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Mexico Hot List: Valenzuela, Barrera eager to catch Osorio's eye for Iceland

Many Mexico fans might not think twice about the upcoming national team friendly against Iceland on Feb. 8.

The match, which doesn't land on a FIFA date, won't feature superstars like Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela or Guillermo Ochoa. Instead, a Liga MX-heavy roster will replace the luminaries who will stay put with their teams in Europe.

Although some critics will call it a partido molero, next week's exhibition in Las Vegas should prove to be highly significant for some overlooked and forgotten names. With World Cup qualifying, Confederations Cup and Gold Cup games set for this year, it presents an opportunity for some new players to shine.

With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the best and worst recent performances from Mexicans in Liga MX who are on the national team radar.

Editor's Note: On Tuesday afternoon, Mexico announced its squad to face Iceland on Feb. 8. Read the full roster here.

Warming Up

Juan Carlos Valenzuela, DF, Tijuana

Why he's here: Due to his excellent defensive coverage, Valenzuela is one of the key reasons why Xolos have been able to emerge from Week 4 of the 2017 Clausura in first place. Last Friday, the team captain was also vital in the attack, scoring the winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Cruz Azul.

What this means: The 32-year-old might not be the most exciting footballer, but it wouldn't surprise if coach Juan Carlos Osorio gave Tijuana's leader a chance against Iceland. At the very least, he is a much better defensive alternative to Yasser Corona.

Pablo Barrera, MF, Pumas

Why he's here: Barrera looked like his old self during Sunday's 3-1 win against Necaxa. The midfielder was exciting to watch with his movement on the ball and provided an impressive goal for Pumas in the 69th minute.

What this means: He might get his first minutes with the national team since 2013. With a key role in Pumas' starting XI, Barrera is an ideal candidates to receive a call-up.

Pablo Barrera is pushing for a call-up following his strong displays for Francisco 'Paco' Palencia's flourishing Pumas.

Edson Alvarez, DF, Club America

Why he's here: Last Saturday, Alvarez was an important figure in America's backline. The 19-year-old was excellent with his distribution and defensive responsibilities to hold Veracruz scoreless in the 1-0 win at home for Las Aguilas.

What this means: According to reports, Alvarez already has a spot set in the next national team roster. The big question now is if Osorio will be willing to start the youngster, who made his Liga MX debut last October.

Orbelin Pineda, MF, Chivas

Why he's here: Pineda provided an incredible assist for Jesus Sanchez's game-winning goal last Saturday. The central midfielder was a crucial member of the starting XI that helped gain a 1-0 victory against Queretaro.

What this means: Pineda must be one of the leading options for Osorio. Next week's friendly would be a perfect opportunity for the 20-year-old to show off his pace and passing abilities.

Orbelin Pineda's slick passing skill and pace make him an ideal candidate to play a big part in Mexico's friendly against Iceland.

Cooling Down

Kevin Gutierrez, DF, Queretaro

Why he's here: Late last year, Gutierrez thrived on loan at Tijuana. The 21-year-old slowly made his way into the starting XI and helped Xolos finish the regular season in first place. Now back with Queretaro, he has yet to start in the Clausura.

What this means: Although his versatility allows him to play as a central midfielder or left-back, it appears unlikely that Osorio will consider calling him up. Without regular playing time, the Queretaro backup will have to wait for his senior national team debut.

Eduardo Herrera, FW, Veracruz

Why he's here: For an out-and-out striker, much more should be expected of Herrera. During Saturday's 1-0 loss to America, he struggled to find the back of the net and missed a clear opportunity in the first half that could have at least secured a draw.

What this means: Despite the fact that Osorio doesn't have a wealth of Liga MX strikers, a call-up for Herrera is still unexpected. The manager will likely look past the Veracruz player, who only has one goal to his name.

Eduardo Herrera has not done enough with Veracruz to fit into coach Juan Carlos Osorio's plans.

Jordan Silva, DF, Toluca

Why he's here: The promising central defender has yet to gain a single minute of playing time in the Clausura. On Saturday, the 22-year-old was left on the bench for the 0-0 draw between Toluca and Pachuca.

What this means: A lack of regular Liga MX playing time didn't stop Silva from earning a call-up during last October's national team friendlies. Although he wasn't at his best during those matches, Osorio might be willing to give him another opportunity against Iceland.

Luis Robles, MF, Atlas

Why he's here: Following a red card in the 4-1 loss to Toluca during Week 1, the midfielder has since become a forgotten member of the roster. Last Saturday, the 30-year-old was substituted in during the 90th minute of the 3-1 win over Morelia.

What this means: Robles, who made his national team debut last October, is far from a return to El Tri. The veteran needs more time on the pitch for Atlas before fighting for a backup spot for Mexico.

Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.


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