There were few surprises today on the list of Mexpats that Miguel "Piojo" Herrera released for the upcoming friendlies that Mexico will play vs Ecaudor and Paraguay at the end of the month. Most of Mexico's foreign legion is will be headed state-side, as one would expect for a friendly. The question is, though, where will they play this summer?
Not bound by the U23 restrictions that limited Mexico in the last edition of the Copa America, Piojo is hoping to field 2 "senior" teams for both the Copa America in Chile and the Gold Cup, which will be played after the Copa. While it is all but certain that the Euro clubs are not going to allow their players to play both, there may be a few possible exceptions, which will explain some of my hypotheses below.
Memo Ochoa The Malaga goal keeper has been riveted to the bench since making the move to Spain from Corsica. Despite his lack of action, he is still Mexico's #1 Goalkeeper. A small chance he will play both, but he is more likely headed to the Gold Cup. Miguel Herrera will reward his long-time friend, Moises Muñoz to play in Chile.
Hector Moreno Aside from Mexico's tough luck loss last summer in Fortaleza, the bad luck bug took a big chunk out of Moreno, who was having a dazzling tournament (and positioning himself for a very nice transfer) before sustaining a leg fracture. He returned to action in that January and is slowly returning to form. He is only going to play one tourney this summer, and that will be the Gold Cup
Rafa Marquez is plodding through the Serie A at Hellas Verona, where he has had to battle bouts of inconsistency one would expect with a defender on the wrong side of 35. That means it is time to find his replacement. The problem is that Mexico's depth at central defender is not that good, especially when one considers Piojo's favored 5-3-2 formation. That might put Rafa skippering the team in Chile for Copa America.
Diego Reyes has yet to crack the line-up in Porto, and his playing time, at least with the first team, has been scarce at best. It would not be a surprise then, if Porto allows Herrera to play in both tournaments. He can play himself into form in Copa America and to get himself ready for the Gold Cup
The only Mexican player to make the jump to Europe in the Winter window was Miguel Layun, who popped across to the Championship's Watford. The move was met with skepticism by the Mexico skipper, who was not too keen on the level of competition in the English 1st Division, and was worried that his Layun would lose his edge. He will find out soon enough. Layun will play and start in the Gold Cup.
It has not been the best season for the Mexpats, but if one was to rate players' performance, Hector Herrera, would be at the top of the list, and it isn't even close. The Baja California native built on the foundation of his stellar World Cup to consolidate himself as one of Porto's most dynamic players. He is Mexico's most complete player and will be a key member of Piojo's Gold Cup side.
Another Mexican player who is in the midst of a successful season is Jonathan Dos Santos, who finally let go of his dream to star at Barcelona to star along his brother at Villarreal. He has come back strong after an ACL injury last year to feature heavily with the yellow submarine, particularly in the Europa Cup campaign. The question with Jona is, would he be comfortable playing a purely defensive midfield, or would he prefer to play on the right as he has with Villarreal. His answer could determine which tournament he plays. If he opts to stand guard as the DM he will start in the Gold Cup, but if Piojo elects to keep him in the same position he plays at Villarreal, he'll be off to the Copa America, where he was set to star 4 years ago before that ridiculous prostitution scandal doomed Mexico's Copa campaign before it even started.
Andres Guardado has been a fixture on Mexico's national team since he debuted at 19 in a 2006 friendly. When no one was expecting him to even make the World Cup squad last year, he forced his way on the team with gutsy performances, and then won a starting spot over the slumping Gullit Peña. His World Cup was solid, and if Rafa is not on the Gold Cup squad, it is very likely he will be the captain. He has also rejuvenated his club career at PSV. It has been a good year for the Little Prince.
While the Little Prince has been busy winning over the hearts of the PSV faithful, Jesus "tecatito" Corona has been doing the same with the FC Twente fans. It didn't start out so well for the prodigiously talented Corona, though. He arrived at training camp overweight and unwilling to put in the work. Why would he? He has the talent. Chuy learned, though, that talent can only take you so far. He got serious as a professional, and the results have been outstanding. He is currently leads all the Mexpats in goals and is likely headed out on a transfer. Herrera will have to make a decision. Would he rather have Corona as a first choice off the bench in the Gold Cup, or would he prefer for Corona to gain valuable experience facing South American opposition. I expect he will do the former. Corona's rare talents can provide an instant offensive spark in the Gold Cup, which is essential when faced against Concacaf's bus lines.
It has not been the best season for Giovani Dos Santos. Injuries and inconsistency have plagued the Villarreal man all season to the point where he has come off the bench as much as he has started. It appears, though, as if he is starting to play at the level at which his club expects lately, where he scored his first Liga goal of the season. It feels an awful lot like 2011 for Gio, who used a strong second half of the season to propel Mexico to the God Cup title. Herrera is hoping for a repeat with Gio at the Gold Cup.
Raul Jimenez has not played much, if any, for Atletico Madrid this season. Even with the dearth of minutes, we are seeing a player who has a better understanding of the game when he does make on to the pitch. Like Diego Reyes, Jimenez is a candidate to play both tournaments, although Copa America is his most likely destination.
The same can be said for Javier Hernandez. Chicharito has all but disappeared at Real Madrid, and a good Copa America showing will do nothing but improve his club situation, especially if he is on the move. HOWEVER, the decision on where he plays, more than any other player on the list, will be based as much on marketing as it is on sport. Can he play both? Sure. Will he? One would think that LvG would be in favor of Hernandez playing as much as possible to increase the price tag, but who knows. Stay tuned.
There were a few players that did not make the call up list. Carlos Vela is still recovering from a torn meniscus, and frankly, I am not fully convinced he is 100% back and fully integrated in the National Team picture. If he does come back, then he will start along with Gio in the Gold Cup. After an ugly contract dispute with Tigres, Alan Pulido saw his first action of the year in Greece today and promptly scored a goal. If he shakes the rust off in time, he could be an interesting option in the Copa America. Ulises Davila has found a lifeline in Portugal and could provide depth at the Copa America. Javier Aquino appears to have worn out his welcome at Rayo Vallecano and will probably not feature in either tournament.