From Vela to Guemez: 10 Mexico stars Osorio should consider for qualifiers
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio is due to name his squad next week for El Tri's upcoming World Cup qualifying games against El Salvador (Sept. 2) and Honduras (Sept. 6), the first games since the 7-0 loss against Chile in the Copa America Centenario.
The squad poses an interesting dilemma for the Colombian coach, who can't afford too many failures in the near future. On the one hand, it is his first chance to get the Copa America players back together and assess exactly where they're at as a group. On the other, it could also be an opportunity to introduce new faces with qualification for the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF already guaranteed.
The Olympic squad didn't do itself justice as a whole with its group stage exit, although there were a couple of positive performances, while Mexicans in the Liga MX aren't getting as many opportunities as Osorio would like.
Nevertheless, there are some player that weren't involved in the Copa America that Osorio should consider.
Orbelin Pineda (Chivas) -- 20 years old -- Central midfield
Pineda's omission from the Olympics was surely more to do with Chivas working out a deal with the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) than what he has achieved on the field of late. There's no other rational way of explaining the youngster's absence at Rio 2016. After a bright start to his career at Queretaro, Pineda has upstaged Carlos "Gullit" Pena in a major way as a box-to-box midfielder in 2016, although he can play further forward. Crucially, Pineda doesn't seem daunted by the big occasion.
Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad) -- 27 -- Forward
Is Vela committed to the national team? Is he willing to put in the miles required to become something other than a figure of unfulfilled promise for Mexico fans? A trip to El Salvador would be an adequate test of that for a player who remains among Mexico's most talented.
Jurgen Damm (Tigres) -- 23 -- Right-winger
An Osorio favorite, Damm was unlucky to miss out on the Copa America due to injury and has had a poor start to the Apertura, also due to injury. Nevertheless, there is a reason he has attracted interest from Europe and was signed by Tigres for big money from Pachuca. His raw speed is a weapon Osorio will be desperate to harness.
Erick Gutierrez (Pachuca) -- 21 -- Central midfielder
One of few Mexico Olympic players to come out of Rio 2016 with a positive overall balance, Gutierrez boasts an exquisite left foot and has done enough as part of a good Pachuca side to earn a call-up to the full national team. It would be the first of what should be many call-ups for Gutierrez.
Raul Lopez (Pachuca) -- 23 -- Right-back
Lopez hasn't been playing right-back very long and had a poor first six months in 2016, but he has looked refreshed since his summer move from Chivas to Pachuca. Lopez is fast, physically robust and arguably the best crosser of a ball in the Liga MX. He has all the elements required of a modern full-back in a team that seeks to attack, as Osorio's Mexico tries to do.
Giovani dos Santos (Los Angeles Galaxy) -- 27 -- Forward
The same question to Vela could be asked of his good friend Dos Santos: How much does he want to be with the national team? There has been a lot of back and forth over the summer about whether Dos Santos refused to join El Tri for the Copa America or whether the manager really didn't want him there, but both Osorio and the player have made sure to keep the door open for a return.
The bottom line is that none of the players called in to replace Dos Santos made enough of an impression to suggest that the MLS-based player doesn't have a national team future.
Carlos Salcedo (Chivas) -- 22 -- Center-back
Another player who shined at the Olympics, Salcedo has shown a level of consistency in 2016 to suggest he's ready for regular call-ups to El Tri. The fact that he is a right-footed center-back who usually plays on the left for Chivas means he could be an option there for Osorio, although the coach may well persist with Yasser Corona precisely because the Club Tijuana player is left-footed. Salcedo would also provide the kind of no-nonsense attitude that Mexico seemed to miss against Chile.
Jaime Gomez (Queretaro) -- 23 -- Right-back/Central midfield
Gomez has largely flown under the radar, but he has quietly and calmly earned a starting spot under Victor Manuel Vucetich at Queretaro. A midfielder moving up through the youth ranks, Gomez has slotted in at right-back this season for Gallos Blancos and has performed well for a team that is yet to lose this campaign.
Cesar Montes (Monterrey) -- 19 -- Center-back
Is Montes too young to be in the full national team? It is up for debate and there is an argument that says the tall defender is doing just fine at Monterrey and should be left to develop without the disruption of El Tri. But the other side of this debate is that Montes has already proven himself at the Olympics and in the Liga MX. The only way of knowing if he's ready for sure is throwing him into the mix like players such as Rafael Marquez and Andres Guardado were at his age.
Javier Guemez (Club America) -- 24 -- Central midfield
Another player that Osorio has apparently taken a liking to, Guemez's inclusion may seem a little premature given that he has only recently recovered from a nasty injury. But Mexico has few players that can provide real toughness in midfield and are willing to go into battle against all-comers. Guemez has those qualities in spades and Osorio could well be tempted into bringing the former Club Tijuana player into this next squad.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.