SAN ANTONIO — Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio says concerns about the fitness of his MLS-based players are unfounded, noting that the trio of Carlos Vela, Jonathan dos Santos and Giovani dos Santos are training well and highlighting Gio's work in the offseason.
Osorio and El Tri are preparing for their first match of 2018, a friendly Wednesday against Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the match falling outside a FIFA window, the squad is made up entirely of the MLS trio and players based in Liga MX. There has been criticism of Osorio's decision to include the MLS players, who are not yet in season, but Osorio said all three can contribute Wednesday and going forward.
"The most important is to understand that even those who didn’t come in competing including those who haven’t started the season, as is the case with the guys in MLS, our three players Jonathan, Carlos and Giovani, they look really good. Giovani especially, I think you’ll see, like I said last week when I was in LA, that he’s been working and he may be in the best shape of his life," Osorio said at a news conference Tuesday.
While Jona and Vela trained in Mexico City at the national team's training center, Gio largely worked out elsewhere. But Osorio said he's sticking to the training plan the national team sent out at the close of World Cup qualification, and Gio says he's reaping the benefits.
"Really, as the manager said I’ve taken advantage of this time to work the best way possible. I’m good physically. I think it’s been the best offseason I’ve had in my career," he said. "I’m mentally and physically very strong. As I always say, it’s always an honor to be with the national team, and hopefully we do things well tomorrow."
Dos Santos said it was tough to describe exactly what he'd done differently this offseason when compared to previous ones in his long career, but said 2018 being a World Cup year provided him motivation to continue training rather than take
"I think I worked on everything. Physically, some things, muscles in my body I wouldn’t work on during the season," he said. "Things that get you ready physically. It’s tough to explain, but I’ve tried to do everything possible to come to my team and the national team as prepared as I possibly can be."
Though Gio's place in the national team seems particularly precarious, the 28-year-old said he wasn't feeling any urgency beyond the normal pressure players feel in a World Cup year.
"I don’t think anybody has their place safe in the national team in the world of football. In the end, it’s very clear that the coach makes the decision and we as professionals have to as well as possible on the field," he said. "It’s a World Cup year. Every Mexican player worldwide dreams of going to the World Cup. We have to do everything we can to draw the coach’s eye. In the national there are no friendly games. Tomorrow is an important game, the first of the year in a World Cup year so we’re hoping to do what we can to help our team in the match."
El Tri kicks off with Bosnia and Herzegovina at 9:06 p.m. ET.