Carlos Salcedo is injured and will miss out on the Mexico national team's next matches. You've heard that before.
It's been an unlucky run for the defender. His surgery to repair a syndesmosis ligament tear in his ankle is his third surgery in a year and a half. He missed out on the latter stages of the 2017 Confederations Cup after a tussle with a New Zealand player injured the AC joint in his shoulder and kept him out of the rest of the tournament and the start of the Bundesliga. In March, he underwent surgery to repair his left clavicle after fracturing it in a friendly against Croatia. He made a remarkable recovery, helping Eintracht Frankfurt win the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) and finish the season strong before playing every minute for Mexico at the 2018 World Cup.
It's easy to say Salcedo won't be missed from this group of friendly matches. Interim manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti is leading El Tri into two matches, both of which feature teams also coached by interim coaches. The next competitive obligation the national team has is still nine months away when the Gold Cup begins. Other stars like Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and defenders Hector Moreno and Miguel Layun are staying in Europe to seek minutes with their club teams.
Yet, El Tri still will be missing plenty without Salcedo for this group of fixtures and presumably the rest of the year with the defender targeting the end of the Europa League group stage for his return. Moreno and Layun are both 30. Salcedo is just 24. He will be the heart of Mexico's defense for the next cycle and perhaps the one after that. Having him in Houston and Nashville would've helped him start accepting that leadership role both on and off the field.
His comments about leaving the national team now look to have simply been made out of frustration with the national team's elimination from the World Cup. After all, he accepted a call from Ferretti before the ankle injury forced him out. A committed Salcedo is best for El Tri, as he showed in Russia that he's already surpassed Moreno as Mexico's best defender. While other defenders were totally lost against players with as much quality as Neymar, Salcedo hung tough. Not only did he do his job as the left center back in the suspended Moreno's stead, he also helped try and kick start the attack, ending the match with more touches on the ball than any other Mexico player.
The Guadalajara native puts that down to his journey in Europe, where he's had his eyes since he started. The former Real Salt Lake and Chivas player turned down higher-paying offers in North America to have a chance to play for Fiorentina and then Frankfurt, and his game is showing the fruits of those sacrifices.
"The contact you have in Europe helps you a lot. You're a lot closer to playing against the players you're going to face in World Cups and I've played them before here in the Bundesliga," he told El Pais this month. "That self-esteem and the confidence you get from that over the years keeps growing."
He's confident, has raised his level beyond that of his peers and also is versatile. Previous Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio helped Salcedo add playing right back to his bag of tricks meaning he's now comfortable in a variety of setups. Salcedo has seen time as right back in a back four, at right and left center back, and often plays with Frankfurt in a back three. That flexibility is an enormous asset at the international level, where you don't always have a player to plug in to fill a certain position.
Ferretti will manage without Salcedo against Uruguay and the United States in this window. The results of this match are less important than how Mexico plays and the experience the younger players get. Having a player like Salcedo can encourage and push some of those players to take a risk and push for a Liga MX exit in order to improve their games. The next Mexico coach shouldn't need to cope without the defender, though. He's already working hard to get back onto the field, saying he's not wasting a minute and once again will return earlier than expected.
Aqui no se pierde ni 1 minuto, volveré a romper pronósticos. Objetivo 🎯 fijo para alcanzar a cerrar la Bundesliga y fase de grupo de la Europa League... #EstoApenasComienza A PICO Y PALA MAE @erick_punta VAMOOOOOOOS💪🏾👊🏾 pic.twitter.com/x3ARLrNBTH — Carlos Salcedo (@Csalcedojr) September 4, 2018
That would be excellent news for El Tri, which may not need Salcedo for these matches from a tactical standpoint but still will miss his influence and ability as the next cycle begins.