El Tri held what served as a festive going-away party at the Rose Bowl Friday while scolds preferred to focus on the fact that coach Gerardo Martino skipped the open training session.
The public was granted access to Mexico’s final practice before Saturday night’s friendly against Peru and player stated around afterward to sign flags and jersey and pose for selfies with the adoring public.
The “celebration” served as a going-away party for El Tri since it was impossible to arrange a traditional send-off (a final exhibition game at Estadio Azteca) because of the logistics created by staging a World Cup in November.
The practice did not involve tactical applications, featuring little more than light stretching and calisthenics with some scrimmaging thrown in, but the fans loved it, especially when their heroes came over to the bleachers to engage with the supporters.
Stirring up the El Tri pot
Despite the joy and excitement evident in and around the Rose Bowl, some wags decided that the most important element of the story was the absence of “Tata” Martino.
Initial reports claimed that the El Tri manager stayed back at the team hotel to watch Argentina play Honduras. Some of the stories seemed to hint that Martino was more interested in watching his native Argentina play than in interacting with the fans, but that storyline hid the fact that Mexico plays Argentina in Qatar.
Granted, “Tata” could have easily recorded the game and watched it later, and later reports indicated the coach was watching the game in the locker room at the Rose Bowl, not at the hotel, but all in all it seems more like a manufactured scandal.
Of more importance were which players were training at 100% and which players were doing rehab. Striker Raúl Jiménez is still the primary concern for El Tri and his activity was limited, while Héctor, Herrera, Alexis Vega, Jorge Sánchez, Luis Romo and Rogelio Funes Mori did some light training apart from the team.
Last chance to impress before Qatar
Although “Tata” already has his preferred 26-man roster in mind, the two upcoming friendlies will be important because of the compressed scheduling concerns all World Cup teams face.
Liga MX players will have a few weeks to rest and recover before reporting to national team training camps in early November, but players in European leagues and elsewhere will have as little as a week to 10 days.
That means injuries and fitness issues will be a huge concern and players that are on the bubble could be summoned to fill roster spots. Players like Erick Sánchez, Fernando Beltrán, Luis Romo and Roberto Alvarado will hope to impress the El Tri coaching staff this week so as to remain in the running for a World Cup spot.
In addition, the next two months will be key and World Cup coaches around the globe will want to keep an eye on their personnel because even the tiniest fitness concern could be enough to make a roster change.
For Mexico, that means players including striker Santiago Giménez will hope to earn more playing time at Feyenoord though he is finding the net while coming off the bench for the Dutch club. Fullbacks Kevin Álvarez (Pachuca) and Julián Araujo (LA Galaxy) are also in contention for a spot as a reserve.
World Cup coaches must submit their final 26-man roster by Nov. 14 and, prior to that, a preliminary 55-man roster must be handed in. This latter list will not necessarily be made public, but any player on the final roster sheet must have been included in the initial preliminary list.
Up next, Peru
El Tri will come up against some familiar faces in Saturday’s friendly at the Rose Bowl, including their coach Juan Reynoso who led Cruz Azul to a Liga MX title just 16 months ago.
Liga MX fans will also recognize several other Peru stars – striker Santiago Ormeño (Chivas), defender Luis Abram (Cruz Azul), midfielder Edison Flores and defender Anderson Santamaría (both with Atlas).
Others who’ve played in Mexico include goalie Pedro Gallese (Veracruz), midfielder Yoshimar Yotún (Cruz Azul), Luis Advíncula (Lobos BUAP), Christian Cueva (Toluca) and Raúl Ruidiaz (Morelia).
Peru finished fifth in South America qualifying, but came up short against Australia in the intercontinental playoff for a spot in Qatar.