In Charlotte, it was the last chance to shine
The first phase of Mexico’s world cup came to an end last night in Charlotte with a harmless 0-0 tie vs. a very young Iceland side. Next week, Javier Aguirre will name his local league group of 18 players who will be heading to the mountains of Valle del Bravo for training. Mexico’s 3 keepers all play locally, so that leaves 15 spots available for the rest of the players. Who is in? Who is out? Who will be the surprise guest to which Vasco has alluded in his press conferences?
Guillermo Ochoa, Luis Michel, Jonathan Orozco
Jose de Jesus Corona might get called into this group, but it is very doubtful. He has not been a regular with Cruz Azul and he is involved in an off-the-field snafu that seems to get weirder by the day. Aguirre has it made clear he wants to steer clear of such messes. Ochoa is penciled in as the starter, but Michel has the quality to push him very hard.
Going to Valle: Ochoa, Michel, Orozco
Jorge Torres Nilo, Jonny Magallon, Hugo Ayala, Paul Aguilar, Adrian Aldrete, Efrain Juarez, Oscar Rojas, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Gringo Castro.
Because the majority of Mexico’s defense plays in Europe, this will be the hardest position on the field to make the squad. Only two listed above, Magallon and Juarez, are locks to make the final 23. Any other central defender named to the list of 18 will be filler and won’t go to South Africa. And if Ricardo Osorio obtains his release from Stuttgart in order to join the training, then no other central defenders make the list. The competition will be fiercest for back-ups on the outside.
Going to Valle: Magallon, Juarez, Osorio, Rojas, Castro.
I choose Rojas over Torres Nilo because he can play both sides, and Vasco has put a premium on versatility. I chose Gringo Castro over Paul Aguilar because Aguilar has committed careless fouls, and we all know that Mexico’s biggest weakness is defending set plays. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if it went the other way. If Osorio doesn't come, then pick a guy, any guy.
Braulio Luna, Pablo Barrera, Gerardo Torrado, Israel Castro, JM Noriega, Alberto Media, Angel Reyna, Patricio Araujo, Jesus Molina, Daniel Arreola.
There are more spots to be had here, but not much more. Torrado and Israel Castro have their tickets in hand. Braulio Luna has shown he can be a serviceable back up in a variety of positions. If there were any lingering doubts about Pablo Barrera, he erased them last night with a stellar performance in an unfamiliar position. That leaves one spot, and it will probably go to a DM.
Going to Valle: Torrado, Castro, Luna, Barrera, Noriega.
I opted for Noriega over Araujo, but can just as easily go the other way. It won’t matter, though. Neither of them will be going to South Africa.
Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Javier Hernandez, Aldo de Nigris, Miguel Sabah, Matias Vuoso, Adolfo Bautista, Alberto Medina,
Outside of Blanco and Hernandez, this is anyone’s guess. No one else has really stepped up. Aldo de Nigris got nicked at the worst moment possible. Medina plays like he is underwater when he is wearing green. Sabah and Vuoso had bad misses. Bofo was shaky, but showed glimmers. Enough glimmers? I think so.
And that is why we’ll have a mystery guest.
Going to Valle: Hernandez, Blanco, Bautista, de Nigris (by the purely scientific method of pulling his name out of a hat), and…
I am going in two directions on this international man of mystery. One is quite simple.
Nery Castillo has the talent, but his temperament and lack of discipline are a huge problem. He also hasn’t played in a long time. A long time. If he asks to leave Ukraine to come to training, they will undoubtedly say no. If they do say yes, then he is the guy. Big if.
The other is a player with immense talent, a terrific first touch, exquisite technical skills, and a proven scorer. The only problem is that his papers haven’t come through.
Daniel Ludueña, he of the Unitas-style flat top, could be the big surprise. The Argentine born player from Santos has been an offensive force in the league for the better part of the 00’s. El achita is not the answer to Mexico’s offensive woes, but he would be a very nice complement to what is already a very promising attack.
I am sure there are other candidates, but none nearly as sexy.
So out of these 15 players, only about 10 have a real chance to make it to South Africa. Out of those 10, there are already 8 to 9 locks (9 if Osorio comes to camp). Buena Suerte.