Mexico’s best team ever could capture elusive Copa America glory

El Tri have a stacked team, but can Juan Carlos Osorio get the job done?

Mexico are good — and not just their regular good, either. This isn’t an El Tri team that will simply dominate most every team in CONCACAF. This is the best Mexico team ever.

This isn’t just a talented team, or even one that has run off a few wins in a row. They’re absolutely stacked, boasting more top-end talent and more depth than ever before. They also happen to fit well together, complementing each other and not being restricted to a single clear way for them to play. Instead they’re capable of playing three or four ways, so they have variety and tactical nuance to go along with a team that is already plenty talented.

That’s how Mexico took the Gold Cup. And the CONCACAF Cup. And how they won every game they have played since October. It’s how they’ve been able to keep clean sheets, score in bunches, dominate the midfield and do all of that while rotating scores of players in and out. They’re a powerhouse.

All three of their goalkeepers could start and have started for Mexico before. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio’s problem in goal is being spoiled for choice.

Their defense hasn’t conceded a goal since October of last year. That’s what happens when Hector Moreno is in the center of defense, joined by Diego Reyes, and the team goes two-deep at every spot along the backline.

Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado have never played better than they have over the last year, giving the Mexicans a pair of ultra dependable midfielders, while their forwards would be the envy of most any team.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is in the best form of his life and a proven goal scorer — for Mexico and now in the Bundesliga — to go along with success in the Premier League and Liga MX. Oribe Peralta, who has 21 international goals to his name, and Raul Jimenez, who scored 12 times for Benfica this season, will back him up. But it’s on the wings where El Tri are especially exciting, blending the experience of Javier Aquino with the youth of Hirving Lozano, Jesus Manuel “Tecatito” Corona and Jurgen Damm, a trio that are among the best young players in the Americas. (Editor’s note: Damm officially left the squad on Saturday with a knee issue, Candido Ramirez was called up.)

Osorio left Carlos Vela, Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos off their team, and some disagreed with those decisions, but they weren’t entirely unfounded. Mexico are so deep that they have to leave off some terrific players.

It’s not hard to see why Mexico have been rattling off win after win. As they head to Copa America Centenario, they do so not just as an exciting dark horse, but one of the favorites to win the whole tournament.

If there is a question about Mexico, it’s Juan Carlos Osorio. He’s had some great successes in South America, but his work in North America was pretty atrocious and he’s never managed internationally before. But El Tri have won all seven matches since he took over and have yet to concede so at this point, skepticism of Osorio is based more in the unknown of him at the international level than real well-founded doubt.

At this point, the biggest knock on Mexico is that they’re walking into uncharted territory. El Tri have only been past the round of 16 at a World Cup twice before and both times were when Mexico hosted the tournament. They’ve been to two Copa America finals, but have never won it. Nobody can question their success in CONCACAF, but when it comes to making the leap and becoming a real contender on the world stage, they’ve been stuck in neutral for decades. Lots of talk and hope, but the results haven’t changed.

Copa America Centenario may change that. With the U.S. essentially being a second home for Mexico, and raucous crowds expected to back them, they will have an edge in every match they play. It’s all setting up for El Tri.

Argentina are the favorites. Brazil are, well, Brazil, and the competition will be tough with the likes of Uruguay, Chile, Colombia and the rest, but Mexico are right there with them all. They might even be better than them all. And now they’re going to get the chance to prove it with their best team ever.

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