Alvarez's World Cup hopes boosted as Osorio considers Mexico squad
LOS ANGELES -- We won't be taking about Monday's 0-0 draw between Mexico and Wales in 20 years' time. It won't even be mentioned very often in the coming days as El Tri builds up to its farewell game in Mexico City against Scotland.
It's difficult to read too much into Mexico's performance and how it relates to the World Cup, given that only two definite starters against Germany (Javier Hernandez and Hector Herrera) were on the field as the game kicked off. Of the defensive unit, none of the back five -- including goalkeeper Jesus Corona -- are projected to be starting when Mexico opens its World Cup campaign on June 17.
The exercise against Wales was primarily to help Juan Carlos Osorio make decisions as to which players will be cut from the current 27-player squad when it is reduced to 23 players on June 3.
"There is something that is clear and that is that there are five or six days left to release the final list," said Osorio in a news conference after the game.
"It was a very important game for some of the players, there were players that shone, but the most important things was the collective performance, we got into the final third enough to have scored one or two goals."
Between now and Osorio naming his 23 players on June 3, El Tri has the Scotland game on Saturday but the key will be the injury situation. The word from the Mexico camp, which Osorio confirmed on Monday, is that injured trio Diego Reyes, Hector Moreno and Andres Guardado should all be returning to training at some point this week and be available for the game against Scotland. If that is the case, the Colombian manager will breathe a deep sigh of relief and it'll naturally alter the way he cuts the four players.
Those who are unsure of their places as things stand are Edson Alvarez, Hugo Ayala, Oswaldo Alanis, Jesus Molina, Jurgen Damm and Erick Gutierrez. Giovani dos Santos may also be on that list after Osorio questioned his fitness and there may be a lingering doubt about Jesus Gallardo after a disappointing display against Wales.
If any of the others aren't included, it would be a significant surprise and go against the quite clear trends during Osorio's reign.
Another factor to include in the mix is the news last week that Nestor Araujo was ruled out of the World Cup with a knee injury. It was a bitter blow that could alter not only the center-back position but also elsewhere because the natural replacement for Araujo is Reyes, who was also contemplated as a defensive midfielder.
A crucial question is whether that opens the door for holding midfielder Jesus Molina to get in.
"If we have a team that plays long, direct balls into the striker then he would be very influential," was Osorio's take.
"Today I think we didn't need his help too much because we had two center-backs that were very good in the air... Jesus' aerial game is second to none."
Molina could be useful against a Germany or Sweden in that regard, but Edson Alvarez improved his chances against Wales with a good performance. The 20-year-old Club America player was shifted from right-back to a holding midfield role at half-time and offered an example of his versatility. Whether that versatility is enough to instill confidence in Osorio that such a young and inexperienced player could cope with a side as strong as Germany is another issue.
Center-back Ayala does offer more experience and also had a positive game against Wales. He's the nearest like-for-like replacement for Araujo.
It's going to be tight, but if you had to predict right now, Alanis, Molina, Damm and Gutierrez would be the ones missing out. That would obviously change if Reyes, Guardado or Moreno has an injury set-back or Gio dos Santos can't prove his fitness but while Osorio says that no decisions have been made, attention needs to switch pretty sharply from who is in the squad to defining the actual starting XI.
Predicted Mexico squad for the World Cup:
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Standard Liege), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul)
Defenders: Diego Reyes (FC Porto), Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt), Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad), Miguel Layun (Sevilla), Jesus Gallardo (Pumas), Hugo Ayala (Tigres), Edson Alvarez (America)
Midfielders: Hector Herrera (Porto), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), Rafa Marquez (Atlas), Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt), Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
Forwards: Javier Aquino (Tigres), Jesus "Tecatito" Corona (Porto), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Oribe Peralta (Club America), Javier Hernandez (West Ham United), Carlos Vela (LAFC), Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven)
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.