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Who will Tata Martino call up for Mexico's Concacaf Nations League matches?

19:19 GMT+4 27/09/2019
Hirving Lozano Mexico
The El Tri manager indicated he would bring in a few players from abroad to supplement his domestic-based talent for the new competition

The Mexico national team returns to competitive play next month with its debut in the Concacaf Nations League, traveling to Bermuda for an October 11 match against the Gombey Warriors.

El Tri manager Tata Martino looked set to use a young team in the Concacaf Nations League, convening domestic-based mini-camps filled with players looking for their Mexico national team debuts. Yet, after a 4-0 thrashing against Argentina in September, Martino said his plan all along hadn't been to use only young player but to utilize players who he was yet to see much of up close and in person.

"I want to make something clear. I also talked to the players about It as well in the tactical chat," Martino said after the loss to Argentina. "It’s not that I don’t want to have players who play abroad. The idea is not to have the majority of them who played in the Gold Cup. We understand we have to spend more time with the players who weren’t there those 40 days and in this context we’ll look at local player and foreign-based players as well."

That means players like Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Hirving Lozano, Jesus "Tecatito" Corona and Hector Herrera all could be in the mix. While it still would be a surprise to see those players on the field together in Hamilton, Bermuda, it's not a crazy thought that some or all of them will be part of this camp.

What will the blend of players look like for Martino? Here's our best guess for how the manager may try to mix those foreign-based stars with up-and-comers in Liga MX. Also, we've limited our projection to 23 players, though it seems likely Martino will call in a larger group and leave some players off his matchday squad.

Goalkeepers

Hugo Gonzalez (Necaxa), Sebastian Jurado (Veracruz), Raul Gudino (Chivas)

In our very first position bank, we come to the first head-scratcher. With Guillermo Ochoa as the No. 1, even experienced goalkeepers like Jonathan Orozco have received few opportunities from Martino with the America shot-stopper dominating the minutes played. So will Orozco get a look or will Martino bypass an over-30 player like the Santos Laguna goalkeeper and go straight into the next generation?

That's our guess, though we've also included Hugo Gonzalez as a veteran presence instead of Atlas' Jose Hernandez, who has taken part in the mini-camps, and Tijuana's Gibran Lajud. Gonzalez has limited national team experience but is yet to play under Martino. With Gonzalez still on the right side of 30, he may be in the picture for opportunities in this competition even though he was part of the Gold Cup squad.

Gudino already has been in with the national team, and Jurado has stood out in bleak circumstances at Veracruz, where he's yet to play in a victory.

Defenders

Miguel Layun (Monterrey), Carlos Salcedo (Tigres), Nestor Araujo (Celta de Vigo), Jorge Sanchez (America), Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Luis Romo (Queretaro), Gerardo Arteaga (Santos Laguna), Jesus Angulo (Atlas), Adrian Mora (Toluca), Francisco Venegas (Tigres)

After serious health concerns kept Miguel Layun out of the Gold Cup, it would be no surprise to see him as the leader and captain of a young team. 

While El Tri historically has been thin at the fullback position, something Martino no doubt agrees with as we see his continued reliance on Jesus Gallardo as his left back, playing more minutes than any other player in 2019, there's hope on the horizon. Jorge Sanchez showed his quality against the United States, and up-and-comers like Gerardo Arteaga and Jesus Angulo have been in Martino's mini-camps along with several other players who are outside backs. 

Our projection was originally extremely thin in the middle, so much I wondered if Martino would be tempted to bring Hector Moreno in from Qatar not only to lend veteran experience but also simply to play against Panama. While Moreno did participate in the Gold Cup, he missed the entire group stage with an injury. Instead, Martino said Oct. 1 that he'll call in Nestor Araujo and Carlos Salcedo for a second chance after a shambolic showing against Argentina.

Midfielders

Erick Aguirre (Pachuca), Marco Fabian (Philadelphia Union), Jonathan Gonzalez (Monterrey), Jesus Angulo (Necaxa), Orbelin Pineda (Cruz Azul), Jairo Torres (Atlas), Ivan Rodriguez (Leon)

Erick Aguirre is a versatile player who has been in several of Martino's mini-camps, and like Jonathan Gonzalez already has made his debut for the senior national team. Jesus Angulo, meanwhile, has had a nice start to the season with a surprising Necaxa side. He has four goals, including a double against Monterrey earlier this month.

Marco Fabian and Orbelin Pineda both were on the Gold Cup roster, but Fabian left with an injury before the tournament started and Pineda saw just 25 minutes of action - and those came in the latter portion of a 7-0 smashing of Cuba in the group stage. Ivan Rodriguez also is in the same boat, with the Leon midfielder a surprise inclusion on the summer squad who later missed out because of injury.

It's also possible Omar Govea, who is having a nice campaign in Belgium, pops up for Mexico for the first time since Martino took over.

Forwards

Hirving Lozano (Napoli), Jesus Corona (Porto), Jose Juan Macias (Leon), Jesus Godinez (Leon), Alexis Vega (Chivas)

This is where I'm projecting Martino brings in his heavy hitters. You don't make the clarification Martino made this month about bringing in players from abroad if you aren't going to call in at least a couple guys based outside Mexico. 

Yet, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez may be a player who would prefer to bed in with his new club. I think Martino would like to work more with his wingers. Clearly Lozano and Corona have talent. They're the most frightening wide players in all of Concacaf. But after the Argentina game, Martino said you could tell they were forwards rather than midfielders, so maybe he wants to see the defensive side of their game polished up. With Corona well-established at his club team and Lozano already looking to have his role defined with Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli, plus both players set to play a part in the next few World Cup cycles thanks to their youth, maybe Martino wants them in the squad.

Put those two either side of JJ Macias, who is red-hot in Liga MX with six goals in 10 matches, and the debutant would be in a good position to score. Jesus Godinez, who like Macias has been involved in the mini-camps, is another player who could deputize as a center forward with Raul Jimenez resting up with Wolves and Chicharito at Sevilla.

Martino has been pulled in a number of times by the charms Alexis Vega. What the allure is there, it's hard to say. Alan Pulido perhaps could sneak his way in over his Guadalajara teammate, but, at seven years his junior, Vega looks like a better bet.