When Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio was putting together the roster he will announce Thursday for October's World Cup qualifiers, he had options. Osorio already knows most of the names he will have on his list for the World Cup in Russia. He also knows his team will be in Russia, no matter what happens.
There's still motivation for Mexico to close out qualification strong and perhaps set a record for the best-ever Hex for a Mexico team. That would vindicate the heavily criticized Osorio in some ways. Nothing, however, would allow Osorio to thumb his nose at the critics like a successful World Cup.
As a coach known for making changes and leaving no stone unturned, he'll likely use the games against Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras as an opportunity to bring in some unfamiliar faces.
Certain familiar faces will not be part of the call-up. Center back Hector Moreno is likely out with an injury and Tigres winger Jurgen Damm will miss out as well because of a knee problem. There will be a few surprises, and Osorio has definitely called in players off the radar before (remember Candido Ramirez?). Here are a few options for players who haven't been involved with Mexico during the past year who might be worth bringing in
Omar Govea, Royal Excel Mouscron M
Omar Govea is a young Mexican playing in the Belgian league on loan from Porto. Not only has he seen regular minutes in the Jupiler Pro League, he's doing so with a Royal Excel Mouscron that has surprised with its hot start this season, currently sitting third in the table. Govea scored a beautiful free kick to open the scoring Saturday in a 3-2 victory over Eupen. It's not traditional for players from Europe's smaller leagues to earn call-ups for Mexico, but Osorio is always willing to break with tradition and could reward Govea's hard work with a call.
Another player who made an early departure from Mexico, Jesus Corona went through a somewhat similar period. Tecatito played a fair amount for Dutch side FC Twente in the 2013-14 season but waited until the end of 2014 for his first El Tri call. Russia probably isn't a realistic goal for Govea, but Osorio might benefit from seeing him up close and introducing the 21-year-old to the national team setup.
I'm not sure how Govea fits into Osorio's system, but the coach likes midfielders who can sit deep but also surge forward and contribute to the attack. He's also from San Luis Potosi, where Mexico will play its October match against Trinidad and Tobago. That seems like divine providence.
Adrian Aldrete, Cruz Azul D
Will Osorio make one final attempt at finding decent fullbacks or has he just given up on that front? If he's still looking, his eyes may fall on Adrian Aldrete, who is performing well with Cruz Azul during La Maquina's undefeated start.
In addition to being a natural left back who is left footed and comfortable sending in crosses, Aldrete also can defend well and can occasionally do this:
The 29-year-old was on track to become a regular for Miguel Herrera but suffered an injury after the 2015 Copa America and has played just once for Mexico since. That was in the Osorio era, in October 2016's friendly win over Panama. Aldrete has raised his game at the club level since working with Paco Jemez and it's worth giving him a chance one year on from his last El Tri appearance to showcase those skills.
Paul Aguilar, America D
Aguilar might not qualify as being totally off-the-radar. He was a regular starter for El Tri during the Osorio era with his last start coming in THAT game against Chile. Every player in that starting lineup returned to start for Mexico in the Confederations Cup, with the exception of Jesus Corona because of a personal issue and Aguilar. It's not necessarily that the Club America right back has been frozen out because of his poor showing in that contest. Aguilar missed nearly a year after a serious knee injury that had the Sinaloa native considering retirement.
Now, though, he's back among the best outside backs in Liga MX and has helped Las Aguilas' right side become difficult to defend once again. Aguilar is getting forward and working with Darwin Quintero and Oribe Peralta to create danger. Though Osorio seems to have shifted his perspective on how fullbacks play, someone like Aguilar who can defend and also boost the attack is worth at least another look or two before the World Cup.
Jonathan Gonzalez, Monterrey M
Monterrey currently sits atop the Liga MX table, and 18-year-old Jonathan Gonzalez has played a significant part of Rayados' early success. The California-born midfielder has kept Jesus Molina mostly relegated to the bench. Molina has showed flashes when wearing the green of the national team, perhaps it's time to give Gonzalez a look as well? Mexico certainly could use a player in the midfield who gets into duels and looks to intercept passes, especially in transition.
Gonzalez also has the attention of United States manager Bruce Arena, but it's doubtful the Stars and Stripes can take a flier on a player while they're locked in a qualification battle. With so many Mexican-Americans, it's about which team provides the better future opportunities. For Gonzalez, that could be Mexico, especially if his international career gets a jump start with a call for the October matches.
Eduardo Tercero, Lobos BUAP D
Lobos BUAP has put together a number of above-average performances defensively since being promoted this season, and one of the standout defenders has been left center back Eduardo Tercero. The 21-year-old helped Lobos to promotion and has held onto his spot as the club begins life in the top division. He's had a quick rise to Liga MX, signing to play for Lobos' second team before coach Rafael Puente spotted him in camp in January and elevated him to the first team. Tercero's positioning and aggression have helped him keep pace despite the sudden rise in level.
Would a Mexico call be out of the question? Center back is a place where El Tri are not deep, particularly on the left side. Tercero is not left-footed like Moreno but does have the experience of lining up on the left side and also could flex out to left back, something Osorio has enjoyed doing with his center backs. He will still need more seasoning, but getting Tecero a taste of the international level could give him the hunger he needs to become a finished product Mexico could use going forward.