GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Mexico coach Miguel "Piojo" Herrera will name his 23-player squad for the World Cup on May 9, but for a substantial number of hopefuls, the chance to impress for their clubs has ended, with the Liga MX regular season now over.
Monterrey, Tigres, Chivas, Atlas and Morelia will all go on early vacations after not making the playoffs, meaning a string of players such as Jesus Zavala, Aldo de Nigris, Jair Pereira, Hugo Ayala, Alan Pulido, Carlos Salcido, Lucas Lobos, Jorge Torres Nilo, Enrique Perez and Rodrigo Salinas have all played their last official games before Herrera lets everyone know who will be on the plane to Brazil.
Here's who impressed and who let their final opportunity fly on by this past weekend.
Luis Montes (CM), Leon (Mexico)
Why he's here: Leon may have waned with the double challenge of fighting for the Copa Libertadores and the Liga MX, but 27-year-old Ciudad Juarez native Luis Montes has somehow kept up the intensity of his play over the whole season, capping it off with a spectacular strike from distance on Friday to give La Fiera the 2-1 victory over Tijuana.
What this means: The goal means Leon will fight for back-to-back championships in the playoffs, but on a grander scale, Montes is increasingly in contention for a starting spot with El Tri, especially with Leon teammate Carlos Pena and Toluca’s Isaac Brizuela not hitting the same form as they were a couple of months ago.
Rogelio Chavez (RB), Cruz Azul (Mexico)
Why he's here: After coming on in the 55th minute, Rogelio Chavez burst past three defenders and scored the equalizer for La Maquina against Pumas -- even if there was an element of fortune in the deflection that took it past keeper Alejandro Palacios.
What this means: Although Chavez has featured at left back, his good performances in recent weeks -- including in the CONCACAF Champions League victory against Toluca -- will have done a lot to erase the nightmare that was his display for Mexico against the United States earlier this month. And Paul Aguilar still needs competition for that right back spot.
Hugo Ayala (CB), Tigres (Mexico)
Why he's here: Hugo Ayala knew before Tigres’ 2-1 victory against Atlas that this would be his last game of the season and he certainly played like someone on a mission to impress. Ayala scored against his old club with a bullet-header in the 36th and was a commanding presence at the back. A mention must also be made of his teammate Alan Pulido, who netted the winner.
What this means: It seems that Herrera just simply doesn’t fancy Ayala, but the Tigres defender would seem a safer bet than others who appear to be above him on Herrera’s depth chart.
Efrain Juarez (RB), Monterrey (Mexico)
Why he's here: Former Celtic defender Efrain Juarez scored his first Liga MX goal to win Sunday’s game for Monterrey against Chivas. He was otherwise solid at right back and provided some impetus going forward.
What this means: In an ideal world, Juarez would be a leading member of the current Mexico squad, especially with his ability to play different positions, but the tailing off of his career means he is a long shot to be at Brazil 2014.
Alonso Escoboza (AM), Santos Laguna (Mexico)
Why he's here: The 21-year-old returned to first team action one week ago after a lengthy injury setback, but showed why he is regarded as one of Mexico’s brightest young talents with a goal for Santos Laguna against Veracruz that wasn’t altogether dissimilar to Raul Jimenez’s famous chilena against Panama.
What this means: Alonso Escoboza was in the Mexico squad against New Zealand and Herrera is on record praising him, but whether he can do enough to make Brazil will depend on the attacking midfielder having a good playoff series.
Javier Aquino (AM), Santos Laguna (Mexico)
Why he's here: After coming on in 35th, Javier Aquino assisted in Villarreal’s second goal, crossing precisely in the 55th for Trigueros to head in.
What this means: It was a reminder of the winger’s talents, even if he could well be one of the Europe-based players not currently on Herrera’s list.
Aldo de Nigris, (CF), Chivas (Mexico)
Why he's here: When Chivas needed a victory and for Aldo De Nigris to provide some inspiration to get past his former club Monterrey and make the playoffs Sunday, the striker couldn’t provide it, drawing a blank despite a number of promising opportunities.
What this means: There are no more club games for De Nigris to impress with Chivas out the playoffs and it looks as though the all-Mexican club won’t be providing a single player to the national team this summer.
Why: Diego Reyes didn’t feature for Porto, Andres Guardado is still out injured for Bayer Leverkusen, Guillermo Ochoa let four in against Monaco, Giovani Dos Santos and Aquino’s Villarreal surrendered a two-goal lead to Barcelona and Javier Hernandez put a golden opportunity wide late in Manchester United’s win against Norwich.
What this means: The issue of Herrera and the Europe-based players is prickly. This weekend’s (non) performances tilt the scales slightly in the favor of domestic-based players and it shouldn’t be a surprise if a couple of the bigger names don’t make Brazil.
Rodrigo Salinas, (RB), Morelia (Mexico)
Why he's here: The 25-year-old picked up a red card after coming off the bench in Morelia’s 3-1 loss to Puebla, which condemned his team to missing out on the playoffs.
What this means: It is easily forgotten that Salinas was part of the Mexico squad that overcame New Zealand, but since then the Monarcas player has struggled first with injury and then with winning his place back at his club. It all points to Salinas being far from Herrera’s mind when the manager is calculating his plans for Brazil.