Mexican National Team Depth Chart 2.0
By anyone's standards, 2013 has been a poor year so far for the Mexican national team. With zero wins, five draws and only three goals, the temptation might be to make profound changes in the depth chart. But we don't suspect that will happen.
Instead, we're looking at the fact that away from the actual national team, there have been plenty of causes for optimism from a number of the younger generation of players. The positive that can be taken from poor recent displays is that perhaps the generational shift the Mexico squad is going through needs to be sped up a little.
With that in mind, we suspect Carlos Salcido could drop below Jesus Zavala in the center of midfield to improve the dynamism that has been sorely lacking. And at center back, Diego Reyes has been outperforming Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez at Club America and could move ahead to partner with Hector Moreno. Salcido also misses out starting at left back, with others pushing for the spot and the former Chivas player's ability to get up and down the wing for a full 90 minutes now in question.
Another major mover has been forward Raul Jimenez, who has enjoyed a breakthrough season with Club America and combines physicality, technique and a knack for scoring goals. His presence among Javier Hernandez, Oribe Peralta and Aldo de Nigris is a breath of fresh air in the final third and he should only get better.
The biggest changes we believe could happen might come at right back, Mexico's problem position. Out is Paul Aguilar after some nightmarish displays in the green jersey, and to the top of the group goes Gerardo Flores. The 27-year-old has had an excellent, consistent season for Cruz Azul and looked good for El Tri in last month's friendly against Peru. The real surprise element in the right back position is Hiram Mier, who has been exceptional there for Monterrey in recent weeks and oozes class.
Then there are the two seemingly age-old problems.
The first is Carlos Vela. Rumors are swirling that the Real Sociedad forward will be called up for the World Cup qualifiers, but whether he accepts is another matter altogether. If he does, his quality and versatility are obvious pluses for Chepo.
The second headache is in goal, where the long-standing battle between Guillermo Ochoa and Jesus Corona rumbles on. But both should also keep one eye looking behind them, with Jonathan Orozco in blistering form for Monterrey.
• We've stayed with the 4-2-3-1 formation. There have been calls for coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre to switch to a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2, but the 4-2-3-1 still provides the balance El Tri needs.
• Players must be getting minutes. The obvious reference here is Jonathan Dos Santos, who is quite capable of making a run at the World Cup squad in either the right back or central midfield position, but simply has never played any regular minutes in topflight football, despite recently turning 23.
Here is our second crack at guessing Mexico's depth chart, as El Tri continues in the Hexagonal stage of World Cup qualifying.
El Tri Depth Chart 2.0
Striker: Javier Hernandez
Chicharito's strike against Swansea City demonstrated that there is little rust after a prolonged session on the bench toward the end of Manchester United's latest title run. His status with the national team is unquestioned, and he will be Mexico's starting striker come the June marathon of matches.
2. Oribe Peralta
Peralta's injury has kept him out of the entire Liga MX playoffs to this point, but he is still Chepo's preferred striker partner for Chicharito in a two-forward set.
3. Aldo De Nigris
De Nigris' rising form with Monterrey on the back of another CONCACAF Champions League title and the Liga MX playoffs makes him another viable option for Chepo in the World Cup qualifiers and Confederations Cup.
4. Raul Jimenez
The young striker has continued to display scorching talent and clinical finishing. After a tough outing with El Tri his first time out, Jimenez will get another shot.