Tom Marshall: What should Carlos Salcido’s role be with El Tri?

The longtime Mexico left back, Salcido has been used as a defensive midfielder for the previous two years.
Left back, central midfield, on the bench or not in the squad at all, Carlos Salcido’s position with Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s Mexico provokes debate. The old argument was re-opened Friday night, when Salcido went 90 minutes at left back in Mexico’s 2-2 draw against Nigeria and played as though he had never left the position.

“(I feel) very happy,” Salcido told journalists after the game. “It’s a position that I know very well, but you have to do your little bit wherever you can be useful.”

The 33-year-old added in no uncertain terms that left back is his favorite position, having played there in Europe for PSV and Fulham and impressing down the left in the last two World Cups.

Against Nigeria on Friday, Salcido was reunited on the left with Andres Guardado and the latter benefitted, producing his best performance of the season for El Tri. The duo share an understanding that has perhaps been missing on the left of Chepo’s Mexico sides, with Jorge Torres Nilo at left back not doing anything wrong, but not really showing that chemistry with Guardado.

Salcido showed his old ability to get up and down the wing and even set up Mexico’s second goal when he found himself free on the left in the 70th minute and sent an inch perfect cross for Javier Hernandez to finish.

It all left you with the feeling that while Salcido is good in midfield, he can still be exceptional at left back for Mexico.

In midfield – where he only started playing in 2011 when Tigres coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti converted him – Salcido uses his experience to shield the defense, leads by example with his work-rate and helps organize, but there is a sense that at the international level, Mexico needs someone a little more dynamic in that position, especially against teams intent on sitting back and defending.

Yet there are doubts about Salcido’s ability to shift to left back permanently. The main one is the concern over whether a player that will be 34 at Brazil 2014 can bomb up and down the wing not just for one 90 minutes, but for three, four or five games in a short space of time.

Then there is the question of pace. It’s no secret that Salcido has lost a yard of pace and against elite teams, that could well be exploited.

But, whatever the question marks, Salcido did enough against Nigeria to suggest that he should at least be given these three important qualifying games at left back, starting with the away trip to Jamaica on Tuesday. If he does well, the Confederations Cup will be the ideal forum for Salcido to show if he really is ready to re-assume left back duties on a permanent basis.