Roster Named for Vucetich's DebutHow will Vuce fair in his debut match for El Tri?
by Brendan Doherty | Friday, October 04, 2013
Notable Mexican players have come down with injury, publicly rejected the national team and been reintroduced into the national team player pool since the 2-0 loss to the United States.
Here’s a look at the recently released roster:
GK: Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera, José de Jesús Corona
DEF: Severo Meza, Hiram Mier, Rafael Márquez, Miguel Layún, Hugo Ayala, Jonny Magallón, Jorge Torres Nilo, Carlos Salcido
MID: Gerardo Torrado, Jesús Zavala, Luis Montes, Carlos Peña, Isaac Brizuela, Christian Giménez, Javier Aquino, Giovani Dos Santos, Fernando Arce
FWD: Marco Fabián, Oribe Peralta, Lucas Lobos, Raúl Jiménez, Aldo de Nigris, Javier Hernández
The Carlos Novela
I was one of the fools who assumed that once Vucetich was appointed head coach, the will-he/won't-he drama surrounding Carlos Vela and the national team would finally end. Vucetich played his role in rebuilding the bridge from San Sebastián to Mexico City by publicly expressing his interest in calling Vela into the squad. It seemed as though everything was going to turn out wonderfully as Vela even declared his desire to play for Mexico again after a Champions League match last month.
But things didn't play out according to the script after that.
Social media has been alight with Mexico fans hurling insults at the former Arsenal forward. Summarized and translated succinctly, Vela told the media that now is not the proper time for him to return to the Mexican national team set-up. This rejection after weeks of teasing build-up led fans to call Vela a “diva” among many other stronger descriptors.
From day 1 Vucetich has underlined his interest in motivated players. If Carlos V, as his Sociedad jersey reads, was not motivated to work for the team even off the bench, then Vuce is not going to lose any sleep over the ordeal. Much has been written about Vela and the national team recently, but I wonder if this is the final nail in the coffin for the U-17 World Cup winner.
Defensive stalwart felled by injury
Seemingly the only sure-thing in Mexico's defense throughout this World Cup Qualification cycle has been Héctor Moreno. The 25-year-old central defender unfortunately picked up a hamstring injury playing with his club team Espanyol against Getafe which could take several weeks to fully heal and will rule him out of both upcoming matches for Mexico.
Young defender Diego Reyes, who has been playing with FC Porto's reserves since leaving Club América in July, would have been an option but his inexperience has been exposed at the international level and Vucetich decided to look past him because he hasn't been playing regularly.
One of the big stories from Vucetich's mini-camps was the exclusion of veteran central defender Francisco “Maza” Rodríguez from the domestic-based training rosters. So with all 3 players who have started during the Hexagonal not included, who does that leave to play against Panama?
I don't want to believe that Rafael Márquez is the answer but the former national team captain has recovered his form since moving to León in Liga MX. If he is paired with a mobile partner in central defense, the deficiencies in his positioning and focus might be mitigated. Márquez has the veteran leadership to inspire a team that needs to believe.
Hiram Mier is a strong bet to start against Panama since the 23-year-old defender played for a number of years under Vucetich at Monterrey. Mier has versatility, as he has been playing all across the backline for his club recently, but he may still lack the experience and resolve necessary for a match of this importance. Hugo Ayala from Liga MX side Tigres has been called in during this WCQ cycle and is training with the domestic mini-camp. Former Chivas great and current teammate of Márquez, Jonny Magallón has also been training under Vucetich and could feature but I think he's the weakest option of the four players mentioned above.
A bevvy of goalkeeping talent
Perhaps it is a luxury that only a few coaches have to struggle with, but Vuce must choose between a handful of quality goalkeepers to start against Panama. From Liga MX, Vucetich called in José de Jesús Corona from Cruz Azul, Toluca's Alfredo Talavera, and Jonathan Orozco from his former club Monterrey for his mini-camps.
This may be my bias against Cruz Azul, but Corona fails to flatter on the big stage. In the 2 upcoming must-win matches, Mexico cannot afford any slip-ups from their goalkeeper. Corona definitely failed to win over any fans with his performances against Honduras and the United States.
Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa has been named Man of the Match 3 out of 8 games for AC Ajaccio this season and has won Player of the Year in both of his previous seasons with the French club. He is clearly the most talented player Mexico has between the sticks, but has Vucetich seen Ochoa play enough and will the former América poster boy gel well with the rest of Mexico's revamped squad?
Vucetich knows what Orozco can do but the Monterrey keeper has suffered a strained left shoulder and won't be available for Mexico. In this race, Talavera has to know he is an also-ran as he simply doesn't hold the same level of quality as either the Ajaccio or Cruz Azul goalkeeper. Memo Ochoa should get the nod to start in goal against Panama with Corona deputizing.
The rest of El Tri's Europeos
Héctor Herrera and Diego Reyes have both experienced a tough transition so far at FC Porto. Herrera has been a late game substitute a few times, and has not looked out of place moving the ball around but those occasions have only come in games where Porto was already ahead and simply looking to play down the clock. Reyes has not even gotten those scraps of playing opportunities two months into the season, but has been named to the bench a few times in the Portuguese Liga.
Vucetich has said that just because a player is playing in Europe doesn't reserve him an automatic place with the national team. He has told the press multiple times in various phrasing that “only in-form players”will make the cut for El Tri. Neither of Porto's young Mexicans will be called in as they haven't seen enough playing time. Andrés Guardado is in a slightly different position.
Guardado has been struggling to nail down a regular starting spot since transferring to Valencia CF last year. While he would probably do better in a two-way midfield role, he has been overlooked at his preferred attacking left midfield position and hasn't developed the proper skill-set to excel as an attacking left back.
The national team has not provided the former Atlas and Deportivo player any respite. Almost every time he has been on the field for Mexico recently, Guardado has tried to do too much. He has gotten a nasty habit of taking on one too many defenders or preferring a poor shot over a pass to a better positioned teammate. Though it has happened months too late, it is hard to argue that Guardado needs a rest from El Tri in order to reassess his playing form.
NEXT UP: October 11 – WCQ: Mexico vs. Panama, Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, Mxico. 9:30 p.m. EST, ESPNews, Unimas, UnivisionDeportes.com.