Mexico Hot List: Diego Reyes back in favor, Chicharito's struggles continue
After months of eager waiting, El Tri has now officially stepped into another World Cup year. The group stage is set, the schedules are out and all that's left to do for manager Juan Carlos Osorio is to properly prepare and select his roster for Russia 2018.
Although a number of squad positions appear to be secured, at least a handful of places are still up for grabs for El Tri. With little time left to make a case for themselves -- and a non-FIFA date friendly on the horizon against Bosnia and Herzegovina on the 31st -- let's take a look at the recent best and worst performances from potential national team options.
Alexis Vega, FW, Toluca (Mexico)
Why he's here: Following a season that was hindered by injury problems, Vega wasted no time during Sunday's 1-1 draw with Chivas. Just 23 minutes into Toluca's first game of the Clausura, the budding striker turned heads with an over-the-head shot that secured Los Diablos Rojos' lone goal of the match.
What this means: In spite of the fact that he still has plenty to prove on the club level, Vega's recent showing should be seen as a warning to other Liga MX defenders. The energetic 20-year-old, who stated last month that his objective is to gain the attention of Osorio and El Tri, will certainly be a name to keep an eye on this season.
Carlos Vargas, DF, Club America (Mexico)
Why he's here: Since joining the club last year, Vargas has quickly exceeded expectations with his influential appearances for America. Over the weekend, the 18-year-old continued his impressive momentum as a high-pressing left-back in the 1-0 win for Las Aguilas over Queretaro. No other starter in the match had more tackles than the former Tijuana product.
What this means: Similar to Vega, Vargas represents a promising group of uncapped El Tri youngsters that have a good chance of earning a call-up later this month. Due to his versatility in defense, the America player is an intriguing figure that shouldn't be overlooked by the national team.
Diego Reyes, DF, Porto (Portugal)
Why he's here: The new year is looking up for the 25-year-old defender. Once relegated to the bench, Reyes has now started in five of Porto's last seven games in all competitions. During that same run, the Mexican international has also collected two goals for the current leaders of the Portuguese league table.
What this means: Distance and the non-FIFA date designation for the friendly means that Reyes won't be called-up for the game later on this month. As for his role with Porto, El Tri fans can begin to feel at ease knowing that the prominent national team player is now earning much-needed minutes at club level.
Moises Munoz, GK, Puebla (Mexico)
Why he's here: If there was any small hope left that Munoz could return to El Tri this year, it was quickly pushed away last Friday. After a questionable Apertura tournament with Puebla, the veteran kicked off 2018 with another worrisome blunder in the 2-1 win over Tigres.
What this means: A noteworthy month could have been enough to at least train with the Liga MX-heavy roster that is expected for the upcoming Bosnia friendly. Now, the 37-year-old will have to shift his priorities and work on avoiding more embarrassing moments going forward for Puebla
Javier Hernandez, FW, West Ham (England)
Why he's here: Since returning from injury in early December, "Chicharito" has only started in three of West Ham's nine games in all competitions. Although two of those starts arrived in the last two weeks, Mexico's all-time leading goalscorer failed to collect a single shot for the Hammers in either appearance.
What this means: Fans of Chicharito can justifiably point out that a lack of distribution going forward has done little to help the striker regain his confidence. Also, good form or not, the Mexican superstar has all but guaranteed a place in the World Cup squad. Keeping in mind that this month's friendly lands on a non-FIFA date, Hernandez will have to wait until March to make his return to the national team.
Hedgardo Marin, DF, Chivas (Mexico)
Why he's here: Along with his central defensive partner Miguel Basulto, Marin emerged as one of the weak links for Chivas during Sunday's 1-1 draw with Toluca. Despite his countless passes going forward, the 24-year-old was never an imposing defensive presence to the opposition that was unlucky to only score once.
What this means: Marin isn't the most exciting Mexican name, but he is also one that should be pushing for a place in the Bosnia and Herzegovina game. Following an uninteresting summer with El Tri in the last Gold Cup and a dull Apertura, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him miss out on the January friendly.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.