Mexico's November friendlies will be a litmus test for Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico's goalkeepers
Scanning the Mexican national team, it's easy to spot the much-needed generational change that is beginning to take place. While a few older and more experienced names are gradually losing their relevance, intriguing new options such as Roberto Alvarado, Diego Lainez, Victor Guzman, Erick Gutierrez and a handful of others have started to make an impact.
Following another disappointing World Cup exit in the round of 16, changes like these are necessary to make improvements. Although Mexico will still have to rely on several veterans that were included in the latest 2018 Russia roster, a number of positions will continue to require some crucial alterations. For example, a new crop of strikers, defensive midfielders and central defenders would vastly help the depth of Mexico's squad in the near future.
But what about the goalkeeping position?
In recent years, there have been no doubts that Guillermo Ochoa is Mexico's best choice in net. Due to his European experience at club level, and his noteworthy World Cup appearances for the national team in 2014 and 2018, Ochoa easily stands out amongst his peers. In fact, when Qatar 2022 rolls around, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see the 33-year-old remain the strongest goalkeeping candidate for El Tri.
And yet, despite his significance for Mexico, the Standard Liege star could benefit from a strong performance to help solidify his unquestioned starting spot. With plenty of young players now being given opportunities in recent friendlies -- three of which were goalkeepers under the age of 30 -- Ochoa should be motivated to highlight his capabilities in either of November's friendlies against Argentina on the 16th and 20th.
With two games set against the South American giants in Cordoba and Mendoza, Ochoa will likely be given at least one start for Mexico this month. In an intimidating atmosphere outside of the comforts of the CONCACAF region, the goalkeeper will have a high-profile opportunity to not only showcase his talent and world-class reflexes, but also his leadership as the player with the most international caps (96) from El Tri's latest call-up list.
Of course, when discussing goalkeepers this month, the focus should be on more than just Ochoa.
A couple of adept backups will also be in the running for minutes during the international break: Cruz Azul's Jesus Corona and Necaxa's Hugo Gonzalez. On paper, they represent the two best alternatives for Mexico in net. While the 37-year-old Corona is having a brilliant Liga MX revival, the 28-year-old Gonzalez has been one of the more reliable goalkeepers in the league. As for Gonzalez, it also must be noted that he appears to be on the rise for Mexico over the last couple of months.
Although the national team has yet to find a successor to Juan Carlos Osorio, interim manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti has done plenty to help boost the awareness of Gonzalez's potential with starts during the friendlies on Sept. 11 vs. the United States and Oct. 16 vs. Chile. Looking back at the game against Chile, the goalkeeper shined with impressive saves that held La Roja to just one goal in the 1-0 Mexico defeat. Were it not for Gonzalez, Mexico could have easily stumbled to a harsher scoreline against the Chileans.
Let's not forget Corona either. Once seen as an aging and weathered option that was past his prime, the long-time Cruz Azul player has recently gone through a renaissance late in his career. Now as a leader in arguably the best team in Mexico's first division, it's difficult to ignore the perennial national team backup. The fact that Corona has more clean sheets than any other Liga MX goalkeeper this season highlights that point.
Now, as we head into the international break and El Tri prepares for the two alluring friendlies, one big question remains: Who will play in net?
Whether it be through a start or a second-half appearance, the friendlies against Argentina should do plenty to help clear up some discussions that surround Mexico's current goalkeeping selection. Regardless of the fact that it has proven to be rash to make judgements from a long list of Mexico friendlies in the past, the two matches this month will undeniably be a litmus test for Ochoa, Corona and Gonzalez.