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Young Mexico side returns to Copa America


Jimmy Lozano isn’t afraid of making some tough choices.

In naming his preliminary squad for the Copa America, the Mexico manager has ensured that youth is being served and that means a number of El Tri fixtures won’t be on the plane to the United States.

Ten of the 31 players on the roster are 23 and under with Lozano keeping one eye on the 2026 World Cup – which Mexico is co-hosting with Canada and the United States – in his thinking. It will become evident quickly if Lozano’s gambit has paid off in what should be a very winnable Group B alongside Ecuador, Venezuela and Jamaica.

This summer’s tournament marks a return to the competition for El Tri after not having been invited at the last two. Mexico has participated in 10 previous Copas and has been a force in most of them. Outside of 2015 and an utterly disastrous 2011 appearance, Mexico has reached the knockout round in every Copa they’ve been in, and they have twice finished as runners-up, in 1993 and 2001.

El Tri won’t be in the tournament to make up a number – they’re going there to make some noise.

A midfielder in his playing days, Lozano was capped 37 times by El Tri and competed at Copa in 2007. He took the helm of the national team ahead of last summer’s Gold Cup where Mexico would claim a ninth title, defeating Panama 1-0 in the final on a goal from Feyenoord’s Santiago Gimenez.

But what was notable about that squad was that it wasn’t selected by Lozano himself. The roster decisions were made by his predecessor, Diego Cocca, before he was fired in the wake of El Tri’s drubbing in the 2023 Concacaf Nations League semi-finals at the hands of their archrivals, the USMNT. This Copa, then, will be the first major tournament where Lozano puts his fingerprints on the program.

Veterans missing

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One of Mexico’s most recognizable players, Memo Ochoa’s 150 caps are third-most in national history and the most ever among goalkeepers. But the 38-year-old netminder won’t have the opportunity to add to his number of appearances the Copa. The Salernitana man is not a part of Lozano’s roster, largely due to having lost his starting job at the relegated Serie A side.

In his stead is a trio of inexperienced keepers with only four caps among them and all four of those belong to the same player. America’s Luis Malagon made his senior debut last summer and was the choice in between the wickets as Mexico beat Honduras on penalties last fall to qualify for the Copa. Joining him are the uncapped 33-year-old Julio Gonzalez of Pumas and Chivas’ Raul Rangel.

A trio of European-based players join seven from Liga MX to make up the defensive corps. Cesar Montes has experienced relegation in back-to-back seasons in La Liga, first with Espanyol and most recently with Almeria, but the 27-year-old centre-back will likely be trusted to marshal Lozano’s central defence. It’s easy to see why Montes was enticing to European teams after having led Liga MX in dribblers tackled in 2021-2022 at .783 in his final season with Monterrey.

His prospective partner is Genoa’s Johan Vasquez, who has played alongside Montes since their days in the Under-23 side. On the right, Lozano could turn to Ajax’s Jorge Sanchez, who spent last season on loan with Porto. Gerardo Arteaga, who returned to Mexico with Monterrey in January after four seasons with Belgian side Genk, is expected to start at left-back. Rounding out the backline are Israel Reyes of America, Monterrey’s Victor Guzman, Jesus Orozco of Chivas, Toluca’s Brian Garcia, Bryan Gonzalez of Pachuca and Necaxa’s Alexis Pena.

Edson Alvarez is the straw that stirs the drink for El Tri in the middle of the park. A versatile player that can be employed at both midfield and in the back, the 26-year-old West Ham man already has 76 caps to his name. Just as capable as winning a ball back as he is leading the attack forward, Alvarez also provides an aerial threat on set pieces. A strong tournament from Alvarez can only mean good things for Mexico.

The rest of the midfield doesn’t feature a single player 30 or older, with AEK’s Orbelin Pineda, Monterrey’s Luis Romo and Luis Chavez of Dynamo Moscow the elder statesmen at 28. They’re joined by Cruz Azul duo Carlos Rodriguez and Uriel Antuna, Chivas pair Roberto Alvarado and Fernando Beltran and Pumas duo Diego Lainez and Georgetown, Ont. native Marcelo Flores, who is eligible for El Tri through his father, and Santos Laguna’s Jordan Carrillo. The lone uncapped name in the midfield is 24-year-old Andres Montano of Mazatlan.

Changes up front

It’s up front where some of Mexico’s biggest names and seasoned performers won’t be present and Lozano has made his biggest mark on the squad. Chucky Lozano is not on the squad. The 28-year-old winger, who is in his second stint with PSV, is widely expected to join MLS expansion side San Diego in time for their inaugural season next spring. Lozano has 18 goals in 70 appearances for El Tri, but Jimmy Lozano (no relation) has decided to go in a different direction.

Fulham’s Luis Jimenez also misses out. Fifth all time in goals for El Tri with 33, Jimenez’s absence isn’t all that surprising for a couple of reasons. The 33-year-old America youth product has only made 49 appearances across all competitions over the past two seasons with the Cottagers and Wolves, scoring a combined 10 goals. He had seven goals in the Premier League this past season, but all of them were scored before Dec. 31. Form aside, Jimenez has not featured on a Mexico squad since November, having been passed over on three occasions.

The other key absence up front is Henry Martin of America. A goal scorer at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Martin has nine goals in 43 appearances. Martin was a member of the team that won the Gold Cup, where he scored twice, and started both Nations League matches in the spring, but like with Chucky Lozano, Jimmy Lozano has looked elsewhere.

The five players Lozano has chosen to make up his forward complement have only a combined 13 international goals to their names, but there is reason for optimism. Gimenez is a goals machine for Feyenoord. While he only has six goals for El Tri, the Buenos Aires-born striker has been a wrecking ball in the Eredivisie since moving from Cruz Azul in 2022. Gimenez has 38 league goals over two seasons, including 23 this past campaign, and 49 across all competitions. Lozano believes it’s only a matter of time before he comes good in a Mexico shirt.

He’s joined by Alexis Vega, who returned to Toluca in January following a contentious departure from Chivas, as the only other forward with more than six caps to his name. The Mexico City native has six goals in 27 appearances. Also on the team are Pumas duo Cesar Huerta and Guillermo Martinez and Julian Quinones of America.

Mexico opens up its campaign on June 22 in Houston against fellow Concacaf side, the Reggae Boyz.