It's time to play the last two matches of the CONCACAF semi-final round. With 12 points and a ticket to the hex in his pocket, Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre has the luxury to decide how he would play these last two games.
Was it time to try out a whole new squad to help build depth for the three tournaments Mexico will play in 2013? Would he call in his full complement of A-listers to give them some more continuity before they re-convene next winter? How would he handle the injury situation, with Jesus Zavala, Gio Dos Santos and Marco Fabian out of action?
Of the 22 players called up by the Mexican coach, 4 will make the transatlantic flight to Houston, where the team will practice all week before playing their "away" match with Guyana at the BBVA Compass Bank Stadium in Downtown Houston. 7 players were on the Gold Medal winning Olympic team, but only a few are making their senior side debuts: Hector Herrera, Jorge Enriquez, Diego Reyes, and Hiram Mier (several played in Copa America, which was technically a U22 team). The rest were local league products, most of whom had seen plenty of action in the Chepo era, except for Carlos Peña, who is enjoying his first call.
Chepo is looking to lean on the old guard for replacements to his injured players. Very old guard, in fact. Gerardo Torrado is back in the fold, which will certainly help the younger defensive midfielders in Herrera and Enriquez. And the man Chepo has tabbed to fill in for Gio and Marquito? 36 year-old Sinha. It did not take long for him to become this list's whipping boy.
The Toluca veteran is in the midst of a renaissance after a few very sluggish seasons, and has been the key player in Toluca's return to the top of the table. His detractors, however, happily point out that he is way past his prime, and only his "favored player" status with Chepo is why he is back with the Tri.
There is always someone. Anytime a national team coach releases his list, fans fall over themselves to complain about a small number of guys "who don't deserve to be anywhere near the national team." They question the merits of the player, the sanity of the coach, and the credibility of the whole process.
The funny thing is, usually the guys who are scrutinized the most and receive the lion's share of the vitriol end up not playing at all.
Mexico will play Guyana in Houston next Friday before wrapping up the semi-final round in Torreon against El Salavdor, who first plays Costa Rica at the Cuscatlan for the right to join Mexico in the hex.