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 By Tom Marshall

Dos Santos doesn't make Mexico squad, Zaldivar a surprise inclusion

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio named his squad to play El Salvador and Honduras in World Cup qualifiers on Sept. 2 and Sept. 6 in El Tri's first outing since the Copa America Centenario ended in a 7-0 defeat to Chile at the quarterfinal stage.

Backbone of squad the same

This isn't a huge shake-up from Osorio. It wasn't ever likely to be, even if there were some immediate and rash calls for an overhaul after the Copa America disaster.

The team is recognizable as the core that we've seen really since Miguel Herrera took over as coach in late 2013. Guillermo Ochoa is likely to be the goalkeeper, Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layun the full-backs, Hector Moreno at center back, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera in midfield and Raul Jimenez up front. The only missing names were the injured striking duo of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Oribe Peralta.

There was an absence of youngsters, with no place for Pachuca's Erick Gutierrez, who impressed at the Olympics. Others like Orbelin Pineda, Cesar Montes, Raul Lopez and new Fiorentina signing Carlos Salcedo have been overlooked for more experienced names such as Nestor Araujo, Jesus Molina and Jesus Duenas.

The stranger call-ups are for Carlos "Gullit" Pena, who has lost his starting place at Chivas, and Club Tijuana's Yasser Corona, who isn't playing much for Xolos. The explanations are likely that Pena provides a direct, physical option in the attacking midfield role, while Corona is a left-footed center back and Mexico simply does not have many of those. Still, it does highlight the lack of depth in certain positions.

Writing on the wall for Dos Santos

Giovani dos Santos has been playing well for the LA Galaxy in MLS, with nine goals in 21 appearances so far this season, but it is not enough to get a look with Osorio's national team. The player and coach have maintained a cordial relationship in the media, but the fact Osorio publically stated that Dos Santos didn't want to be called up for the Copa America can't have been easy.

Giovani dos Santos is set to call Los Angeles home until 2019
A lack of options in attack makes the omission of Dos Santos even more surprising.

Crucially, this list doesn't feature Hernandez or Carlos Vela, meaning it is difficult to see just what needs to happen to clear Dos Santos' path to a return. The player can't do too much more for the Galaxy and if the decision has come from Osorio and not Dos Santos, the writing looks to be on the wall for the former Barcelona player.

Then there is Dos Santos' friend, the enigmatic Vela. The Real Sociedad forward started the season in Spain on the bench, but is one of Mexico's most talented players and is both fit and, in theory, available for El Tri. Vela was in Osorio's first squad but hasn't been seen since, perhaps a telling reflection of what the Colombian's impression really is of the former Arsenal player.

We are unlikely to know whether Jonathan dos Santos is another player whom Osorio is shunning until the midfielder recovers from injury.

Barragan, Zaldivar, Sepulveda earn first call-ups

The new and shock names in the national team picture came in the form of Atlas striker Martin Barragan, Chivas center forward Angel Zaldivar and Queretaro winger Angel Sepulveda.

Barragan has nailed his place as a starting striker at Atlas only this season and has responded with three goals in six games. At 25 and with a total of 26 Liga MX starts, however, his call-up is a surprise.

Over Guadalajara's footballing divide, Chivas' Zaldivar was lacking confidence and getting booed off the field just a couple of weeks ago, until the 22-year-old came good with the winner against Santos Laguna and then a brace in the following match last Saturday against Atlas. Good with his back to goal and with a fine work ethic, Zaldivar nevertheless is a player still establishing himself in Mexico's first division.

Sepulveda's pace, ability to take players on and workrate will have impressed Osorio, as well as his versatility. The Gallos Blancos player -- a native of Apatzingan, Michoacan -- has been playing this season on the left flank, but he can also feature on the right, or even down the middle.

Rafa Marquez returns to Atlas, where it all started for the legendary Mexican defender.
Rafa Marquez is in the squad, but he's adamant that the captain's armband remains Andres Guardado's.

Marquez still in ...

Rafa Marquez is enjoying a very good Apertura season for the revitalized Atlas and deserves his place in this squad on the basis of form, even if he is now 37. If there is one take from what we have seen from Marquez since the start of the season it is that he is now best as a defensive midfielder distributing the ball to create attacks, flanked by players who can compensate physically for the areas the veteran now clearly lacks. That surely won't have escaped Osorio.

... but Guardado now the captain

Marquez spoke to ESPN in Guadalajara this week and was clear in stating that Andres Guardado is now the permanent captain of the national team. It was an important message from Marquez, who is the only player in history to have captained a side at four different World Cups.

"[Guardado] is a very determined person, he's stubborn and has good ideas," Marquez said. "I just think he has to stick to that character to defend it with a cloak and dagger and try to be that leader the national team needs."

It wasn't a farewell from Marquez, but it also wasn't a convincing statement that he will be around for too much longer.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.


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