Copa América Centenario or Rio 2016: Where Do Mexico’s Priorities Lie?

El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio wants Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Jesús “Tecatito” Corona for Copa América Centenario. There’s no way around it. That fact brings us back to the question we’ve been mulling over in our minds for what feels like a millennium: what’s more important for Mexico, Rio 2016 or Centenario?

“If they ask me about it on the spot, we want them [Chicharito and Tecatito] for the Selección de mayores,” Osorio was quoted saying on his way home from the Centenario draw yesterday. “If I had to give the squad list, no problem; we have 23 to 25 players in mind that we would call, but I imagine that El Profe (Gutiérrez) does as well,” he added.

Potro Gutiérrez has plenty of names floating freely through his head and occupying his tactical brainspace.

One has to agree with Osorio and imagine that former futbolista and current U-23 coach Raúl “Potro” Gutiérrez has plenty of names floating freely through his head and occupying his tactical brainspace. Free to a finite point, I suppose, so perhaps not freely at all given the fact that clubs have the power to constrict his cravings.

Take Chicharito for example; he’s been mentioned as one of Potro’s three refuerzos for the Olympic Games, a tournament with tremendous merit and a title that the Bayer Leverkusen man is desperate to defend after missing out on Mexico’s gold-medal campaign at London 2012. But despite his desperation, the decision may be beyond his reach. What if – and this is a likely hypothetical – Leverkusen is qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next fall? Surely the club will gun for glory while willingly letting their top goalscorer play on non-FIFA dates. Right?

Photo by Moisés Castillo
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Not so fast. The same stress surfaces in relation to Miguel Layún and Hector Herrera, both of whom have expressed interest in Rio this August. But when it comes down to it – putting aside club compulsions and everything else – these cracks must be at the Copa Centenario this summer. Not only this, the centennial must be El Tri’s priority and Osorio must have full reign when faced with the dubiously debated and disputed question of where to employ Mexico’s top talent (perhaps Potro’s overage player pool should have a particular Liga MX flair, keeping in mind that there’s no chance European clubs let their guys take on two international tournaments during their summer “breaks”).

The Copa América Centenario must be El Tri’s priority.

Okay, so Centenario is crucial – the key to a successful year for Mexican fútbol. Why? Well, put simply, prestige plays a part. This, of course, coupled with the fact that Mexico may have lost touch with said prestige in recent years, bringing lackluster (read: losing) sides and failing to rise up from the rubble of dead last place in the group stage of the past two editions of the competition, making their participation in this year’s historic event all the more critical.

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Number one: prestige. Number two: lost touch with said prestige. Add player pool to the list, because putting together these two factors yields a need to bring the best of the best, and JCO has been quoted saying that he will select 15 elite players for the squad. Fifteen world-class stars in the Mexican ranks (that’s it), a pool with a relatively shallow deep end in comparison to South American foes Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Chicharito and Tecatito are undoubtedly two such stars (remember that time Osorio said that Tecatito as good as Neymar?), so leaving them off the roster would make little no sense. Given the strategic and almost philosophical competitive nature that flows through JCO’s veins, it seems even less likely that he would voluntarily diminish distinct potential tactical adaptations in an effort to assuage anyone’s disoriented desires.

Mexico plays Uruguay, Jamaica, and Venezuela in Phoenix, LA, and Houston respectively. This is what JCO lives for and what he was brought in for. It’s a tough group, but nothing El Tri can’t handle. He will, however, need all hands on deck, so Chicharito and Tecatito (among others) must feature in the U.S. on June 5.