Between call-ups for Jonathan Gonzalez, Victor Guzman and Henry Martin, there has been a lot more discussion about who is on Mexico's roster to face Bosnia & Herzegovina than who didn't make it. The omissions, however, show exactly how El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio is looking at the game.
Two of his most veteran players are staying in Mexico City, with Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jesus Corona and Club America forward Oribe Peralta not selected "because of a mutual and agreed-upon decision," according to Osorio.
Osorio knows these players don't need any more international competition. The 37-year-old Corona has nearly 50 caps. Peralta, 34, has more than 60. Osorio knows what he's getting from those players. He knows how they'll react in the locker room, what they'll provide on the field, probably even if they have Mana or Maluma on their pregame playlist.
Even the studious Osorio knows far less about what Gonzalez or Guzman brings to the table. The players themselves may not even know. The 22-year-old Guzman had an excellent 2017 with Pachuca, while Gonzalez's standout Clausura with Monterrey earned him Best XI honors and led the Mexican federation to convince him that a switch from representing the United States at the youth level was one worth making.
The international game is a different one, though. How a player does against Bosnia & Herzegovina's B team will not reveal all, but it will take the young players out of their comfort zones.
Can Gonzalez excel getting forward more often — as Osorio believes fits his profile best — rather than sitting back and winning the ball, which he does with Monterrey? Can Guzman work with players outside Diego Alonso's system? Is Martin that much improved since his national team cameo three years ago or is his hot start with America going to cool off?
There are questions like this about a number of players on the roster. Can Edson Alvarez hold down the right back spot? Will Oswaldo Alanis shake off the rust and redeem his poor national team showings from 2017? Will the MLS players be a step — or two — behind the Liga MX guys because of the league starting later on in the calendar?
Next week's friendly, and maybe more importantly the training sessions preceding it, won't answer the questions but will give Osorio a benchmark for the answers.
"The things to have in mind when the final squad comes is the form of the players at this time, which is the biggest worry we have and our job with our plan that they end up playing with their clubs," Osorio said at a news conference Thursday. "Hopefully players appear who compete for a place."
That hope, and the decision to give Corona and Peralta rest rather than minutes, shows where Osorio and his assistants are in the process. For all the flack Osorio gets for experimenting, he's closing up ranks. The job is done for those veterans and for several of the players based in Europe. They're on the plane. They're going to Russia barring injury or wild happenstance.
The manager has an idea of who he's going to bring. He's prepared training plans. He's sending video clips of the group stage opponents to players, telling them what to watch out for. In many respects, his attention is turning from his own team to the opponents his own team will meet.
Yet, there's still the potential for a player who hasn't been involved until this year to blow away the coaching staff and earn a place in the squad. Whether it be a teenager, an emerging star or a journeyman, the door is open. Beyond fulfilling a few commercial obligations, that's what this game is for.
It could fade into obscurity as another "molero," but we may remember it as the match that launched a player's push for the World Cup that stunned us all.