Miguel Herrera will be hoping that Mexico’s Copa America disappointment is quickly forgotten, as his side’s preparations begin in earnest for next month’s Gold Cup with a friendly against Costa Rica in Orlando on Saturday. Mexico suffered huge disappointment in being sent packing from Chile at the group stage without recording a single win. But it will be an almost entirely different squad, and a new formation, that starts the work toward what has always been El Tri’s priority this summer -- regaining the Gold Cup.
It was very much a second-string squad that flopped in South America’s championship, although, with Herrera having stated all the way through that a final place was well within their capabilities, the performance was still a major blow to Mexico’s coach. And the pressure is now firmly on the charismatic Herrera to regain Concacaf superiority for El Tri in order to earn a playoff with the United States for a place at the 2017 Confederations Cup.
The good news for Herrera is that he will now have his first-choice player pool available. The likes of Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Carlos Vela, Andrés Guardado and Héctor Moreno have been rested up, and will now get to fine tune the lineup in the first of two warm-up friendlies. Ahead of a meeting with Honduras next Wednesday comes a test against Concacaf’s top performers at the 2014 World Cup.
And the lineup Herrera has selected closely resembles the one fielded as Mexico agonizingly exited Brazil 12 months ago at the hands of the Netherlands in the Round of 16. Guillermo Ochoa returns in goal, Moreno, Diego Reyes and the experienced Francisco “Maza” Rodríguez fill the three center-back spots and Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layún take their place as the undoubted first-choice wing-backs.
But there is a notable change further forward -- for this friendly, at least. Criticized in some quarters for showing a lack of flexibility with his preferred 5-3-2 formation at the Copa America, Herrera has now made an alteration. Much of that is down to a being blessed with a healthy array of attacking talent, thanks to Vela’s decision to come out of international exile late last year. Against Costa Rica there will be just Guardado and Hector Herrera in midfield, while Vela, Hernández and Giovani dos Santos take their places in a potentially thrilling front three.
“The day before yesterday when we started the first training session and changed the formation we realized that it is difficult to stop them with the combination of abilities the three of them have,” Herrera said, reports MedioTiempo. “They also have a great friendship, and all the time are there together. All this leads us to believe that they can trouble many of our rivals.”
The match also counts as important preparation for a Costa Rica team playing its last warm-up match before beginning their attempts to win the Gold Cup for the first time since 1989. Since stunningly reaching the quarterfinals of last year’s World Cup, Los Ticos have had a change of coach with Jorge Luis Pinto being replaced by the man who sits second on the country’s all-time scoring list, Paulo Wanchope. But the team can still call upon talent like Arsenal forward Joel Campbell and veteran Bryan Ruiz.
Kickoff time: 6 p.m. EDT
TV channel: ESPN2, Univision, Univision Deportes