Diego Ramirez has options.
That's a good thing for the Mexico U-20 coach. While his squad fell short of winning the Concacaf U-20 Championship, falling 2-0 to the United States in November, that will be forgotten if his boys put together a good showing in Poland.
Success at the U-20 World Cup, where El Tri
Getting Diego Lainez, the rising star from Real Betis, into the U-20 squad instead of with the senior national team at this summer's Gold Cup is a boost. Who else will accompany the America product in Ramirez's squad? Goal takes a stab at what his team for Poland could look like:
Carlos Higuera (Tijuana), Luis Lopez (Dorados), Carlos Avilez (North Texas SC)
Tijuana seems to have a goalkeeper factory on its hands with first-team starter Gibran Lajud only 25 and Higuera and Lopez among those rising through.
Their places in the squad for Poland seem to be pretty solid. They were the goalkeepers who
FIFA requires three goalkeepers on the 21-man squad, though. Perhaps Avilez will enter the picture once again. He's been involved in previous camps with this group and now is getting minutes with North Texas SC, FC Dallas' USL League One affiliate.
Carlos Vargas (America), Gilberto Sepulveda (Chivas),
There's experience at the back, but things also are a bit thin. Ramirez has regularly taken rosters light on defenders to tournaments in the past, calling only seven up for the
Vargas has proven himself to be a first-division ready left back and can play in other positions. There's versatility as well from Dominguez, who has had to grow up quickly for Pumas this year and risen to the challenge. He can play right back or left back.
Sepulveda, Leon and Orona give three
Carlos Gutierrez (Pumas), Misael Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Jonathan Gonzalez (Monterrey), Diego Hernandez (Chivas), Jose Hernandez (America), Alexis Gutierrez (Chivas), Brian Figueroa (Pumas), Francisco Antonio Figueroa (Pachuca)
The midfield boasts plenty of players with Liga MX experience, and in Gonzalez has a player with a senior call-up under his belt as well. The California native wasn't ready for the World Cup and he's not ready for the Gold Cup, but the experience he had in Toulon with several other players from this age level should help him anchor this group. Gonzalez has been surpassed at Monterrey, but he still is an excellent ball-winner with a good
Elsewhere, plenty of other players have made inroads with their first-teams. Gutierrez is a regular in the cup for Pumas, while Brian Figueroa gets into the action for the attack regularly for the Mexico City side. Dominguez has been with the Cruz Azul first team more than the U-20s this season and has seen time in four matches. Hernandez also is suiting up for America regularly, playing in the Copa MX final against Juarez and helping Las Aguilas to the title.
"Tony" Figueroa is a player I've enjoyed watching, and while he was on the roster that went to Europe might be a stretch for Ramirez's squad. Jose Plascencia, who has started for Necaxa, and Santos Laguna U-20 Adrian Lozano both have been involved as well and would love to take his place. Marcel Ruiz has faded but played with the U-20s. He may be punished a bit by his birthday, with October 2000 putting him younger than most players in the group but too old for the next U-20 tournament by mere months.
Diego Lainez (Real Betis), Jose Juan Macias (Leon), Daniel Lopez (Dorados), Roberto de la Rosa (Pachuca)
Lainez on one wing is as close to written in ink as you can get. The 18-year-old could contribute to the senior team at the Gold Cup, but being a leader in Poland rather than getting sporadic minutes in the United States should be a good experience for him.
Macias in the middle also seems certain. Already a Liga MX starter, Macias has six goals with Leon to add to the three he notched with Chivas earlier in his first-division career. There has been understandable concern about the future of Mexico at No. 9 once Chicharito and Raul Jimenez pass through. Macias will get an international showcase to prove he can be the man.
De la Rosa has been unstoppable at the U-20 level, scoring 17 goals in 14 matches. He's also earned minutes in the Copa MX for the Tuzos senior side and shored up his place on the plane with a double against the Netherlands U-20 in a March friendly.
Minutes have been sporadic for Daniel Lopez, though he found his debut Liga MX goal in the 39 minutes he's played so far with the first-team. He's also got a pair of tallies at the U-20 level and should be a good depth piece.
Joao Maleck is a bit of a wild card. The Santos Laguna product has the skill to be on this team but only recently returned to the field for Sevilla's reserves. Without being involved in any recent camps, we've left him off the projection, but a front three of Maleck and Lainez alongside Macias may be too good to pass up.
Lopez likely would be the man sacrificed. Edgar Lopez is another player in the picture. Lopez may be the player on the bubble. The Tijuana loanee has seven goals in six contests for Dorados' Liga Premier team but wasn't included for the March games after decent showings in the