The road for El Tri to repeat the 2009 Gold Cup championship begins this Saturday in Seattle against Ecuador. The match will be part of a two game set for Mexico in preparation for CONCACAF's Gold Cup; the next game will be on June 1 against New Zealand.
El Tri comes into the Ecuador match with almost a full squad, only missing the likes of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez whom will be playing the Champions League final on the same day. Similar to El Tri, Ecuador will be missing a Manchester United player in Antonio Valencia, who will also be at Wembley Stadium on Saturday for the Champion's league final.
Ecuador will begin on a similar road, but theirs will be focused on the Copa America, Argentina 2011. The game on Saturday will be the first of three on their North American Tour calendar; the other two squads they will face are Canada and Greece.
Reinaldo Rueda's squad for Saturday will have some familiar faces in three Mexico-based players like Walter Ayovi (Monterrey), Michael Arroyo (San Luis) and Jaime Ayovi (Toluca). The rest of the players that complement the team are mostly home based players with a few additions of men that ply their trade in Europe.
As for Jose Manuel Chepo de la Torre, he will try and use this game to start shaping up what will be his Starting XI during the Gold Cup. With most of the "European" players at his disposal now, Chepo de la Torre can now focus on the way his squad will blend, as well as adding and experimenting with the new additions like FMF's scoring champion Angel Reyna.
We are all well aware who the player of the moment in Mexico is, Chicharito, whom will not be part of El Tri's squad for this match. His place will likely be taken by Aldo de Nigris, the only pure striker on the team. During the week, Chepo de la Torre was asked about what missing "Chicharito" meant to him, his response, as always, was firm: "Chicharito, like everyone else, doesn't have his place secure."
Perhaps de la Torre's biggest concern is not who will be scoring goals but rather who will be keeping them from going in for his team. Coming into the Gold Cup, there was not a doubt on who his first choice at the goal was -Jose de Jesus Corona. However, after the fiasco between Monarcas Morelia and Cruz Azul during the Liguilla's semifinal, Chepo was forced to exclude Corona from the squad. Now he must decide between the experience of Guillermo Ochoa and his well-trusted keeper Alfredo Talavera.
The match between Mexico and Ecuador will mark the third time these teams have met in the past 18 months in what has become a very common friendly match on American soil and a very good test for both indeed. Mexico has not faired well in the previous two matches, both played in 2010. Mexico lost the first one with a 1-2 result in favor of Ecuador. The last time they met, on May 7 of last year, a 0-0 draw was the end result.
Regardless of experimenting squads or blending squads together, the match will be taken with all the seriousness it deserves from both parties. Both squads have very important competitions right around the corner that will require them to come as prepared as possible if they want to meet the goals they have set for themselves.