When Mexico faces off against Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago in World Cup qualifiers this month, manager Juan Carlos Osorio will be without the likes of several key players. Due to injury problems and recent recoveries, the following stars will be absent: Hirving Lozano, Giovani dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Jesus "Tecatito" Corona, Javier Aquino and, most recently, Andres Guardado.
Although this list is a worrying one for El Tri supporters, Osorio fortunately has several other options who now have a big opportunity to shine.
Here are five backup and fringe candidates who have the talents to help Mexico fans forget about injury woes.
Jesus Gallardo, MF, Pumas
Mexico needs a wild card in the "Tecatito" mold who can instantly change the outcome of any game. Despite his lack of serious experience with the national team, Gallardo is an ideal name in Tecatito's spot as a left-winger or left-sided midfielder.
Since late last year, the speedy 22-year-old has taken charge of Pumas' left flank with a string of surprisingly confident performances. Gallardo is a risk taker, one that Mexico might need against opposition that will be more than willing to sit back during qualifiers. At the very least, Osorio should consider Gallardo as a kickstart in the attack as a second half substitute for El Tri.
Orbelin Pineda, MF, Chivas
Following Guardado's injury, Osorio will need to shift around and reconsider his midfield. One name that might be able to get some serious minutes as a result is Pineda.
The well-rounded 20-year-old has the talents to take charge in several different positions within Mexico's midfield and attack. Although he may not be able to earn a starting spot over Hector Herrera, Pineda still has an impressive amount of pace, distribution and ball control that should grab Osorio's attention.
The Chivas player is a national team star in the making and during the next two El Tri matches, we might get a chance to see him show off his noteworthy potential.
Luis Montes, MF, Leon
No Guardado, no Giovani dos Santos and no Erick Gutierrez. Is this an opportunity for Luis Montes?
The Leon player was a questionable call-up for the national team but with plenty of recent injuries influencing roster selection, Montes now has a golden chance to silence his doubters. Keep in mind that the 30-year-old midfielder hasn't been at his best in the current Liga MX season and has yet to return to his heights reached a few years ago. That said, the hard-working veteran might be able to turn some heads with his passing and shots from distance for the national team.
Jurgen Damm, DF/MF, Tigres
Like Pineda, Osorio's shifting of his squad might lead to a starting role for Damm. If the manager is looking to overload his starting XI with attacking names, Damm should easily be able to squeeze into a place on the right flank either in defense or midfield.
By now, almost every Mexican soccer fan is aware of his blistering pace, which makes him the fastest in El Tri's roster. Coupled with his exceptional dribbling, Damm is set to help take over an attack missing numerous major players. The 24-year-old, who has recently made gradual progress with his defensive game, is also an intriguing option as a potential right-wing-back.
Jonathan dos Santos, MF, Villarreal
With Guardado gone, Dos Santos is the natural replacement in that starting role. Whether serving as a central or attack-minded midfielder, the Villarreal player has the know-how and understanding to govern and dictate the pace of the match.
Dos Santos is as brilliant with his passing as he is dangerous with his free kicks. On set pieces, Mexico fans will need to keep an eye on the player who is highly accurate with his crosses. The Barcelona product may have already had a spot in the starting XI beforehand, but with several prominent players missing, plenty of the responsibility going forward will land on the shoulders of the 26-year-old.