Mexican National Team Depth Chart 1.0
It's obvious that Javier Hernandez is the No. 1 striker for El Tri, that it will take someone special to unhinge Andres Guardado from the left wing spot and that Hector Moreno looks inked in at center back. But aside from those three positions, producing a depth chart for the Mexican national team is a complicated undertaking.
It's no secret there is a host of young talent champing at the bit, waiting for the opportunity to perform at the full national team level. How soon that talent should be unleashed on the world stage at the full international level is one of the burning questions Jose Manuel de la Torre has to wrestle with as preparation for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil heats up in these 17 months before the tournament begins.
Is it possible -- or, indeed, wise -- to embark on a World Cup campaign with a group of players mainly younger than 25 years old? Could it actually benefit El Tri to weed out players who have been associated with failure (as most Mexico fans believe exiting at the last-16 stage of a World Cup is)?
The formation of De la Torre's national team most likely will be a 4-2-3-1 when all of the players are available, but the manager experimented at the end of last year with a 4-4-2, and it is tempting to try to get Oribe Peralta in the mix as a second striker.
Whom "Chepo" lines up will depend on the opposition and where the game is being played. That is especially the case in central midfield, where there is a plethora of options. Some provide a more attacking outlook -- for example, Hector Herrera alongside Carlos Pena -- while others could be employed to nullify and frustrate the opposition, such as a pairing of Carlos Salcido and Jesus Zavala.
Then there is one of the fiercest debates in Mexican soccer right now: Who should be El Tri's goalkeeper?
As for the youngsters, it would be no surprise if one or two of the 2011 under-17 World Cup winners, such as Jorge Espericueta or Marco Bueno, made a late run at the World Cup squad. But for now, they are way down the list at their respective positions. Enigmas such as Efrain Juarez and Pablo Barrera, both of whom went to Europe after the last World Cup and flopped, don't make the chart, yet have the talent to leapfrog up the table in a matter of weeks.
Here is our best guess at Mexico's depth chart going into the Hexagonal stage of World Cup qualifying. And remember that with El Tri fielding a B-squad in the Gold Cup, the battle for roster spots this year should be even more intense.
El Tri Depth Chart 1.0
Striker: Javier Hernandez
"Chicharito" is Mexico's clear first choice at striker. The coaching staff stuck by him through a tough summer and fall that saw the former Chivas man get peppered with transfer rumors seemingly every day. He has bounced back nicely at Manchester United, and will look to lead Mexico's attack in 2013 and beyond.
2. Oribe Peralta
A dream season at Santos Laguna catapulted him to both the senior team and the U-23 squad, where Peralta became a legend thanks to his gold medal-clinching brace against Brazil. He's still going strong.
3. Carlos Vela
Vela is extremely talented and at times spectacular. His attitude and consistent desire to leave Chepo and his coaching staff at the altar when hearing his name called are still the reasons he has been away from the team for more than a year.
4. Aldo De Nigris
The Monterrey man is adept at creating chances and scoring the odd goal. If he were a tad more clinical or younger, he would very well be the unquestioned No. 2 behind Hernandez.