Various circumstances have kept Mexico's best possible lineup from playing together, but all of Chepo de la Torre's ducks are in a row for the opening match of the 2011 Gold Cup (Copa Oro) for Mexico, where they will face El Salvador. Giovani dos Santos is back in form and favor, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez is back from club duty, and everyone else is healthy.
It's unclear if up and coming star Hector Moreno or veteran Rafael Marquez is first choice to start in the center of defense next to Fransisco 'Maza' Rodriguez, but neither is a bad option and both should be able to out-play their counterpart up top for El Salvador. The fullback spots aren't exactly set in stone either, but Efrain Juarez and Carlos Salcido should get the nod.
Mexico's current front four are absolutely deadly, and the focus of other teams and the media will likely be on those four players throughout the tournament. Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos, and Andres Guardado will get most of the praise (and criticism, if Mexico are poor), but as Eben pointed out yesterday, Pablo Barrera might be Mexico's most important attacker. His West Ham side was very poor in the English Premier League this year, but Barrera has arguably been Mexico's best attacking player in all of the last four times he's put on an El Tri shirt.
El Salvador are not a poor team, but they are a team that Mexico is favored to beat by a fairly wide margin. Anything but three points will be considered a failure, but there are some players on the El Salvador squad that have the potential to cause problems for Mexico.
Most of the El Salvador squad plays their football domestically, but two of their three players who play abroad are likely to bring the most attacking flair to the team. Real Salt Lake's Arturo Alvarez has absolutely blistering pace, while Eliseo Quintanilla, who has signed for Municipal in Guatemala, has a great goal scoring record from midfield.
The top matchup to watch in this game includes the aforementioned Barrera, as he will have plenty of one-on-one matchups with El Salvador's left back, Marvin Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a veteran player who has made 82 appearances for his country, and due to the potency of Mexico's attack as a whole, he will likely have very little help when it comes to containing Barrera.
The match kicks off at 8 pm ET, 7 pm local time from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. There will likely be well over 70,000 screaming Mexico fans on hand, giving them a serious home field advantage, even more so than the ones they will enjoy throughout the tournament. You can see the match on Univision in the United States.