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It seems like a lifetime ago that the mood surrounding the Mexican national team was one of uncertainty and cynicism as new head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino was faced with several obstacles in his first months at the helm.
The absences of several key figures dominated the headlines going into the 2019 Gold Cup, but the team brushed off the negativity at the outset in en route to yet another title. They rode the contributions of a few new faces in doing so, such as LA Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna who exploded onto the scene with four goals in his first six competitive matches.
Mexico have to be considered the favorites heading into the inaugural Concacaf Nations League, regardless of the makeup of their roster throughout the competition. Their depth remains unrivaled and with a host of young talents emerging in recent months, that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.
The good news for El Tri fans is that several of the heavy-hitters are back in the mix for upcoming friendlies against the United States and Argentina, so it will be interesting to see if any and which of them will feature later on in the year in competitive play. On Tuesday head coach Martino released a full roster that includes Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Hector Herrera, and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, all of whom did not participate this summer for various reasons. New Napoli attacker Hirving "Chucky" Lozano is also set to play for El Tri.
? | NOTA— Selección Nacional (@miseleccionmx) August 27, 2019
¡¡VAAAMOOOS!! ?? ?? ?
¡Ellos son los elegidos por Gerardo Martino para disputar los partidos de preparación ante ?? y ??!
¡A defender con todo nuestra camiseta! ?
Aquí toda la info: https://t.co/ssLt8hQN1u#PasiónyOrgullo | #FMFporNuestroFútbol pic.twitter.com/eg6aX3Bzf0
While he is not included in the roster for the September friendlies, one player who could find himself in the mix later this fall is León’s José Juan Macías. “JJ”, as he is popularly known, looks to be the Mexican national team’s next great frontman and has been terrorizing back lines in Liga MX of late. On loan from Chivas, he already has five goals in five appearances to start this campaign; he has propelled the side with eight in 14 in the previous Clausura. The Nations League could be a great opportunity to give Macías his first minutes for the senior side and perhaps use Chicharito or Raúl Jiménez to groom the youngster in camp.
In between the sticks, Liga MX veterans Rodolfo Cota, Hugo González, and Jonathan Orozco have been included as the backups to the long-serving Guillermo Ochoa. Any one of those would be a solid option throughout the Nations League if they are called back in.
Nevertheless, it is Veracruz’s Sebastián Jurado who could very well be Ochoa’s replacement in the future and will likely jump at the chance should Martino elect to give a platform to a young shot stopper.
Another young talent who could play a significant role is Diego Llainez. The 19-year-old wide man became the youngest player to make the move from Liga MX when he signed for Real Betis in January and has the opportunity to develop rapidly in his first full season at the Spanish club, particularly under the guidance of club teammate and Mexico legend Andrés Guardado.
El Tri were drawn into Group B alongside Panama and Bermuda. Panama certainly presents the stiffest challenge on paper, but don’t count out a Bermuda side who recently punched above their weight — upsetting El Salvador in the process — to qualify for the Gold Cup. Like the other highest seeds in League A, Martino’s men will not began play until October. They travel to take on upstart Bermuda on October 11 before facing Panama at home four days later. Mexico’s return to action comes on November 15 with the return leg against Panama, and they will round out group play on November 19 when they host Bermuda.