El Tri puts final touches on Tokyo, Gold Cup squads

Rogelio Funes Mori recently became a naturalized Mexican citizen and his inclusion on El Tri's Gold Cup roster is not without controversy. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Rogelio Funes Mori recently became a naturalized Mexican citizen and his inclusion on El Tri's Gold Cup roster is not without controversy. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /
El Tri roster dilemma
Javier “Chicharito” Hernández is Mexico’s all-time leading scorer. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images) /

Team Mexico is in the final stages of preparing for two tournaments in July. The senior El Tri side has its eyes on defending its Concacaf Gold Cup crown (coach Gerardo Martino led Mexico to a 1-0 win over Team USA in 2019) while the Under-24 squad will be going for gold in Tokyo.

While “Tata” is looking to bounce back from the heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to the Americans in the Concacaf Nations League, coach Jaime Lozano is preparing to make his final roster decisions. The regional tournament begins on July 10, while the Olympics kick off on July 22.

The two El Tri squads will be in action this week, splitting duties in two friendlies. The Olympic squad will take on Panama in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday, while the Gold Cup team will face Nigeria at the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday.

El Tri dealing with roster controversy

The roster decisions facing Martino and Lozano were always going to be a challenge, but the selection process has been complicated by injuries and withdrawals. Striker J.J. Macías pulled out of consideration for the Olympics (his roster spot was not guaranteed) while fullback Gerardo Arteaga was expected to feature at the Olympics until he bowed out at the weekend.

Adding drama to the situation with El Tri is the “controversy” over the inclusion of naturalized striker Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey) and the exclusion of Javier “Chicarito” Hernández.

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Since the injury suffered by starting forward Raúl Jiménez, “Tata” has been unable to find a replacement up front. Macías was getting some consideration, but he has been in a year-long slump. Henry Martín (América) was a candidate, but niggling injuries have caused him to miss out on a few El Tri training camps, and Alan Pulido (Sporting KC) did not impress enough during his tryouts.

“Chicharito” is seen by many El Tri fans as a natural choice. He is still a fan favorite and is Mexico’s all-time leading scorer (52 goals). In addition, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star is tearing it up with L.A. Galaxy this season (10 goals in 10 games).

However, “Chicharito” is persona non grata for “Tata” after an incident with the national team in summer 2019. The fall-out has been considerable. One version of the events suggests that “Chicharito” violated team rules and has refused to apologize or take responsibility.

Teammates reportedly no longer trust “Chicharito” who is seen as arrogant, as someone who demands special treatment while refusing to be held accountable.

The former Chivas star has not been invited back to any El Tri training camp in the nearly two year since the incident in question.

The clamor to reinstate “Chicharito” has grown, and not just among fans of El Tri, but also from the media. The situation is further roiled by the fact that Funes Mori is not Mexican-born.

The issue of naturalized players has long stirred up virulent reactions that often stray into the xenophobic. The voice of all-time great Hugo Sánchez encapsulates the feeling of many Team Mexico fans. Last week, “Hugol” declared: “Funes Mori is taking a job from a Mexican.”

Never mind that the lanky Rayados striker is legally and lawfully a Mexican with the full protections and rights afforded all Mexican citizens as provided in the Constitution.

The controversy will not go away regardless of how well Funes Mori might perform in the Gold Cup. Some reporters have gone so far as to allege that Martino – an Argentine – conspired with Funes Mori from the inception of his term as manager back in January 2019.

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We don’t know yet if Funes Mori will start for El Tri on Saturday, but he is sure to see some action. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he is given by fans at the Coliseum.