Less than two weeks before they open their World Cup campaign against Cameroon, Mexico coach Miguel Herrera will have all his options available to him for the first time when he looks to firm up his starting lineup for Brazil in Saturday’s friendly with Ecuador in Arlington, Texas.
For three of his first four games in charge, Herrera was either forced to or elected to go with exclusively LIGA MX players, while in Wednesday’s friendly win over Israel at the Estadio Azteca, several players didn’t feature having joined the squad late due to their club commitments. Herrera has unsurprisingly decided to take full advantage of the fact that he now has everyone available and has announced a lineup that appears to strongly resemble the one that could lineup against Cameroon. That means Giovani dos Santos featuring for the first time since Herrera took charge last November.
Other than the absent-by-choice Carlos Vela, no Mexican player made more of an impact in Europe last season than Dos Santos. The former Barcelona youngster struck 11 goals in La Liga for Villarreal, but his role under Herrera, and specifically how he fits into the coach’s 3-5-2 system, has been the source of much conjecture. Oribe Peralta is a definite starter leading the line, with a real fight on between Javier Hernandez, Alan Pulido, Raul Jimenez and Dos Santos to occupy the other role. On Saturday Dos Santos will get his chance to prove that his high technical level and ability to drop off a main striker makes him the best partner for Peralta.
Other than the goalkeeping slot, which against Ecuador will feature Guillermo Ochoa, the other main position of interest is in defensive midfield. Olympic gold medalist Hector Herrera will look to show that he has the defensive discipline to fill that role on Saturday, having recovered from injury. Speaking before announcing his lineup, Herrera outlined his objectives for the match.
“There are still distractions," he said, according to Goal.com. “We must continue this coordination, the movements that we want are things that we will be correcting. We hope that when we get to Dallas to train, [Herrera] arrives at the stadium having recovered well, but there is no hurry if the doctor says that he is not 100 percent.
“We hope that on Saturday we have a full team, then we can begin to see others and begin to make decisions about who are going to be the core of the team.”
There is little doubt that Mexico will get a stiffer challenge against Ecuador than Israel presented. Several of Ecuador’s danger men play their trade in LIGA MX, including dangerous winger Jefferson Montero of Monarcas Morelia and Pachuca’s Enner Valencia. Coach Reinaldo Rueda has yet to trim his squad down to the list of 23, which must be submitted on Monday, meaning the game could offer one last chance for some fringe players to impress.
D: Rodriguez, Marquez, Moreno
M: Aguilar, Montes, Herrera, Pena, Guardado
F: Dos Santos, Peralta
Where to watch: The international friendly will kick off from AT&T Stadium at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN News, Univision and Univision Deportes. A live stream will be available via Watch ESPN.