I'm taking matters into my own hands.
Mexico hasn't named a manager since Juan Carlos Osorio vacated the senior men's national team job after the World Cup. It is yet to name an interim boss. Yet, friendlies against Uruguay and the United States await on September 7 and 11 and El Tri need a roster for those games.
So, here's the team I'd call in. A few parameters:
- Several players based in Europe have indicated they will request not to be called in for this contest, even though it's a FIFA date. West Ham forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Villarreal defender Miguel Layun are among the players hoping to stay with their clubs to train and impress their managers as they push for starting spots. I'd respect that.
- I'd be inclined to respect that even more, as these games may be the least significant in the entire calendar. The World Cup is over, and another one isn't coming for more than four years. The next important match El Tri will play is the Gold Cup in June. That's a full nine months from now.
- The wisest decision seems to be to lean toward youth. Facing a Uruguay team that is set to include Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez, Luis Suarez and Rodrigo Bentancur among others will be excellent international experience for players who will be able to put those lessons to use when qualifying for Qatar.
Let's get to the list!
Hugo Gonzalez (Necaxa), Rodolfo Cota (Leon), Gibran Lajud (Tijuana)
Guillermo Ochoa can fly across the ocean if he wants, but we know what we're going to get from guys like Memo and Jesus Corona. Plus, Corona is 37. Alfredo Talavera, the third goalkeeper at the 2018 World Cup, turns 36 next month. It's time to see what the next generation of Mexican goalkeepers can do.
With both Monterrey and Necaxa, Gonzalez has shown himself to be a capable shot-stopper. Cota was the third goalkeeper at the 2017 Confederations Cup and has been one of the best goalkeepers in Liga MX over the past several seasons. And while Lajud still needs to fine-tune his decision-making process, namely when to come off his line for crosses and when to stay put, the 24-year-old Tijuana No. 1 can make acrobatic stops and has enormous potential.
Raul Gudino of Chivas is currently dealing with a back injury, but also should be in the mix.
Carlos Salcedo (Frankfurt), Nestor Araujo (Celta de Vigo), Diego Reyes (Free Agent), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey), Edson Alvarez (Club America), Antonio Briseno (Feirense), Jose Abella (Santos Laguna)
Carlos Salcedo hinted after the World Cup that his Mexico days may be behind him. If I'm the Mexico national team coach, I do everything I can to prevent that from happening. Salcedo had a tremendous World Cup, showing he's the best defender Mexico has to offer. The 24-year-old is the rock upon which I build my back line. I call him up and tell him he's the leader I want for the next four years.
Same goes for Nestor Araujo, who may be adapting to life at Celta but has shown good early returns. The sooner the partnership of Araujo at left center back and Salcedo to his right can start working together and building chemistry, the better.
I also would bring in Antonio "Pollo" Briseno. In addition to showing players that taking a chance and jumping to Europe will be rewarded, Briseno has been in good form in Portugal. This is the perfect kind of window to recognize that good work. Sort of the yang to that yin is Diego Reyes, who probably should have a team by now in all honesty. Maybe he misses this camp after signing a deal this week or next, but it would be nice to get the current free agent some minutes.
Edson Alvarez and Jesus Gallardo were converted to play right back and left back, but I don't hate the idea of giving the young players a chance to lock down those spots going forward. Santos defender Jose Abella can push Alvarez, or just give the flexibility to put the America defender in the center or in the midfield.
Would I like to have another outside back on the roster? Absolutely. But you can sort of see why Osorio was so hesitant to bring someone else in. There's a new generation of outside backs coming up through the ranks, but Ismael Govea or Gerardo Arteaga may need a bit more time to explode onto the international scene.
Hector Herrera is a key building block for the future. In addition to his two-way play in the midfield and his shooting ability from distance, he's also a player who will lead Mexico in the next cycle after a good performance at the 2018 World Cup. It's also important to turn the page on whatever animosity existed between Porto and Mexico. There was clearly something wrong with the relationship during the Osorio era, and while the Colombian was diplomatic about it, it didn't help anyone. I'd try to revive that partnership and show the club that having two of their players in the setup is a bonus, not a negative.
Erick Gutierrez also went to the World Cup in Russia, but the 23-year-old didn't see any time. Now it's his chance to show he can fill the considerable vacancy that will be left by Andres Guardado when the Real Betis player hangs it up - though he may push for a fifth World Cup.
I'd like to bring "Gallito" Vazquez back into the mix. Osorio didn't take to him, but he's a player who can be important in games like the Gold Cup, where a bit of extra physicality sometimes is needed.
Jonathan dos Santos may be a surprise name, and his inclusion does depend on his fitness level. Yet, he's a player who has plenty to offer El Tri. Motivation has been a question mark, but he definitely was frustrated he didn't get to play more in Russia, his first-ever World Cup. Now that he's had that taste of the highest international level, he should be gunning for more - plus it's not like the LA to Houston direct flight is too arduous.
Orbelin Pineda gets the nod thanks to his international experience. I've been intrigued by his midfield partner Michael Perez, but just when I'm ready to put Perez ahead of Pineda on the depth chart, he has a game like the one against Necaxa during the week where he looks a bit, well, lost.
Marco Fabian should be in the mix as well but will likely be getting adjusted to life at a new club after being pushed out of Frankfurt.
This group looks like it could be Mexico's attack of the future. It's not too difficult to imagine this, minus Elias Hernandez, as the attacking line for the 2022 World Cup. Hernandez merits inclusion because of his hot start to the season. He's exactly the kind of player that can give a bit of experience to Mexico's Gold Cup campaign.
Hirving Lozano is the future of the El Tri attack, but he's also the present. He's well-established at PSV, and Uruguay should be bringing some top-caliber defenders who can provide "Chucky" with a decent test. Plus, I want to give the fans something to be excited about, and the "El Chucky Lozano" chants aren't staying in Russia.
Raul Jimenez is a bit lonely as a center forward, but his auspicious start with Wolves give credence to the idea that he'll supplant Chicharito as Mexico's No. 9. Being three years younger than Mexico's all-time leading scorer doesn't hurt, either.
Carlos Vela is someone who has impressed with his form for club and country lately, and were I the Mexico manager I'd want to do everything possible to keep Vela happy. He's loving life in LA and looks to be enjoying representing his country as well. I'd want that to continue. The same goes for Jesus Corona, though he didn't take the same international leave absence Vela did earlier in his career. Corona may not be the rising star he was three years ago, but he has plenty to give to the team.
The rising stars come in the form of teenagers Diego Lainez and Roberto Alvarado. Both have started the Liga MX season well and a senior national team call-up should serve as motivation. Lainez has played a lot of minutes this summer, so I'd probably only give him a cameo. Alvarado has been impressive with how he brings teammates into the attack in addition to scoring. He'd get more time.
Rodolfo Pizarro is a versatile attacker, and while he hasn't taken the league by storm since moving to Monterrey, he's still a player whose talents will serve Mexico well both in the near-term and long-term.