By Dan Price
In the next four days, Mexico will play their final two warm-up matches before their vital Confederations Cup playoff against the US next month.
Firstly they take on Trinidad and Tobago tonight in Utah, before facing the altogether more difficult challenge of Argentina next Tuesday in Texas. The back-to-back games offer interim boss Tuca Ferretti his only chance to assess the squad ahead of the 9th October date with the United States – meaning the teams and tactics deployed are likely to be very similar to those we see used in the Rose Bowl.
Qualification for the 2017 pre-World Cup tournament was considered to be a made-or-break game for previous boss Miguel Herrera, but after his untimely dismissal the responsibility for making sure El Tri qualify has fallen onto the shoulders of the current Tigres boss. Given the short nature of his tenure he won’t suffer any personal consequences should they lose, but you can be certain his stock in the eyes of Mexicans would drop significantly.
Mexico have only failed to qualify twice in eight editions of the tournament since it evolved into its current form from the King Fahd Cup in 1997. Both the fans and the FMF see participation as vital – it’s a way to Mexico to continue to be viewed as the number one CONCACAF power in the eyes of the global footballing world, but it also brings enormous exposure and commercial opportunities for a country that doesn’t get to play the biggest soccer nations in competitive football very regularly.
Tuca has promised that all members of his squad will be given chance to prove themselves on the pitch over the course of the double-header, but with the main focus on the Argentina game, some of his lesser lights are likely to play tonight.
They include young Tijuana striker Henry Martin, who joins Carlos Vela and Raul Jimenez as the only strikers available to the 61-year-old boss. Other things to look out for are how much responsibility he gives to club compatriots Jorge Torres Nilo, Javier Aquino, and Jesus Duenas – all of whom know Ferretti’s system and methods better than anyone else in the squad.
The final point of conjecture is who will be given the nod to start in goal. Previous number one Memo Ochoa was dropped from the squad after 12 months of misery on the bench for club side Malaga, meaning the only two ‘keepers in the party are America’s 35-year-old stopper Moises Munoz and the in-form Toluca goalie Alfredo Talavera.
The smart money is on Talavera, who has arguably been the most reliable ‘keeper in the league for two years.
On the other hand, Munoz has worked with Tuca in the past when the Brazilian was in charge of Morelia back in 2005. It means the shirt is still very much up for grabs.
Tuca needs a strong performance tonight to get the players and fans on his side. The two last played in the Gold Cup in July, but with Ferretti’s defensive attitude, a repeat of that thrilling 4-4 draw is unlikely.
Kick-off at the Rio Tinto Stadium is at 10pm EDT.
Prediction: Mexico 3-0 Trinidad and Tobago