Mexico embark on new era
The upcoming games versus Chile and Bolivia are supposed to be a new beginning for Mexico and beloved coach Miguel Herrera. Indeed, certain signs point to the dawn of a different era for El Tri.
For example, there's the call-up list that doesn't include a single player from Chivas, which has long been an integral supplier to the national team. However, there is a player present from Chivas USA, the Major League Soccer club that original owner Jorge Vergara mismanaged so badly that the league eventually bought it back from him.
Erick "Cubo" Torres is a young striker who may be the best thing to come out of the disaster that is Chivas USA, but he will still have to prove himself on the international stage.
Yet even as things change for Mexico, they also seem to stay the same. For example, Herrera still hasn't given up his habit of turning to his trusted former club players from America. Miguel Layun was supposed to be resting for this round of matches, but when Jorge Torres Nilo suffered an injury and withdrew from the friendly games, Herrera called on Layun. When goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera likewise was injured, Herrera turned to Moises Munoz.
Even for generally insignificant friendly games years ahead of the next World Cup, Herrera doesn't seem inclined to experiment too much. His tactic seems to be to mix in new players with enough veterans to give the youngsters solid support and yet offer a valid comparison of their skills and abilities.
Besides Torres, other starlets who have been brought in are striker Javier Orozco, midfielders Antonio Ríos and Rodolfo Pizarro, defenders Miguel Angel Herrera, Hiram Mier and Oswaldo Alanis.
With so many young defenders getting a look, it's a bit of a head-scratcher that Herrera also called upon Luis Venegas. But the 30-year-old defender has been a rock in the recent renaissance of Atlas, helping to push the club to third place in the current Liga MX standings.
Mexico's tactic of continuing to test itself against quality competition continues against Chile, who reached the round of 16 in the World Cup this year before falling on penalties to the host country, Brazil.
Though Chile is a South American squad, their roster is peppered with players who play in Europe, including captain and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, a Barcelona player. As was displayed in the World Cup, Chile is a versatile team that excels on quick movement and cohesive passing.
Yet Mexico also has a cadre of European players to rely on. One of them, midfielder Andres Guardado, has already been named captain by Herrera. Others include Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Herrera, Javier Aquino and Giovani dos Santos.
These are all experienced players who mesh well with other established stars from Liga MX like Marco Fabian, Oribe Peralta, Francisco Rodriguez, Paul Aguilar and of course Layun.
Certain intriguing names for the Mexican national team's future were not called -- Javier Hernandez and Raul Jimenez -- who recently transferred to Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, respectively. In both those cases, however, it's certain that Herrera probably wanted to give the players time to adjust to their new La Liga squads.
One player who has already made that adjustment remains the most intriguing El Tri prospect of all. Carlos Vela, according to Herrera, is still an option for Mexico, but only for one final chance. The coach has vowed that he will ask Vela only once more to rejoin the national team and then refrain from ever asking the striker again should Vela refuse.
Presumably, though, Herrera didn't ask Vela for this round of friendly matches, so that showdown is yet to come.
Instead, he has a new crop of players of which to ask questions. As the national team moves on from the eras of Rafael Marquez and Carlos Salcido, Herrera will test different players to see who holds the answers.
Andrea Canales covers both Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter @soccercanales.