Miguel Herrera isn't bothering with holding anything back from New Zealand ahead of the first leg of Mexico's World Cup playoff. The El Tri manager announced his starting lineup for Wednesday's match and, as expected, it is a 3-5-2 filled with Club America players. It's the same starting XI that Herrera turned to in his first match with El Tri -- a friendly win over Finland last month.
Seven of the 11 starters hail from America, which is not a surprise considering Herrera is the Aguilas manager and called 10 of his club players into the national team. Three of the other starters play for Leon, and one for Santos Laguna. It's an all-domestic starting XI on an all-domestic team that Herrera has called in, a decision that he has taken heat because it leaves some of Mexico's best players -- Javier Hernandez, Hector Moreno, Andres Guardado and Giovani dos Santos -- off the squad.
Maybe the most questionable decision Herrera has made is to start Moises Munoz in goal, the America goalkeeper who has never consistently been a part of the El Tri team. Herrera chose him over Jose de Jesus Corona, who was Mexico's starter for much of qualifying, and Alfredo Talavera, who has been excellent for Toluca, but neither has the familiarity that Munoz has with Herrera.
He'll be fronted by Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Rafa Marquez and Francisco Javier "Maza" Rodriguez, a defense with plenty of experience but little foot speed. That could be disastrous for Mexico, especially considering the struggles of Marquez and Maza in recent matches for the national team. The good news is that all three have played in a three-man backline before, so the change to Herrera's system should be rather smooth, especially with Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar at wingback.
The midfield will consist of Luis Montes, Juan Carlos Medina and Carlos Pena, which was expected after all three started against Finland in Herrera's first match with El Tri. They were as predictable as Oribe Peralta and Raul Jimenez up top -- where Aldo de Nigris was the only other real option to start -- but the mobility of Jimenez and his being an America player was always going to win out, while Peralta has been Mexico's best player in 2013.
The question for Mexico is their backline, especially Marquez and Maza, and whether they can move the ball quickly enough through the midfield. Medina needs to transition the ball quickly, while Montes and Pena will be charged with breaking down a New Zealand defense that will pack men behind the ball. The defensive setup that the Kiwis will show has been a bother to Mexico all year, leaving El Tri without options in the final third. If they can sort that out and keep from exposing a backline that will have trouble 1-v-1, all will be well.
Unfortunately, "if" hasn't worked out all year, with or without their more talented European contingent. So Herrera has taken a chance with an entirely domestic team and an America-heavy squad, betting that familiarity and a team-first concept will out-perform a more talented side. He better be right.
Mexico (3-5-2): Moises Munoz; Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Rafa Marquez, Maza Rodriguez; Paul Aguilar, Juan Carlos Medina, Luis Montes, Carlos Pena, Miguel Layun; Oribe Peralta, Raul Jimenez.
Edit: The Kiwis have released their starting XI as well.
New Zealand (3-4-3): Glenn Moss; Tommy Smith, Andrew Durante, Ivan Vicelich; Leo Bertos, Jeremy Christie, Michael McGlinchey, Tony Lochhead; Jeremy Brockie, Chris Wood, Kosta Barbarouses.