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Osorio calls in best team, but how does defense line up?

If there was any doubt, Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio eliminated it Thursday. He's not messing around as El Tri open the Hex with matches at the United States and Panama.

There will be no games, no experiments - at least not with the players he called in. All of Mexico's European stars are in the squad, even those who may have taken some convincing like forward Carlos Vela. All but two players - midfielder Orbelin Pineda and defender Carlos Salcedo - have at least a dozen caps. This is a team that is capable of winning in Columbus - a task that Osorio has said is more about overcoming the mental difficulty of a partisan crowd and the history of the venue rather than doing something different on the field.

The roster the manager has called, however, does bring up a clear question. Of the eight defenders Osorio will take to Columbus and Panama, seven generally play in the center. Only Porto left back Miguel Layun is a traditional outside back. That hints at Mexico going into the November qualifiers with three at the back.

"From the defensive point of view, the national team is very good," Osorio said on a Univision program named, ironically enough, Line of Four. He went on to point out that the team has allowed just 11 goals - seven of which came in the infamous loss to Chile.

And it's true that Mexico has experience playing with a back three under Osorio. But it's not something that has been Plan A necessarily. Now, it seems like while the game plan will differ in the two November qualifiers, both matches could see Mexico start with three center backs.

Who knew that Paul Aguilar would be such a fulcrum? Just a year after his CONCACAF Cup winner, the Club America right back's absence because of an ACL injury almost looms over Mexico's roster.

Who else can play right back for the national team? We suggested Chivas' Jesus Sanchez earlier this week, and Jesus Duenas is actually on the roster but is listed as a midfielder. Miguel Layun can play there, in fact Osorio seems to favor him on the right. But Tigres left back Jorge Torres Nilo, who often was on the left side when Layun went to the right, will be spending the international break at home in Monterrey (or at least somewhere that is not with the Meixco national team). 

The roster certainly doesn't guarantee that Mexico will go with three at the back. Osorio has little use for labels, so we shouldn't read too much into Duenas being called in as a midfielder. He easily could reprise his right back spot. Layun could line up on the right with Hector Moreno or even Oswaldo Alanis going to the left. Carlos Salcedo, who rose through the ranks at Real Salt Lake and Chivas as a center back but has seen minutes at right back for Fiorentina, is an option on the right.

Osorio has picked the best players available to him, and he and his staff will have an idea of how it's all going to work together. The Mexican fans might be tired of rotations from Osorio, but they won't mind if this anticipated modification comes together and results in the team breaking the curse that kept Mexico from winning in Columbus.