is off to a very similar start after scoring twice in his first match of the season. Although the Mexicans are different kinds of attacking players, there is a possibility in seeing identical patterns in their careers.
However, if you ask Lozano about a potential move to England, he might give you a different answer. After Pachuca's president Jesus Martinez denied the Manchester United rumors, Lozano followed suit and stated that he wasn't aware of a potential move to the team. The statements by the player were made after initially indicating that he was interested in following in the footsteps of Chicharito.
Whether he does or doesn't go to United, Lozano is currently performing like a player who is ready to make the leap to Europe. The current youngest member of the Mexican national team has excelled in the Liga MX and deserves to train and grow with a top-class squad in Europe that will help him continue to develop his talents.
Lozano could easily continue to live comfortably in Mexico with a nice paycheck in a decent league, but if he wants to reach his full potential, he must set his sights overseas. Until then, he will continue to dominate the Liga MX with goals and assists along the way.
It's also key to remember that he is in the final roster for El Tri's Olympic squad. Before helping Pachuca claim more victories or signing a contract with a European club, Lozano will fight for Olympic gold next month in Rio. Following a clinched 2016 Clausura title with his club, the Mexican star-in-the-making might be able to sign a contract with Manchester United and win a medal at the Olympics during the same year.
Not bad for a kid who made his professional debut a little over two years ago.
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