Tom Marshall: Working through Mexico's potential lineup against Panama

New coach Victor Manuel Vucetich could experiment with three strikers as El Tri prepare for the crucial World Cup qualifier.
Only 10 days remain until Mexico takes on Panama in a game El Tri must win if its chances of making the World Cup in Brazil are to remain in its own hands heading into the final qualifying match against Costa Rica.

The word from Mexico City, where new coach Victor Manuel Vucetich is preparing with the domestic-based players, is that El Tri has been experimenting in training with up to three strikers in search of improving its record of four goals in eight games so far.

"We're looking to be very aggressive, we need goals, we're looking at players that can score," Vucetich said in Monday's press conference.

Bit by bit, more details are coming out over how El Tri will line up — especially with the omission of Carlos Vela, Diego Reyes, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera from the list of Europe-based players.

Here's a look at a potential starting XI:


Jesus Corona has slipped down the pecking order after mistakes against Honduras and the United States, while Jonathan Orozco — who had an injury scare last week but appears to be fine — is the dark horse considering the trust the coach has in him from their trophy-winning days together at Monterrey.

Guillermo Ochoa must have the edge at present following the continuance of his fine form for Ajaccio, but it is likely Vucetich will only make a final decision on who gets the nod between the posts after he has seen Ochoa in training for himself.


Rafa Marquez mentioned Monday that there has also been experimentation in the defense makeup of El Tri, which we can assume involved Vucetich moving between a flat back four and three central defenders and two wingbacks, as he did regularly with Los Rayados.

The lack of a call-up for Guardado and with Miguel Layun the only player in the squad that plays as a wingback, a four-man defense seems the more likely option.

You'd have to think Marquez was brought in to play, especially considering his good form, while Hector Moreno is a shoe-in, although there is a slight question mark over fitness.

Hiram Mier is well-placed to step up should Moreno not make it, again taking into account his history with Vucetich.

In the fullback positions, Jorge Torres Nilo seems set to patrol the left ahead of Carlos Salcido due to his greater attacking intent, while on the right, Layun is the best of a limited selection at present and will add significantly in the attacking third.


Jesus Zavala has the edge after being a rock for Vucetich and his Monterrey side and adds a much-needed physical presence in the center of midfield.

Who plays alongside him is perhaps the toughest position to predict. Vucetich's words about being aggressive and searching for goals seem to lean toward the dynamo that is Fernando Arce or Carlos "Gullit" Pena, who has shined for Leon but is yet to really make his mark for El Tri. Another outside possibility is playing Lucas Lobos in an advanced central midfield role, although it would make the spine of the team slightly weaker.

The other options are the experienced workhorses of Gerardo Torrado and Salcido, who lack mobility and the ability to get up and down the field for 90 minutes, but make up for it with nous.


Vucetich is likely to play two out-and-out wingers as he did at Monterrey, with Giovani dos Santos most likely on one wing and Christian "Chaco" Gimenez on the other. Javier Aquino, Isaac Brizuela and Luis Montes remain good options from the bench, although it is likely one of Brizuela or Montes will be cut from the final squad.

In the striking positions comes the reoccurring dilemma over whether Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernandez can play together. With goals the name of the game against Panama, Vucetich is likely to field Mexico's two best goalscorers together, although Lobos is the obvious choice to play as a No. 10 should the coach not like what he sees on the training field between Peralta and Chicharito.  

Predicted lineup (4-2-4): Ochoa, Layun, Marquez, Moreno, Torres Nilo, Zavala, Arce, Dos Santos, Gimenez, Peralta, Hernandez.