Mexico continue their preparations for next summer’s Gold Cup and Copa America when taking on Honduras in Chiapas on Thursday. After an encouraging showing at the World Cup, when Miguel Herrera’s men came agonizingly close to ousting the Netherlands in the last 16, El Tri recorded a draw and a win against Chile and Bolivia, respectively, in friendlies last month. Attempting to maintain momentum, Herrera has chosen a similar squad this time around, although with two fresh faces called into the international setup.
Club Tijuana’s 22-year-old midfielder Javier Güémez and 20-year-old Atlas attacking midfielder Arturo González have both been rewarded for their early season form in Liga MX. González has scored three goals in nine appearances for Atlas this season. Also in a squad under Herrera for the first time is Cruz Azul defender Julio Domínguez.
Last month Herrera fielded two completely different lineups of contrasting experience in the back-to-back friendlies against Chile and Bolivia. It is likely to be a similar scenario this time around, when the clash with Honduras will be followed up by a meeting with Panama in Querétaro. Herrera is preparing to have to take different squads to South America’s championship, the Copa America, which will run from 11 June to July 4 and the Concacaf version, the Gold Cup, which will take place between July 7 and July 26. Despite the limited time in between, Herrera has revealed that he will take charge of both sides, unlike former coach Jose Manuel de la Torre in 2011. But the charismatic former Club America boss admits compiling two teams to compete strongly next summer is a real challenge.
“I will have to look for six goalkeepers and in Mexico there are plenty, but that doesn’t worry me,” he reports Goal.com. “What worries me is putting together two strong teams, not one and then splitting it up.”
Herrera will be looking for strong performances from a couple of his most experienced players, in particular, this week. World Cup hero Guillermo Ochoa has yet to make an appearance for La Liga side Malaga since arriving in the summer, while striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández has made just one start for Real Madrid after joining the Spanish giants on loan from Manchester United. Meanwhile, fellow striker Erick Torres, will get his chance to again stake a claim to be a starter in one of the teams next summer. The Chivas USA striker, who has scored 15 goals in Major League Soccer this season, has kept his place in the squad after a lively debut against Bolivia.
It will not just be about experimentation on Thursday. A local crowd will be after a win and a positive performance while there may also be a desire for revenge in the air. It was Honduras that inflicted Mexico’s second ever defeat at home in World Cup qualifying last September to at that point leave El Tri’s hopes of making Brazil in serious peril. While Honduras finished third in the Hexagonal and Mexico had to go through a playoff, it was a different story when the two teams made it to the World Cup. Honduras lost all three matches in Brazil -- to France, Ecuador and Switzerland -- by a combined score of 8-1. Since then coach Luis Fernando Suárez has resigned to be replaced by former Costa Rica coach Hernán Medford. His first assignment saw Honduras finish fifth in the Central American Cup, but his squad has now been boosted by the return of Maynor Figueroa and Victor Bernardez after both took time to assess their international futures after the World Cup.
Prediction: Honduras’s squad has been bolstered from the one that struggled in the Central American Cup, but the team still looks short of firepower. That lack of threat will be good news for a Mexico defense that will be without the starting trio in Brazil -- Rafa Marquez, Hector Moreno and Francisco Rodriguez -- as well as Diego Reyes. While they didn’t excel going forward in the September friendlies, especially on home soil, Herrera’s men should be too good.
Mexico 2-0 Honduras
Kickoff time: 9 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: ESPN2, UniMas, Univision Deportes