Raul Jimenez called for the hand wrap. Surely he thought he wouldn't need to put it on this game. The star Mexico forward had a double against Panama on Friday and must have believed he'd be able to sit back, watch Mexico's future stars thrash Bermuda and start the journey back to join up with Wolves without breaking a sweat.
But when Plan A didn't work out for El Tri and even substitutes Rodolfo Pizarro and Roberto Alvarado weren't able to get a winner on Tuesday night, it was time for Jimenez to protect his wrist and get out there to make the difference.
That's what he did. In stoppage time with the score still 1-1 Alvarado called for the ball and then moved it to Jimenez. The forward used his first touch to put a scooped pass on a platter for Uriel Antuna, who chested the ball down and then put the winner past Dale Eve.
It was a dagger to Bermuda, which now drops to League B and must go through the mini-qualification tournament to make it back to the Gold Cup, and a breath of fresh air for Panama which qualifies automatically.
"We have to always fight, push and didn't give up until the minute when it came through," said Sebastian Cordova, whose goal from outside the box in the 23rd minute brought things level after a shock opener from Bermuda center back Dante Leverock in the 10th minute.
It's true, Mexico didn't give up. But it did get a big boost from a star in Jimenez who should've had the night off – and from Alvarado and Pizarro as well.
Mexico manager Tata Martino has, to this point, gambled that Mexico's reserve players, or up-and-comers, would be good enough to get comfortable results. The bet has paid off so far, with the young players getting experience without Mexico taking on the risk of actually dropping a result.
This time out, the bet almost cost Martino. He made nine changes from the strong team he used in Panama City, sticking with only center back Hector Moreno and Edson Alvarez.
"While there are logical differences between Mexico and Bermuda, Bermuda played their A-team, while Mexico did it mixing in some young U-23 guys. I was interested in doing that because I was imagining this type of game, not necessarily so close, but in this style. I think the references was worth it," Martino said at his post-match news conference.
Perhaps it was too many changes, but what is certain is that when he needed his top players, they were there. Well, sort of. Jimenez stepped up, as did the other players who are regulars in the 'A team,' but Martino has called only a small group of Europe-based players at a time.
That custom continued this time around, with Alvarez, Jimenez, Erick Gutierrez and Hector Moreno the only players in the squad based outside of North America.
The point may be moot. Martino will want his strongest side available for the next FIFA window, in which Mexico has a pair of friendly matches in the U.S. that reportedly will be against top opponents like the Netherlands and/or Germany. Then, he'll need his best group for the June semifinals. And the mission of getting players eligible for the 2020 Olympics minutes with the senior squad already has been accomplished.
Still, Martino may reconsider his approach to the next Nations League when it rolls around in a year's time. Or perhaps he'll simply rest secure in the knowledge that his best players, like Jimenez, are ready to perform when he needs them.