Not many would’ve predicted all four would make the squad, with Pizarro only 19, Ponce coming off a poor 2013, Perez’s Atlas having an awful time and Pulido not having nailed down a starting spot at Tigres until relatively recently.
But while all four will get their chance to impress Herrera first hand in training and, perhaps, on the field against Korea Republic, the omission of Carlos Salcido and Gerardo Torrado is also worth picking up on.
Torrado played the last three World Cups, while Salcido was possibly Mexico’s best player over the last two and the duo were mainstays for El Tri in the Confederations Cup last summer.
Not making a domestic squad for Herrera’s first World Cup preparation game is a bitter blow to Torrado and Salcido’s chances of being at Brazil 2014, with the coach apparently leaning to Rafa Marquez and Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez to provide the real experience.
Herrera stated around the time of the New Zealand playoff that the squad would very much be a pragmatic one, designed to come together at short notice and play as if they’d been together for a while.
It was therefore logical that we saw seven America players and three from Leon start and they got the job done convincingly against the All Whites. The plan worked.
Now the squad for Korea Republic gives the first real indication of how Herrera’s thought-process is moving towards the World Cup in June.
So while Salcido and Torrado appear to be casualties, there was much better news for the likes of Jorge Torres Nilo, Diego Reyes, Jose Juan “El Gallo” Vazquez and Jesus Zavala, none of whom made the squad the New Zealand playoff.
The strong and fit Torres Nilo has to be in with a strong shout of starting against Korea and could easily be Mexico’s permanent starter if he can adapt to the wing back position, meaning Miguel Layun would shift to his more natural right flank.
The call-up is a lifeline for Reyes, who, if Porto doesn’t sell defenders this January, is unlikely to get any first division soccer before the World Cup.
The Portuguese club’s willingness to loan him on a non-FIFA date is a major positive and shows just how keen Herrera is to give his former America player every chance to prove himself capable of being a starter in Brazil.
As for central midfielder Vazquez, his time has been coming and he’s a good age at 25. Vazquez was a key figure for Leon in its title-winning team and will battle it out with Juan Carlos Medina and Zavala for a spot in the starting lineup.
Monterrey’s Zavala can also play that holding role and is physically the strongest of the three, which could play into his hand with Mexico facing big sides in Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon in the group stage of the World Cup.