The Best Uncapped Players Yet to Feature for El Tri

Back in 2016, FutMexNation’s Tom Harrison produced Mexico’s uncapped Xl, a team of the best players yet to feature for the national team. Then, in 2017, César Hernández produced his own version. Now, Tom’s back with a new squad of talented players yet to make it with El Tri.

GK – Gibrán Lajud – Tijuana

Lajud has cemented his place as a starter for Tijuana after Federico Vilar’s retirement, and earned a spot in the squad for the Bosnia friendly earlier this year. A first cap will likely be received after the year’s World Cup as El Tri begin the next four-year cycle.

Statistically, Gibrán sits fourth for most saves by a Liga MX keeper across 2017/18, and has been successful with all ten of his “runs out”. Improvements for Lajud need to come in possession, his pass accuracy is below 55% and he’s only completed a third of his long passes. This leaves him ranking near the bottom for Liga MX keeper pass accuracy.

LB – Gerardo Arteaga – Santos Laguna

Santos’ impressive improvements in youth development have brought the club benefits on the field and in the bank balance, and should soon start to positively impact the national team. Left-back Gerardo Arteaga could be one of the Santos products to impact El Tri, as a potential long-term replacement for Miguel Layún.

After making his Liga MX debut in October 2016, Arteaga has played over 1,000 minutes in Mexico’s top flight in both 2016-17 and 2017-18. Analysing Arteaga statistically is slightly problematic as Santos usually bypass their full-backs in build-up play, Gerardo’s average of 35 possessions per match is very low, but for players with over 500 minutes this season, he’s one of only four players to have won the ball as often as they’ve lost possession. Highly impressive, and suggests that Arteaga is both a capable ball-winner and solid ball-player.

CB – Eduardo Tercero – Lobos BUAP

The ambitious, attacking Lobos certainly haven’t performed well defensively this season, but 21-year-old centre-back Eduardo Tercero has made a large impression on many. Playing on the left-side of a back-three with “Maza” Rodríguez and long-term Lobos servant César Cercado, Tercero has put up impressive numbers both in and out of possession.

Eduardo averages 5.59 tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes, which puts him 15th in Liga MX this season, ahead of players like Alex Mejía, Carlos Izquierdoz, Santiago García and Igor Lichnovsky. Tercero has also won 67% of his ground duels, completed 18 of 19 dribble attempts and 86% of his passes. A 44% aerial duel win rate is concerning, but with his ability to regularly win possession, combined with class in possession, Tercero looks like a fantastic centre-back for the modern game. Plenty of Liga MX sides should look to pick him up from Lobos this summer.

 CB – Leiton Jiménez – Atlas

Colombian-Mexican Jiménez has been playing in Liga MX since 2012, so the assumption is that he’s fulfilled FIFA’s five-year requirement and that he could play for Mexico now. Injuries have often prevented Leiton from getting lengthy first-team spells, negatively impacting his performance and development, but at his best, Jiménez is one of the best centre-backs in Mexico. Physically, few are as imposing as Jiménez, with his pace and strength allowing the Atlas centre-back to excel in duels. His duel win rate of 62.1% is one of the best in Mexico’s top flight.

Leiton does make a few errors, and isn’t always great in possession, but Mexico currently don’t possess a centre-back with the physical power of Jiménez, Néstor Araújo is strong, but lacks pace. Perhaps something Juan Carlos Osorio is missing.

RB – José Maduena – Cruz Azul

Right-back is the most difficult choice in this team. Rodrigo “Stripper” Salinas has impressed for Toluca recently, Santos’ Jorge Sánchez is as exciting a prospect as teammate Gerardo Arteaga, and Chivas’ Jesús “Chapo” Sánchez excels defensively. However, Chapo isn’t fantastic going forward, and as a result he lost the right-back spot to José Maduena.

Maduena isn’t as good out of possession as Chapo, but going forward Maduena is fantastic at making overlapping runs, taking on opponents and delivering dangerous crosses. Dribbling is the most impressive facet of Maduena’s game, with the former Atlas man completing 60% of his attempts. The move to Cruz Azul hasn’t panned out well so far, but if Osorio wants to use to natural right-back who’s capable of contributing greatly to the attack, Maduena is the best option.

DM – David Cabrera – Pumas

Cabrera’s been a solid, dependable part of the Pumas midfield for many years. An accurate passer, capable of picking out through balls and switching play effectively, David can play as both a “number eight” and “number six”, as a deep-lying playmaker.

Unfortunately for Cabrera, Mexico have plenty of defensive-midfield options right now, including; “Gallito” Vázquez, “Burrito” Hernández, Diego Reyes and Jonathan González. As a result, a national team call-up is a long way off, but if given an opportunity Cabrera would be unlikely to disappoint.

CM – Víctor Guzmán – Pachuca

One of the defining factors of Diego Alonso’s spell at Pachuca has been his desire and ability to change young Mexicans from defensive players to attackers. He helped Rodolfo Pizarro switch from a right-back to an attacking-midfielder, he’s currently changing Erick Aguirre to a left-winger, and Víctor Guzmán was altered from a defensive-midfielder to a more advanced, goal-scoring midfielder.

Unlike a traditional attacking midfielder, Guzmán’s game is all about scoring goals, rather than creating. His numbers for dribbles, crosses and key passes are very poor, as he usually just plays simple passes, but with nine goals from 38 shots this season, Víctor’s shot conversion rate is one of the best in the division. The secret to Guzmán’s goal scoring, as well as his finishing ability, is the timing of his runs. The former Chivas man has scored all nine of his goals from inside the box, and has, extraordinarily, only been caught offside twice across 2017/18. Without injury, Guzmán would have likely been given his Mexico debut in recent friendlies.

CM – Dieter Villalpando – Necaxa

Forget the attitude problems of old, forget the disappointing spells at Tigres, Atlas and Morelia where he was played out of position, if at all, Dieter Villalpando has, alongside Erick Gutiérrez, been the best Mexican playmaker in Liga MX for the past two seasons. Sergio Bueno is the man to thank for Villalpando’s revival, trusting the attacking-midfielder to play in a deeper, “number eight” role, in a central midfield pair last season at Chiapas. Overlooked at first by Nacho Ambríz at Necaxa, Dieter is now back playing a similar role, and has become a key part of an improving Necaxa side.

Villalpando has all the technical attributes that make up an excellent playmaker; superb dribbling, brilliant vision, good pass and cross accuracy, plus an ability to strike from range. Dieter’s very intelligent too, capable of finding space in tight spots, often dictating where teammates should pass, and he displays outstanding knowledge of la pausa, a tactical concept that refers to delaying a pass or dribble in order to wait for a more advantageous game situation for your side. Villalpando is Mexico’s most underrated player, and has been for a while. He should be considered for Russia.

LW – Rodolfo Vilchis – Morelia

Rodolfo Vilchis may be a right-footed left-winger, but in Roberto Hernández’s more structured attacking system, he spends the majority of his time close to the left touchline, rather than drifting inside. Vilchis is a big risk taker, with just over 40% of his plays non-key passes (under 50% is rather rare). This makes him both an exciting player to watch, and a useful attacking force, even if his efficiency at completing crosses and dribbles needs improvement.

The Morelia winger unfortunately lost a huge amount of his career to short, unsuccessful loan spells with Ascenso MX sides, but Rodolfo has finally been given opportunities with La Monarquía in the last year or so, and has shown his talents.

CF – Eduardo “Chofis” López – Chivas

Chofis is extremely unfortunate to have not yet received a look-in from Juan Carlos Osorio. There is plenty of competition for attacking midfield spots in Osorio’s squads, but López has developed his consistency this season to become Chivas’ stand-out player. Statistically Chofis is extraordinary, displaying both high attacking output and sensational efficiency (comparing successful attempts with unsuccessful ones). With a 60% dribble completion rate, 81% pass competition rate and above 35% cross success, Chofis far exceeds the Liga MX averages for attacking midfielders and wingers. The only concern is that not enough of López’s creations aren’t leading to goals or the creation of “big chances” for teammates, which could suggest that Chivas aren’t patient enough in front of goal.

In this side, due to a lack of striking options for Mexico right now, Chofis is being used as a false-nine, and considering his intelligent movement and creativity, he could generate plenty of opportunities for the forward-running Víctor Guzmán. It’s a combination that we could have seen at Chivas, but will hopefully enjoy in the colours of Mexico in the future.

RW – Roberto Alvarado – Necaxa

When the youngest player to ever appear in an Ascenso MX game moved to Pachuca, his future seemed mapped out. The winger had the perfect opportunity to replace the soon departing Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, develop at Los Tuzos as so many others have done recently, before moving onto Europe or a Liga MX giant. However, Diego Alonso evidently wasn’t much of a fan, and Alvarado was surprisingly sold to Necaxa in the 2017 summer transfer window.

Los Rayos have greatly benefited from Pachuca’s decision to let Alvarado go. Roberto has started 20 times in Liga MX this season, usually as a right-winger, and been excellent, particularly during the Clausura. Alvarado doesn’t threaten the goal often, usually staying wide, but has proven to be a good creator this season, and statistically “El Piojo” is an excellent dribbler, completing 4.07 dribbles per 100 possessions for just 2.47 failed dribbles per 100 possessions. The average Liga MX winger fails more dribbles than they complete, and numbers as strong as Alvarado’s aren’t seen often.

Honourable mentions

CB – Carlos Vargas – América

19-year-old Vargas followed Miguel Herrera from Tijuana to América, and often gets game time either at left-back or centre-back. One to watch.

RB – Jesús “Chapo” Sánchez – Chivas

Chapo is Mexico’s best natural right-back from a defensive point of view. If he were taller, Sánchez may have been starting for Mexico in Russia.

DM – Michael Pérez – Chivas

With over 5 tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes, Pérez is one of the best ball-winning midfielders in Liga MX.

CM – Rafael Baca – Cruz Azul

The definition of an all-round midfielder. Baca can play as a “number six” or “number eight”, provides good energy and is dependable in his distribution, if unspectacular.

CM – Erbín Trejo – Querétaro

The majority of Trejo’s career has unfortunately been wasted on the Toluca bench, but he’s displayed good quality in possession since being given a run in Liga MX.

W – Jordi Cortizo – Querétaro

Cortizo has put together some remarkable stats since receiving opportunities in the Querétaro first team. Excellent at completing dribbles and winning fouls, but Cortizo’s low number of missed passes really catch the eye.

CF – Alexis Vega – Toluca

A well-rounded young attacker who’s destined for national team minutes if he can continue to develop and stay clear of injuries at Toluca.

Post by Tom Harrison: @tomh_36  , Founder of @Performance_100

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