When the Mexico men’s national team takes on Iceland this Friday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, the most recognizable face in the squad to fans of Major League Soccer will be Carlos Vela. The El Tri forward, who was the first signing by expansion side Los Angeles Football Club, has taken the league by storm to start the 2018 season.
Because its stadium is still under construction, LAFC will play its first six regular season games on the road. No problem for Vela and his teammates — so far in two matches, the newest MLS club has two victories, and they came in impressive fashion.
The season opener at Seattle was a clinic in contain and counter, with LAFC getting an early goal from Diego Rossi and withstanding a tough Sounders attack to escape with a 1-0 victory. A week later, Vela and Rossi combined to dismantle Real Salt Lake by a score of 5-1 in a game that put the rest of MLS on notice that LAFC was the real deal.
Vela’s contributions in both victories were immense, and now he will look to parlay that success into a starting role with Mexico at it prepares for this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. Vela is joined on the roster for Friday’s friendly against Iceland and next Tuesday’s game against Croatia in Arlington by a talented group of forwards that will be competing for a place in head coach Juan Carlos Osorio’s starting line-up.
The headliner of the attacking group is Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, but he may not start against Iceland given that team’s physical dominance. Instead, El Tri might counter with a squad set up to better defend on set pieces, starting the more imposing Raul Jimenez in place of Chicharito. Hirving “Chucky” Lozano is also another good option up top for Mexico.
MLS representation in the game against Iceland will be limited to Vela, as both Jonathan and Giovani dos Santos of the LA Galaxy were held out of the roster due to injuries. The two brothers are still expected to be in the mix as Osorio decides on his World Cup roster over the next two months. Jonathan is expected back for league play in time for the LAFC vs LA Galaxy showdown following the international break on March 31, but Giovani is likely out another couple of weeks.
Full Mexico roster for friendlies against Iceland and Croatia
Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesús Corona (Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa (Standard Liège/BEL), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca).
Defenders: Oswaldo Alanís (Guadalajara), Edson Álvarez (America), Néstor Araujo (Santos Laguna), Hugo Ayala (Tigres), Jesus Gallardo (UNAM), Miguel Layún (Sevilla FC/ESP), Héctor Moreno (Real Sociedad/ESP), Diego Reyes (FC Porto/POR), Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt /GER).
Midfielders: Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Jonathan González (Monterrey), Omar Govea (Royal Excel/BEL), Andrés Guardado (Real Betis/ESP), Jorge Hernández (Pachuca), Héctor Herrera (FC Porto/POR), Jesús Molina (Monterrey), Rodolfo Pizarro (Guadalajara).
Forwards: Jesús Manuel Corona (FC Porto/POR), Javier Hernández (West Ham/ENG), Raúl Jiménez (Benfica/POR), Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven/NED), Oribe Peralta (América), Carlos Vela (LAFC/USA)