Mexico interim boss Miguel Herrera possesses exactly one friendly to build a cohesive unit and install his preferred 5-3-2 formation prior to the World Cup playoff with New Zealand next month.
His best idea to further both of those goals: lean on the players he knows to help espouse the principles he wants to implement.
Herrera named 10 América players in his 22-man squad for the match against Finland on Oct. 30. Those established players will offer guidance to the remaining 12 – including a mix of some veterans and some fresh faces pluck from throughout Liga MX – as Herrera attempts to assess his options now and construct his squad for the opening leg against the All Whites on Nov. 13 later.
Goalkeepers: Jesús Corona (Cruz Azul), Moisés Muñoz (América)
Consider this choice as a litmus test for the extent of América’s influence in the side. Corona probably deserves the first glance here based upon his displays for José Manuel de la Torre earlier in the year, but Muñoz possesses the faith and the trust of the manager at club level.
Defenders: Paul Aguilar (América), Adrián Aldrete (América), Edwin Hernández (León), Miguel Herrera (Pachuca), Miguel Layún (América), Rafael Márquez (León), Hiram Mier (Monterrey), Francisco Rodríguez (América), Rodrigo Salinas (Morelia), Juan Carlos Valenzuela (América)
Herrera named five centerback specialists to comprise the three-man bedrock of his back line. Seasoned operators Márquez (in the middle, for now) and Rodríguez (on the right side of the three) likely hold the inside track to two of those spots. It simply doesn’t make sense to include them in the setup if they aren’t expected to play. Their potential inclusion places a premium on pace to complete the central defensive trio. Aldrete (the interloper) and Valenzuela (the regular choice and the potential favorite to plug this spot until Héctor Moreno is included) split time in the remaining vacancy on the left side of the three for América. Miguel Herrera and Mier present right-sided alternatives.
The wingback selections will come straight from those helpful América team sheets: Aguilar on the right, Layún on the left. It isn’t optimal to squander Layún’s right foot on the left side of the field (cutbacks aren’t always available at the higher standard) at the international level, but those are the operating principles until proven otherwise. Hernández (a left back in Santos’ 4-4-2 setup) and Salinas (a natural right footer deployed on the left for Morelia) provide the expected cover.
Herrera has named a whopping 10 Club América players to his first squad.
Midfielders: Alonso Escoboza (Santos Laguna), Lucas Lobos (Tigres UANL), Juan Carlos Medina (América), Luis Ángel Mendoza (América), Jesús Molina (América), Luis Montes (León), Carlos Peña (León)
Herrera faces a difficult choice as he comprises his midfield three: will he play with one holding player or two? This squad selection – particularly with Jesús Zavala omitted entirely – suggests he will adopt his usual preference with América and stick with one fixed implement in the middle of the park. Medina stands out as the top candidate for the job because he fulfills the same exact brief for Herrera at América. This sort of test – against a side without a surplus of athleticism in the center of the park – represents a reasonable request of his abilities.
If Medina is charged with functioning as the defensive cover, then Herrera will need one player willing to track back occasionally and one player primarily tasked with supplying the front two. Peña’s industry recommends him as perhaps the best option to fill one of those berths. Lobos – included under former coach Victor Manuel Vucetich, but controversially left on the bench – could emerge as the other option given his creativity in the final third.
Herrera’s emphasis on domestic production certainly recommends Lobos as a potential starter, but the alternatives’ flaws aid his case, too. The remaining players either fit awkwardly (Montes projects as a winger in a system where the wingbacks provide the width) or lack some other characteristic (Mendoza and Molina aren’t regular starters at club level, though Molina at least supplies cover behind Medina) to shoulder rigorous duty within this tactical approach.
Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos Laguna), Aldo de Nigris (Guadalajara), Raúl Jiménez (América)
Jiménez and Peralta will likely feature from the outset against the Finns with one eye on the first leg at Estadio Azteca. Keep a careful eye on the partnership: if it blossoms, then the duo could remain in the starting XI for that encounter, consigning Javier Hernández to the bench (if included). De Nigris simply provides cover if Peralta somehow picks up a knock between now and then.