Eric Gomez: Chepo should experiment with youth in remaining meaningless qualifiers

With two games left, Mexico is already qualified for the final Hexagonal round in World Cup qualifying, which opens an opportunity for Chepo to experiment with other players.

¡Ahora, lee USA en Español!

It's safe to say Mexico's fortunes have officially turned when the criticism surrounding El Tri is that it's doing too well on the pitch.

Manager Jose Manuel de la Torre finds himself amid a somewhat strange paradox, with his next truly meaningful game coming on Feb. 6, 2013, as the national team enters the final hexagonal round in the World Cup qualifying path set out by CONCACAF. Yet, the Mexican team has two games before then, both in the third round of qualifying, a round in which the team has completely dominated opposition.

While De la Torre has explicitly said that he wishes to field "full, strong sides" against Guyana and El Salvador next October, two schools of thought have emerged as to whether bringing players like Javier Hernández, Francisco Rodríguez, Héctor Moreno and Andrés Guardado back for seemingly meaningless games is a good idea.

With a layoff of five months between the Estadio Azteca clash against Costa Rica and the start of the hexagonal, Chepo might be motivated by the issue of consistency and rhythm to bring his A-team and finish off the remaining fixtures on the calendar. As a national team manager, after all, Chepo does not have the ability to teach and train his players on a consistent basis, and a stretch of five months without contact with his top players might be too much to bear.

However, that issue is almost moot, considering that October will bring about the end of the current round of qualifying anyway. Four months without his top players is nearly as bad as five. Sure, there's a FIFA friendly day scheduled for Nov. 14, but that coincides with the start of the Liga MX playoffs, meaning that a sizable amount of Chepo's usual group will be busy on club duty and thus unable to participate with the national team.

Playing key players in unnecessary situations in October could lead to disaster. Twelve years ago, Real Valladolid striker Cuauhtémoc Blanco was sidelined for nearly a year after suffering a strong tackle in El Tri's visit to Trinidad and Tobago. Blanco was Mexico's brightest star and his absence pushed the team to the brink of elimination. While it is easy to allege that the current version of the team does not depend on a single player, the risk of someone important picking up a knock might be too big to ignore.

The best solution might be to bring up fringe players and a core group of U-20 and U-23 players aching for a crack at the big squad. Part of the reason why Mexico has been so successful on the youth level is precisely because players are getting a chance to grow into their roles accompanied by a consistent group of teammates en route to bigger challenges such as youth championships.

Mexico's 2011 U-20 team impressed to the point that three players made the jump to Europe. Others, like Jorge Enríquez, Diego Reyes and Néstor Araujo, graduated to the U-23 team a year later that took gold from London at the Summer Olympics. It is not far-fetched to think that a call-up featuring the U-20 and U-23 core could do well in international play, especially when the stakes leave nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Fans should be clamoring to see the Ulises Dávilas, Jonathan dos Santos and Edson Riveras of the world suit up for Mexico to see if they can pick up where they left off on prior occasions with those same youth teams. The three players named above have also been pretty quiet with their respective European clubs, to the point that information on their performances is pretty hard to come by on this side of the pond.

Finally, strategy could be another reason to experiment. It's safe to say that Chepo is set in his ways tactically. Inserting those players into the usual 4-2-2-2 or 4-2-3-1 schemes might yield some interesting results that De la Torre will consider going forward into 2013 and beyond. Perhaps this group of players will yield the ideal sub for Giovani dos Santos or Chicharito. Maybe a guy like Enriquez will be able to contend for one of the two defensive midfielder spots. Severo Meza does not have a true hold on the right back position, can a player like Miguel Ponce step up and contend for it?

For all the talk of the current "golden generation" that has Mexican football in a prospective windfall, we've seen what good or bad (and yes, it's been mostly good) the senior squad is capable of doing with its current group of stars.

Now, it's a perfect time to take a look at the kids.

Follow ERIC GOMEZ on