As soon as Liga MX wraps up the final weekend of the regular season, soccer fans in Mexico will turn their attention to El Tri and their Nations League quarterfinals match-up against Honduras.
The two Concacaf rivals will square off in a home-and-home series that will not only offers a spot in the Nations League semifinals but also awards the winner an invitation to the 2024 Copa América.
This will be the first big test for coach Jaime Lozano since being given the permanent job. Lozano led El Tri to the Gold Cup title in July shortly after being name interim coach. “Jimmy” was rewarded with the full-time job a month later.
Holding the 12th spot in the FIFA World Rankings, Mexico is favored to defeat Honduras, No. 78 in those same rankings, so anything less than a convincing performance could put the 45-year-old manager on a very hot seat.
Quiñones gets initial invite to El Tri camp
Lozano announced his roster for the upcoming contests on Friday and the inclusion of Julián Quiñones has gotten the most attention.
Quiñones burst onto the scene with Atlas, helping the Zorros win back-to-back Liga MX titles (Apertura 2021 and Clausura 2022), impressing with his power, agility and finishing skills.
A season ago, the 26-year-old forward scored 12 goals for Atlas, finishing second in the Liga MX scoring race. The performance prompted América to shell out $9.6 million dollars to acquire Quiñones and he has responded with 6 goals and 5 assists in 13 games with the first-place Aguilas.
So why has it taken so long for this rising star to be summoned by El Tri, you might ask. The answer: Quiñones is a native of Colombia
But just last month – after spending eight years in Mexico beginning with Tigres – Quiñones was granted Mexican citizenship and Lozano wasted little time in writing Quiñones’ name on his roster.
The rest of the roster
Since being named permanent coach, Lozano has posted a 1-3-0 record in four friendlies, the most recent a 2-2 nail-biter against Germany in Philadelphia.
But now the real test for “Jimmy” who knows El Tri must get past Honduras if he has hopes of staying in charge through to the 2026 World Cup of which Mexico will serve as co-host.
Mexico has defeated the Central Americans in each of their past four encounters, all official contests: 4-0 (June 25, 2023 – Gold Cup); 1-0 (at Honduras on March 27, 2022 – World Cup qualifier; 3-0 (Oct. 10, 2021 – World Cup qualifier); 4-0 (July 24, 2021 – Gold Cup).
Here are the players who will represent El Tri:
Goalies: Guillermo Ochoa (Salernitana), Luis Malagón (América), Antonio Rodríguez (Tijuana)
Defenders: César Montes (Almería), Gerardo Arteaga (Genk), Johan Vásquez (Genoa), Jesús Gallardo (Monterrey), Israel Reyes (América), Jorge Sánchez (América), Jesús Angulo (Tigres), Julián Araujo Las Palmas)
Midfielders: Edson Álvarez (West Ham), Erick Sánchez (Pachuca), Orbelín Pineda (AEK Athens), Luis Romo (Monterrey), Luis Chávez (Dynamo Moscow), Marcel Ruiz (Toluca), Sebastián Córdova (Tigres), Roberto Alvarado (Guadalajara)
Forwards: Santiago Giménez (Feyenoord), Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven), Raúl Jiménez (Fulham), César Huerta (UNAM), Henry Martín (América), Uriel Antuna (Cruz Azul), Julián Quiñones (América)
The first game of the quarterfinal series will take place Nov. 17 in Honduras with the return match scheduled for Nov. 21 at Estadio Azteca.