Osorio's Mexico lineup is anyone's guess

The manager has too small a sample size and experiments too often for analysts and fans to have any real idea how El Tri will line up against Canada.

You know this article. This is the column in which we tell you about how Mexico will line up, about what manager Juan Carlos Osorio will do in Friday's match against Canada.

But here's the truth: We just don't know.

Our sample size of matches for Osorio is way too small. We've got the two qualifiers from the fall and a friendly that we learned very little from to use to see how he wants to play.

There are some things that seem certain enough. We know the manager likes to play a 4-3-3 formation. His in-form Europe-based stars will go from the start. That means we'll see forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and midfielder Andres Guardado in the starting lineup. And we'll also see Hector Moreno and Miguel Layun on the back line. Where they'll play is another question. As he played with permutations in Tuesday's training, Osorio lined up Moreno, normally a center back, at right back. Layun, normally a left back, was at the right-back spot where he played in Mexico's first two qualifiers under Osorio.

One of Layun's former coaches, at club and country, doesn't think that's a good call.

"The truth is that he's not going to work on the right the same way he works on the left," former Mexico manager Miguel Herrera told La Aficion. 

"If they decide to put him on the right in the national team, that's Osorio's decision," the current Tijuana boss added. "I wouldn't put him there because for me the best right back there in Mexico is Paul Aguilar, so you don't need to put two great players in competition with each other when you can use them in different places."

There are many decisions for the manager to make. Osorio still could put Layun at left back and Aguilar at the right. He also has Hector Moreno and Diego Reyes in camp but handed aging center back Rafa Marquez a recall, despite the 37-year-old seeming a step behind with Atlas. Up top, the the 54-year-old declined to call up Carlos Vela or Oribe Peralta, opting for Raul Jimenez and Eduardo "Lalo" Herrera, plus a few traditional midfielders listed as forwards. And he also has to figure out how to get Hector Herrera, Jesus "Tecatito" Corona and Guardado on the field at the same time. Calling in Hirving Lozano and Orbelin Pineda who are eligible for the U-23 team seems to hint that the young players will get at least a bit of a run out.

The Colombian could put a number of combinations out there and still should top Canada in both of these matches. El Tri bring a 15-match undefeated streak into Vancouver, and while Canada is a team on the rise, it's not a team with enough talent to topple Mexico. Osorio is largely free to experiment, to try things out. Mexico's stated goal is to win every qualification match, but the FMF also wants a top-three finish at the summer's Copa America. 

"I don't think only for the players in good form but for Mexican soccer in general, it's a great opportunity to compete with a good team, and we're going to do everything possible to go forward with our objectives and be able to concentrate on the Copa America," Osorio said after analyzing Canada at a news conference Wednesday.

So Friday and the home leg Wednesday are contests Mexico absolutely wants to win, but they're matches in which El Tri could still take some chances. Players will play out of formation and be asked to play in a way they might not be used to playing. Or maybe they won't. For now, what Osorio will do with the national team is a mystery. The results, however, have given him the benefit of the doubt.