Mexico interim boss Miguel Herrera spent the past couple of weeks preparing his revamped squad for the modest test ahead against Finland tonight in San Diego.
They must start to show the necessary progress in those labors. This encounter with the domestic-based Finns offers the only opportunity to take the field prior to the World Cup playoff with New Zealand next month. It is not an opportunity El Tri can afford to squander.
Herrera must evaluate his chosen starting XI (more on his team selection in a moment) and sift through his squad. He cannot afford to waste time with a system to implement and more players to integrate with his regulars from Club América. With those tenets in mind, Herrera must ponder a few quandaries as the spectacle unfolds at Qualcomm Stadium:
Mexico (5-3-2): Munoz; Aguilar, Márquez, Rodríguez, Valenzuela, Layún; Medina, Peña, Montes; Jiménez, Peralta
1. Is seven too many?: Herrera opted to include seven Club América players in his starting XI to face Finland. It makes sense to include them to facilitate the transition to the 5-3-2 setup, but their enduring presence raises questions about whether Herrera is making the best use of the resources available to him. His stars must produce against a poor opponent in order to justify his faith and validate his decision to lean so heavily upon them.
2. Pondering the awareness and the concentration at the back: This defensive structure compensates for a lack of pace with an extra man in central defense. It is the sort of gambit capable of working against teams like Finland and New Zealand with this personnel, but Rafa Márquez, Maza Rodríguez and Juan Carlos Valenzuela ensure its viability by maintaining their focus at all times. If they drift away at the wrong times (if the two fullbacks are pushed into the attack, for example), then Mexico could find itself exposed.
3. Assessing the latest heir to the poisoned chalice in central midfield: Juan Carlos Medina steps into fill that troublesome breach in front of the back three. Medina earned the gig by performing well in a similar role with América, but his physical limitations might prove more harmful on the international stage. He must dispel those concerns to prevent any clamor for yet another spin on this merry-go-round.
4. Montes in the middle: Herrera turned to the Club León man to fill the gaping void left by Lucas Lobos’ withdrawal through family problems (the ensuing summons for aging Toluca schemer Sinha revealed Herrera’s desperation for a creative player). Montes is a winger by trade, full of direct runs and timely hijinks on the left flank. A little directness isn’t a bad thing for a Mexico side that often contemplates a bit too much in the attacking third, but Montes must exhibit all of the necessary tools in possession in order to state his case for inclusion against New Zealand.
5. A glimpse into the future up front: Raúl Jiménez and Oribe Peralta possess the first crack at forming the partnership against New Zealand. They should have plenty of openings to exploit against the Finns. A successful night would slide them onto the inside track to face the All Whites from the start and spark questions about Javier Hernández’s place in Herrera’s setup.