The Gold Cup is still two weeks away and Mexico’s thin roster is becoming a point of contention.
Team Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino will get his trial by fire next month at the Gold Cup but he must be wondering who he can count on to stand with him.
When “Tata” announced his preliminary roster for the Gold Cup on May 14, reporters gave greater attention to who was NOT on the list. Chicharito Hernández stepped aside because he is anticipating the birth of his first child, Héctor Herrera begged off arguing that he needed rest after playing in 50+ games, the mercurial Carlos Vela expressed disinterest (again) in donning the green jersey and Jesús “Tecatito” Corona was left off because he backed out of El Tri’s previous training camp before manufacturing an excuse.
There was much hand-wringing and consternation even though “Tata” presented a strong list of 29 players. The sporting press in Mexico preferred looking at the glass half empty.
The alarmist attitude was fanned further when star winger Hirving “Chucky” Lozano was forced out after suffering a knee injury while playing for his club PSV Eindhoven and this week it was revealed that defender Miguel Layún would not be available because he needed to undergo surgery to address a kidney problem. Finally, defender Carlos Salcedo is questionable after picking up a knee injury in the Liga MX Final. His status will be determined later this week.
Now “Tata” is being questioned about his decision to only select 29 players for the preliminary list when Gold Cup regulations allow coaches to identify 40 players. (Only players listed on the preliminary roster are eligible for the official 23-man roster). That means if Salcedo must stay home, “Tata” only has 26 players at his disposal.
If any more injuries occur in the run-up to the regional tournament, El Tri could be in a spot of trouble, particularly because the group stage – although it should be a cakewalk (Cuba, Canada and Martinique) – asks each team to play three games in nine days.
In addition, Team Mexico has two friendly matches lined up before the Gold Cup kicks off on June 15. El Tri will play Venezuela on June 5 (in Atlanta) and June 7 vs Ecuador (in Dallas), before they travel to Los Angeles to open the group stage against Cuba.
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No doubt, there is significant pressure on “Tata” as he prepares for his first official games as manager of El Tri after taking over in January. The Argentine manager led Team Mexico to victories in two friendlies in March (3-1 over Chile and 4-2 over Paraguay), but he knows anything but a trophy at the Gold Cup will be considered a disaster.
Even so, I think “Tata” will have his squad well-prepared while also seeking to implement his tactics and philosophy with an eye on developing players for bigger goals – i.e., World Cup qualification.