With the most important match in Jose Manuel de la Torre's tenure looming this weekend, fans of el Tri will be debating many points before Mexico faces Honduras Friday night. Will Chepo have the stones to bench Maza for the cool, elegant, Diego Reyes? Will he opt for Chaco Gimenez instead of Andres Guradado? And the one that will certainly get the most attention this week: will it be Oribe Peralta or Chicharito up top?
The answer, of course, to the last one is Carlos Vela.
Unfortunately, Vela and the coach have decided to extend their Mexican stand-off for another round of crucial qualifiers. So Chepo is left with deciding between the Santos Laguna striker who has cooled a bit after another torrid start in the Liga Bancomer MX, or his habitual starter who has played a grand total of 17 minutes since his brace vs Japan back in June.
Conventional wisdom says Chepo should go with Peralta. If the last two matches are any indication, the light may have finally gone off in the Mexican coaches head that his rigid formation may not have been the best way to take advantage of the qualities his players possess. Mexico switched to a more open 4-3-3 formation in the second half vs Japan, scored twice, and looked a lot more dangerous doing so. That same formation was used a few weeks ago in their friendly vs The Ivory Coast, where Mexico appeared to have recaptured a little more of what makes them dangerous. Peralta scored twice as he was flanked by Giovani Dos Santos and Angel Reyna, who have both had strong starts to their campaigns.
The midfield was upgraded significantly in the Meadowlands. Chaco Gimenez and Fernando Arce added much needed leadership and experience to side that lacked both in the most important part of the pitch. And since Honduras has already started to park the bus on their side of the midfield stripe, Mexico will need as many savvy players as possible to undo that Gordian Knot to get their first home goal of the Hex.
So who will be tasked to go hunting for said goal? Chepo has been loyal to a fault to the players he has deemed as his starters. Javier Hernandez has been his starting striker (and rightly so) in the Chepo de la Torre era. Hernandez has responded with plenty of goals, but even he would be the first to agree that if someone has the hotter streak, then that is who should get the nod. Besides, Chicharito is nowhere near fit for 90 minutes, much less at the Azteca. He would, however, be perfect to come off the bench in the second half and go hunting, a role in which he has done extremely well in the last three years at Old Trafford.
Peralta is also better suited to play in Chepo's new formation. He is a little more creative, better with the ball at his feet, and also seems to have a better understanding with both Reyna and Gio, which was on full display last month at the Met Life. One rumor that gained some traction after Mexico's showing at the Confed Cup was that Gio and Chicharito were having trouble connecting with each other (my amateur body language deciphering gave this rumor a little more credence than it probably deserved).
Regardless, Chepo needs to put his absolute best available team on the pitch Friday night. Players who are coming into the game playing and playing well. We all know that Chepo is stubborn to a fault. He has relented on his preferred formation, though. It is time he does the same with his preferred jerarquia.