Trial by Fire: Funes Mori set to debut with El Tri

All eyes will be on Rogelio Funes Mori when El Tri faces Nigeria. Funes Mori will be making his debut for Mexico just weeks after officially becoming a citizen. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)
All eyes will be on Rogelio Funes Mori when El Tri faces Nigeria. Funes Mori will be making his debut for Mexico just weeks after officially becoming a citizen. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /
El Tri Nigeria preview
Henry Martin misses on a bicycle kick attempt during Mexico’s June 12 friendly against Honduras. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

After the Olympic team ended Team Mexico’s three-game winless streak (even though it was El Tri Olímpico that defeated Panama on Wednesday), they were considered the official national team), now it is the Gold Cup squad’s turn.

Coach Gerardo Martino leads Team Azteca into the L.A. Coliseum tonight to take on Nigeria in its last warm-up match before the Concacaf tournament begins next weekend. It’s certain that tomorrow’s headlines will reflect how Rogelio Funes Mori does in his debut.

Funes Mori’s presence on the team has caused controversy as there is a large segment of Mexicans who hate seeing naturalized players suiting up for El Tri.

The 30-year-old Argentine has played for Monterrey the past six years and recently became a Mexican citizen. His style of play seems perfectly suited for the lead striker role Raúl Jiménez was filling until his injury in November.

El Tri desperate for a ‘9’

Funes Mori is getting a chance since alternatives such as Henry Martín (América) and Alan Pulido (Sporting KC) have not proven up to the task. The other alternative is Javier “Chicharito” Hernández (LA Galaxy) – the all-time leading scorer for El Tri – but he burned so many bridges back in 2019 that he has not been invited back to the national team since.

Coach Martino – also an Argentine – has expressed confidence that Funes Mori (Monterrey’s all-time co-leading scorer with 121 goals) will win over the skeptics.

El Tri fans – at least the non-xenophobes – are hoping “El Mellizo” proves to be the answer because Mexico’s offense has struggled since Raúl went down in a heap after a clash of heads with David Luiz in a Premier League match.

Without a natural No. 9 at Martino’s disposal, we’ve seen “Chucky” Lozano (Napoli) play out of position, drifting into the center more, or struggling to play a false 9. But that experiment has only served to weaken two positions.

If Funes Mori proves effective at the point of attack, that should allow the dynamic duo of “Chucky” and “Tecatito” Corona to wreak havoc on defenses from the wings. Should that happen, El Tri will have little trouble defending its Gold Cup crown.

Who’ll be between the pipes?

With first-choice goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa unavailable (“Memo” will be on duty in Tokyo with El Tri Olímpico), “Tata” Martino has a decision to make. We might get a glimpse of his thinking tonight against Nigeria. Then again, he might rotate goalies through the group stage of the Gold Cup before selecting a No. 1 ahead of the knockout stage.

Whoever gets the starting spot, El Tri will have a veteran between the pipes. Alfredo Talavera (Pumas) is the likely choice as the 38-year-old has flashed MVP form during the past two seasons, leading UNAM to a Liga MX Finals appearance in December.

Also wearing the gloves for El Tri are Tijuana keeper Jonathan Orozco, 35, and Rodolfo Cota, 34. Cota was in net for León when the Esmeraldas defeated Talavera and the Pumas for the Guardianes 2020 title.

El Tri roster for the Gold Cup

Goalies: Alfredo Talavera (Pumas), Rodolfo Cota (León) y Jonathan Orozco (Xolos).

Defenders: Héctor Moreno (Rayados), Néstor Araujo (Celta de Vigo), Carlos Salcedo (Tigres), Gilberto “Tiba” Sepúlveda (Chivas), Jesús Gallardo (Rayados), Luis “Chaka” Rodríguez (Tigres), Osvaldo Rodríguez (León), Kevin Álvarez (Pachuca) and Edson Álvarez (Ajax).

Midfielders: Jonathan Dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Héctor Herrera (Atlético de Madrid), Erick Sánchez (Pachuca), Erick Gutiérrez (PSV), Orbelín Pineda (Cruz Azul), Alan Cervantes (Santos) and Efraín Álvarez (LA Galaxy).

Next. ‘Chicharito’ or Funes Mori?. dark

Forwards: Hirving “Chucky” Lozano (Napoli), Jesús Manuel “Tecatito” Corona (Porto), Alan Pulido (Sporting Kansas City) and Rogelio Funes Mori (Rayados).