Jose Manuel de la Torre called in a good mix of veterans and youngsters for this month's matchups against El Salvador and Guyana.Despite a slew of injuries, Jose Manuel de la Torre called in pretty much the usual side for the next pair of World Cup qualifying matches - meaningless as they are for Mexico - coming up next Friday and the Tuesday after that.
It’s a ho-hum sort of roster that makes plenty of sense overall. When Carlos Peña is the most notable new inclusion and a goalkeeper the biggest snub, there’s really not much to see here.
Though there are some details that might have been tweaked, there’s little to complain about, and even some interesting new names fans will hope to get a look at.
Calling up a number of the Olympians who didn’t get the chance last time around due to injury or just fatigue is a worthwhile decision. The invites for Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes and Jorge Enriquez to El Tri were only a matter of time, and this camp is as good a time as any to integrate players likely to play an increasingly important role as next year’s hexagonal grinds on.
With Jesus Zavala out to injury, and no Carlos Salcido this time around - not to mention the continuing and completely justified absence of Rafael Marquez - now could indeed mark a changing of the guard at central defensive midfield for El Tri.
So many missing d-mids means there will almost certainly be a chance for Enriquez when El Tri lines up against El Salvador and Guyana, which leads to a great opportunity to introduce El Chaton to the full Mexican national team spot he’s likely to occupy for the next decade or so.
Carlos Peña also got the call at that spot, and while the redundant call-ups of Zinha and Gerardo Torrado somewhat cancels out any plaudits the coach might earn for flexibility, it’s always good to see at least some new blood in El Tri.
Speaking of which, this may be a good chance for Herrera as well, with Gio dos Santos and Marco Fabian missing. Herrera is not the same type of creative attacking element those two are, but the Pachuca man does provide a spark from deeper in midfield that could help overcome the absences of two of El Tri’s most dynamic attackers.
Overall, the mix of veterans and young talent is pretty good, though El Tri is probably a bit fortunate given the absence of so many key players that this round has become meaningless to them in terms of advancing.
Given that situation, many will no doubt criticize De la Torre’s general insistence on not experimenting too much with these games - in fact the starting lineups are likely to look very similar to the teams that have taken the field over the previous few rounds. But the bottom line is that there’s a balance to be struck between incorporating new elements and continuity.
There aren’t that many chances between now and the upcoming tournaments that matter, such as next year’s Confederations Cup, to bring in the A-team, so every opportunity is one that needs to be taken advantage of.
The one decision Mexico might end up regretting after this round of games is calling up some of the nation's Europe-based players.
Javier Hernandez and Andres Guardado are both struggling a bit for form and playing time in the early going of their club seasons, and might have benefitted more by staying behind in Europe for 10 days of training, given that their places in El Tri are not in doubt. Central defenders Maza Rodriguez and Hector Moreno could also use a break from their constant duty in the middle for El Tri, while younger central defenders need testing in a green (or black) shirt.
All in all, though, De la Torre has proved that he has a plan in mind for El Tri, and he’s putting it to work.
Nitpicking his team selection no longer makes any sense. The best course of action for El Tri fans will be to sit back, and, while the rest of the Confederation battles for their World Cup qualifying lives, enjoy the nice, smooth ride through the next week and a half - no matter who’s on the field.