Mexico coach Miguel Herrera picks veterans, youth for friendly squad
GUADALAJARA - Miguel Herrera is a journalist's best friend, at least most of the time.
Not only does he celebrate goals like a maniac, provide us with easy headlines, name starting XIs the day before the match and turn press conferences into an event you should need tickets for, he also posts photos on his Twitter account of just how he sees his squad lining up.
And he did just that on Thursday after the federation announced the squad to face Chile (Sept. 6, Santa Clara, California) and Bolivia (Sept. 9, Commerce City, Colorado), giving us some revealing insight into just how he sees Mexico moving forward, with some obvious caveats.
With that in mind, here are five takes from Herrera's Mexico squad:
Evolution, not revolution
Herrera has been called hot-headed and one of the main criticisms in his career has been that he is prone to blurt things out that he really doesn't need to, especially after losing games.
But his love of the sport shines through everything he does and when he sits down and takes a step back to make big decisions -- leaving out Moises Munoz from the World Cup squad, picking Guillermo Ochoa as the No. 1 'keeper -- it seems he does so in a rational manner.
This squad is a small step forward from the World Cup squad, designed to maintain the base that impressed in Brazil, while filling in holes gradually and deepening the depth chart.
And when you take a look at the turnover of Mexico coaches -- nine in the last 10 years -- Herrera is right to be wary of too much experimentation. These games against Chile and Bolivia may be friendlies, but Herrera needs results if he wants to be at Russia 2018, even if it may seem very early to say that.
The 5-3-2 is here to stay
Part of that evolution could potentially be the shifting of formation, although Herrera's photo shows Mexico will start off playing the same shape as in the World Cup.
It makes it slightly more difficult for those wingers like Javier Aquino, Jurgen Damm and Hirving Lozano to earn a spot and means the majority of players are featuring in a different system entirely than they do at club level. But it is set to continue.
The more notable absentees
Forget Javier Hernandez, Jesus Corona, Marquez, Alan Pulido, Miguel Layun and Raul Jimenez. All of their absences this time around can be rationalized and they'll be back.
What about Carlos "Gullit" Pena and Isaac Brizuela?
Both were strong contenders for starting places two months ahead of the World Cup, but suffered from drops in form that have continued this Apertura in the Liga MX and mean potential moves to Europe never materialized.
The stereotypical criticisms of Mexican players are their slight physique and inability to adapt overseas, both of which are diminishing. But perhaps the most stinging and real is the lack of consistency and swings in form. Pena and Brizuela are current exhibits A and B, the Pablo Barrera and Efrain Juarez of 2014.
Left-sided center-back a problem. Central midfield could be too
It isn't just Hector Moreno's injury that means the search is on for a left-footed center-back. A back-up is needed anyway, with 34-year-old Carlos Salcido -- who is equally adept with both feet -- surely not around too much longer.
Santos Laguna's Oswaldo Alanis and Atlas' Luis Venegas will battle it out for that spot in the upcoming games, but there is no ideal candidate at present.
In midfield, Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez was perhaps the revelation of the World Cup for Mexico, answering the questions asked of him and lifting his game to the level of the midfielders that the Netherlands, Croatia and Brazil boast.
Herrera will be hoping he can keep it up. If he can't, Toluca's Antonio Rios appears to be first in line to take over, with Andres Guardado a makeshift option and Tijuana's Javier Guemez perhaps a little young at present.
Veterans not going anywhere, for now
The fact that the names Salcido and Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez appear on a Mexico national team call-up wouldn't usually be a surprise. But in the expected post-World Cup sweep-out, and as a new process towards Russia 2018 begins, they -- along with Rafa Marquez -- were perhaps the first due to fall off the conveyor belt to be replaced by newer, younger models.
So Herrera either isn't confident enough yet in the younger players, or fears what is a strong Chile squad and doesn't want to risk them.
Squad: Guillermo Ochoa (Malaga), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Paul Aguilar (America), Carlos Salcido (Chivas), Francisco Rodriguez (Cruz Azul), Miguel Herrera (Pachuca), Oswaldo Alanis (Santos), Luis Venegas (Atlas), Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres), Hiram Mier (Monterrey), Giovani Dos Santos (Villarreal), Miguel Ponce (Toluca), Andres Guardado (PSV), Hector Herrera (Porto), Jose Juan Vazquez (Leon), Antonio Rios (Toluca), Javier Aquino (Rayo Vallecano), Rodolfo Pizarro (Pachuca), Javier Aquino (Santos), Erick Torres (Chivas USA), Oribe Peralta (America), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul).
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.