Ho-hum: El Tri to take on Ecuador in vapid friendly

The last time El Tri faced Ecuador was in a friendly in June 2019. Mexico won that game 3-2. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
The last time El Tri faced Ecuador was in a friendly in June 2019. Mexico won that game 3-2. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /
El tri Ecuador
El Tri coach “Tata” Martino will be happy to get the Ecuador game out of the way so he can get back to planning how to attack the U.S. and Canada in November. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /

As Liga MX prepares for its final two weekends, a makeshift El Tri will be fulfilling a contractual obligation to play a friendly match against Ecuador in Charlotte, North Carolina. But don’t get too excited, it’s little more than a money grab by the Mexican Soccer Federation.

Since this is not a FIFA break, clubs are not obligated to release players for national team games and that has caused headaches for coach Gerardo Martino who has been forced to fashion together a roster from second- and third-choice players, most of whom are unlikely to play for El Tri in a meaningful match.

The same is true for their rival. Of the 15 players who saw action in Ecuador’s three October World Cup qualifiers, only one – Toluca striker Michael Estrada – will be in Charlotte.

Nonetheless, fans of El Tri will get a chance to root for their team even if “Tata” Martino might wish he was anywhere else but North Carolina.

Four players get first call-up to El Tri

Martino always knew he would not have European-based players at his disposal this game, but with the Liga MX season winding down, there was also significant resistance from Mexican clubs to deal with.

First of all, Monterrey and América play in the Concacaf Champions League final on Thursday, so that eliminated El Tri regulars Carlos Rodríguez, César Montes, Jesús Gallardo, Rogelio Funes Mori, Hector Moreno, Guillermo Ochoa, Jorge Sánchez, Henry Martín and Sebastián Córdova from consideration.

Even more disappointing, América left back/winger Salvador Reyes and Monterrey midfielder Arturo González miss out on a chance to audition for “Tata.” Reyes, 23, joined the Aguilas from Puebla this season and has been flashing some serious skill for the league-leading “AzulCremas.” And the 27-year-old González, just back from a serious knee injury, has been the Rayados’ top playmaker most of the season.

Other teams – such as Cruz Azul and Guadalajara – were also reluctant to parcel out their stars for a meaningless midweek game since they are playing for their playoff lives. That meant no Luis Romo, Orbelín Pineda or Alexis Vega, although the Chivas did consent to allow Uriel Antuna, Fernando Beltrán and “Canelo” Angulo to don the El Tri jersey tonight.

Martino finally released his roster on Monday, and as expected, there was little to shout about. Two veteran goalies – Rodolfo Cota (León) and Jonathan Orozco (Tijuana) – will be joined by a gaggle of youngsters and unlikely selections.

Three players – defenders Haret Ortega (Toluca) and Víctor Guzmán (Tijuana), and midfielder Erick Lira (Pumas) – were invited to their first senior El Tri training camp. That number was increased to four on Tuesday after it was revealed that Pachuca’s Erick Sánchez would miss out after suffering a knee injury on Sunday night. América’s Karel Campos was summoned in his place.

Who’s Karel Campos you might well ask? Even hard-core Aguilas fans would be hard-pressed to tell you. The 18-year-old from San Luis Potosí is an academy product who has played all of 25 minutes total in three Liga MX appearances for América this season.

The other members of “El Tri” for the Wednesday friendly include Olympic bronze-medal winners Jesús Angulo (Atlas defender), Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul midfielder), Eduardo Aguirre (Santos forward) and the aforementioned trio from Chivas – Antuna, Beltrán and Angulo.

The rest of the El Tri roster:

Defenders: Kevin Álvarez (Pachuca), Osvaldo Rodríguez (León)

Midfielders: Alan Cervantes (Santos), Alex Zendejas (Necaxa)

Forward: Santi Giménez (Cruz Azul)

Look for “Tata” to substitute freely, moreso to avoid over-taxing players and angering Liga MX managers than to take a closer look at potential candidates for future El Tri training camps. Still, some of these players might get an invite to take part in the Dec. 8 friendly against an as-yet-to-be-named opponent in another contractually obligated match arranged by the El Tri brain trust.

Next. Liga MX enters stretch run in lackluster fashion. dark

After the match, “Tata” can turn his attention back to his real job: qualifying El Tri for the 2022 World Cup.