Mexico Hot List: Oribe Peralta is back, Alejandro Palacios struggles in goal
It's now or never for fringe and backup options for the Mexican national team.
With World Cup qualifiers set against Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago at the end of March, many aspiring members of El Tri's roster now have only a couple of weeks left to impress manager Juan Carlos Osorio.
Keeping that in mind, let's take a look at some of the recent best and worst performances from Mexicans at home and abroad:
Oribe Peralta, FW, Club America (Mexico)
Why he's here: Peralta was the Liga MX figure of the weekend. Thanks to his two goals on Saturday, America emerged from the Clasico Joven with a vital 2-0 win over rivals Cruz Azul.
What this means: Was Peralta's performance a flash in the pan or a sign of his resurgence? As mentioned beforehand, he will have little time to make a case for the latter before the upcoming call-up for the national team.
Hiram Mier, DF, Queretaro (Mexico)
Why he's here: Mier is finally showing noteworthy consistency through a starting role. Following a goal in last week's victory against Necaxa, the defender later earned his eighth start of the season during Saturday's 4-3 win over Pumas.
What this means: The 27-year-old is now in the running to earn a call-up for Mexico. Although it's too early to give him serious playing time for El Tri, Mier is at least worthy of fighting for a backup role.
Martin Barragan, FW, Atlas (Mexico)
Why he's here: Atlas' striker was the man of the match with his goal and assist in the recent 2-0 victory against Leon. Barragan now has three goals and one assist in his last four league games for the Guadalajara side.
What this means: The 25-year-old is going to need to somehow maintain this momentum in March or hope that Peralta once again goes on a scoring drought. If not, it's tough to assume that his short run of form will be enough for a return to El Tri.
Diego Reyes, DF, Espanyol (Spain)
Why he's here: Reyes is gaining valuable minutes in a regular starting role in La Liga. During Sunday's 3-0 win over Osasuna, the 24-year-old Mexican international was excellent with his defensive interventions. Reyes has now started in every league match since October.
What this means: The former America player's ability to contribute anywhere in the backline, and as a defensive midfielder, strengthens his chances for an important role with El Tri. That said, he will have plenty of competition in Mexico's defense or center of the midfield.
Alejandro Palacios, GK, Pumas (Mexico)
Why he's here: With seven goals allowed in his last two matches, Palacios has seen better days. On Saturday, the veteran goalkeeper couldn't do much to halt the four goals by Queretaro in the 4-3 away loss.
What this means: Despite his recent return from injury, it's imperative that the goalkeeper remains near-perfect in order to be on Osorio's radar. With the noteworthy barrage of goals allowed, it's unlikely that the 35-year-old will return to El Tri any time soon.
Jurgen Damm, MF, Tigres (Mexico)
Why he's here: Although Damm scored his first goal of the season two weeks ago, there has been little to celebrate for the midfielder in recent weeks. Following a gradual move out of the starting XI, the 24-year-old was left without minutes in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Morelia.
What this means: A lack of a starting role with Tigres won't do much to help Damm claim a spot with Mexico. Unfortunately for the agile player, El Tri has a wealth of winger options for Osorio to utilize.
Raul Jimenez, FW, Benfica (Portugal)
Why he's here: After injury complications in late December and early January, Jimenez has struggled to find minutes in Portugal. During Friday's 3-1 victory against Chaves, the striker was left on the bench without playing time.
What this means: It's going to be difficult for Jimenez to steal Javier Hernandez's starting spot for Mexico without goals and minutes for Benfica. Although a call-up is expected by Osorio, Jimenez will likely sit on the bench for the national team as well if this trend continues.
Carlos Pena, MF, Leon (Mexico)
Why he's here: Pena has yet to show the confidence he once had with Leon a few years ago. During Saturday's 2-0 loss to Atlas, the midfielder was given a cameo appearance through a substitution in the 66th minute.
What this means: In spite of his two goals in the Clausura, there is still a lingering lack of poise and character that hangs above Pena's head. Sporadic starts during the past couple of months are unlikely to lead to a Mexico call-up.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.