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Aug 30, 2014

Mexico's reshaping continues

Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera begins El Tri's 2018 World Cup cycle with a pair of contests against South American opponents.
Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera begins El Tri's 2018 World Cup cycle with a pair of contests against South American opponents.

To start thinking about 2018, you first have to get to 2018, and I suppose that is what Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera had in mind when he stopped short the process of radically reshaping the Mexican national team.

The "retirements" of Rafael Márquez and Carlos Salcido were halted mid-process; the first's career seemed to get a second or perhaps "third wind" with an unexpected contract to play in Italy, and the Chivas defender was confirmed for the first call-up at the beginning of the new World Cup cycle.

Herrera knows that the national team has to be "refreshed," but he also know that periods of low quality can slow the pace of this reshaping. He also knows that in the process to reach the World Cup in Russia, there will be several stages that will not be simple by any means. Herrera wants to be sure of each step taken.

- Report: Mexico names squad for friendlies
- Marshall: Herrera mixes youth with vets

It is unlikely that Salcido or even Oribe Peralta will reach Russia 2018, but they can help the other younger and less experienced players gain the necessary experience.

The fact that Javier "El Chuleta" Orozco, the forward who first was with Cruz Azul and is now at Santos, whose career has been sporadic, and Luis Gerardo Venegas, a defender who was relegated with Atlante and was rescued by Tomas Boy's lifeboat of success on Altas, were called up is confirmation that Mexican soccer is still in a period of "low quality." There is little talent and Herrera must make full use of the little that exists.

The big news on Herrera's list is still Erick "El Cubo" Torres, a player who earned the opportunity by the sweat of his brow. Torres was exiled by Guadalajara. They put him up in a hotel near Interstate 405 in Los Angeles and told him that he had to prove his quality on a dying team that was up for sale called Chivas USA. And he has gone above and beyond: inventing plays, opportunities and scoring goals where there were none to be had.

A question after Herrera's first call-up: When and how did Carlos "El Gullit" Peña vanish from the landscape of the Mexican national team? He was the player to watch before the World Cup. Now he is nowhere. It's a shame because it demonstrates the inconsistency of the careers of most Mexican players.

The first list of the Mexican national team at the beginning of a new World Cup cycle confirms that to start thinking about 2018, you first have to get to 2018.

David Faitelson

David Faitelson is one of Mexico's most popular sports journalists, having worked for TV Azteca before joining ESPN. He is based in Los Angeles and co-hosts "Nacion ESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation." Follow him on Twitter @Faitelson_ESPN.

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