Mexico's coach Jose Manuel de la Torre gestures before the start of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group A football match against Japan, at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte on June 22, 2013.
Mexico embarks upon its biannual quest for the CONCACAF Gold Cup with concerns to address and questions to answer. José Manuel de la Torre rested nearly all of his regulars after a hectic period, but this revamped squad will still expect to cinch a third straight title and guarantee at least a playoff with the winner of the 2015 edition for a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup. The path to victory isn't easy – Group A includes Canada, Martinique and Panama and the knockout round could involve yet another meeting with the United States in the final – for El Tri, but they must find a way to navigate it in order to restore some order and secure a seventh Gold Cup triumph.
Can Chepo create some breathing room?
José Manuel de la Torre enters this Gold Cup as a man under pressure. His job appears safe for the moment, but his status for the long haul remains tenuous. This particular event likely won't alter his future with El Tri either way. It could, however, offer him a chance to foster some goodwill. A triumph in Chicago at the end of the month could provide the lift required for the program after the disappointments accumulated over the past few months.
Who can help the World Cup qualification efforts?
The busy schedule in June and the looming start of the European season prompted de la Torre to name an experimental side – plus emerging forward Raúl Jiménez, of course – for the Gold Cup. Chepo's decision offers a lifeline to several players as he seeks to cultivate potential alternatives ahead of the crunch qualifiers – read: that difficult trip to Columbus – in September. This group must find its collective footing quickly in order to provide the platform required for several of the key individuals to thrive.
Is this the tournament where Raúl Jiménez makes the leap?
His prolific domestic displays suggest the Club América star possesses all of the tools to transition effectively to the international level. De la Torre turns to him intermittently with the full team, but this competition supplies him with an opportunity to produce goals on a regular basis and show he offers a genuine alternative to Aldo de Nigris and Oribe Peralta in the buildup to Brazil.
Will the highly-regarded Chivas duo finally realize its potential?
Marco Fabián and Jorge Enríquez expected to warrant regular playing time with the first team in the buildup to the World Cup. Injuries (Fabián) and poor performances (Enríquez) have sidetracked those dreams and shunted them out of the reckoning. Both players possess the talent to influence matches on this level and supplement options for de la Torre for the full team. Now it is just a matter of displaying their considerable talents and forcing their way back into the mix.
How will the search for alternatives in central midfield unfold?
The sputtering start to this year underscored the paucity of options available in the center of the park. De la Torre's chopping and changing in that department creates an opportunity for Jorge Enríquez and Carlos Peña to work their way into the mix with assured displays in the Gold Cup. Peña, in particular, could present a compelling case if he can replicate his box-to-box work for Club León on the international level.
Does the presence of an American duo matter north of the border?
De la Torre named two California-born players – Isaác Brizuela (Atlas) and Miguel Ponce (C.D. Guadalajara) – in his side for this competition. Olympic champion Ponce represents a lost cause for the Americans at this point, but Brizuela fielded interest from the United States earlier this year before he landed a place in this Gold Cup squad. The possibility of a U.S. cap somewhere down the line will dissipate when he eventually takes the field at some point during this tournament.