Martino has plenty of options as Mexico gets primed for U.S., Argentina tests

EXCLUSIVE: Simeone embracing Herrera's versatility for Atleti (1:01)

Diego Simeone discusses how Mexico international and Atletico Madrid newcomer Hector Herrera fits into his plans tactically this season. (1:01)

There are no flashy shops, no giant malls and not much to do around the Mexican national team's hotel in Morristown, New Jersey -- located 35 miles from the bright lights of Manhattan. That's just how Gerardo "Tata" Martino probably wants it ahead of Mexico's friendly against the United States on Friday at MetLife Stadium.

The setting reflects the low-key outlook of the national team under Martino. Following July's Gold Cup final win over the U.S. in Chicago, Martino has given only one news conference, in San Antonio -- where El Tri faces Argentina on Sept. 10 -- and none of the players are scheduled to speak to the media before Friday's game.

It certainly hasn't been the usual buildup to the rivalry game, but just 61 days since the Gold Cup final, Mexico will once again take on the Stars and Stripes. This time around, Martino and Mexico boast a strengthened squad, with the return of key Europe-based players.

Here's a look at what to watch for on Friday and in this international break as a whole with El Tri:

Hector Herrera is back

It's hard to exaggerate how important this is. There had been rumors that Herrera was still upset about the fallout from a pre-World Cup party that garnered international headlines. Those rumors were only intensified by his no-show for first the March friendlies and then the Gold Cup.

But Herrera is back, now an Atletico Madrid player, and should prove a crucial link between the older generation of players in the Mexico setup and the up-and-coming ones in the squad.

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Herrera is likely to be the key figure in Martino's midfield in the buildup to Qatar 2022. The Rosarito native checks all the boxes the manager is looking for in his position, combining an ability to cover ground with quality in possession and a high footballing IQ. With Edson Alvarez adapting nicely to the holding midfield role and dropping back between the center-backs when building from the back, Herrera should be free to play in the more advanced role on the right of midfield in a 4-3-3 that he often did under Juan Carlos Osorio.

The only downside is that Herrera hasn't been featuring for Atleti, but over the course of the season, he'll get minutes, and perhaps the lower workload will actually be beneficial for Mexico.

Europe-based players in form

The likes of Diego Reyes, Guillermo Ochoa, Miguel Layun, Carlos Salcedo, Marco Fabian and Uriel Antuna might have all ditched Europe for MLS or Liga MX during 2019, but the good news for El Tri is that for the players who have remained in Europe, things are looking up.

Hirving Lozano scored in his Napoli debut last weekend in the 4-3 loss to Juventus. Erick Gutierrez is now an important figure at PSV Eindhoven. Alvarez has made a fine start to life at Ajax, and Nestor Araujo (Celta Vigo), Jesus "Tecatito" Corona (Porto) and Andres Guardado (Real Betis) are regulars in their teams.

El Tri's record goal scorer, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, is back in camp after becoming a father this summer and will be on a high after his move to Sevilla from West Ham United over the weekend.

But perhaps the most in-form player Mexico has right now is Raul Jimenez, who despite a short break after the Gold Cup has started the season with eight goals for Wolves in the month of August.

Tecatito and his possible new role

Gold Cup starting right-back Luis "Chaka" Rodriguez and the experienced Layun might have unexpected competition for the position from Tecatito Corona.

The Porto player -- considered predominantly a winger throughout most of his career -- has played the last three games in the Portuguese first division at right-back, and it has gone relatively well.

Porto coach Sergio Conceicao fields Danilo Pereira in a holding role similar to what Alvarez does for Mexico, allowing the full-backs to push up and Corona to impact the game in the opposition half from a deeper position. Martino also really likes his full-backs to play high.

Corona -- who had a spat with Martino back in March -- recorded an assist last weekend, and although there are obvious defensive deficiencies, these friendlies might be a good opportunity to experiment with him at that position.

Youngsters making a case

This is a much more mature squad than Mexico took to the Gold Cup, but there is room for a few of the youngsters who impressed.

Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Alvarez (Ajax), Orbelin Pineda (Cruz Azul), Carlos Rodriguez (Monterrey), Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Antuna (LA Galaxy) and Alexis Vega (Chivas) are all leftovers from the Gold Cup and important components of the generational change in the Mexican national team, though it's difficult to see them all getting minutes.

All indicators point to the bulk of those players being used for CONCACAF Nations League play in October and November, which means this could be the last time we see some of the older players this year.

Predicted lineups

It's difficult to know exactly how Martino will go, given that he has named a 31-player squad, but there are likely to be significant changes between the first game against the United States and the second against his former side Argentina.

Keeping in mind that Mexico just played the United States in an official game with a trophy at stake, it'd be no surprise if the stronger XI were reserved for the friendly against Argentina.

If Martino is set to field his strongest team, at present it would probably look something like (4-3-3): Ochoa; Layun, Salcedo, Hector Moreno, Jesus Gallardo; Alvarez, Herrera, Guardado; Lozano, Corona, Jimenez.

Alternatively, a second XI could be: Jonathan Orozco; Rodriguez, Araujo, Montes, Sanchez; Reyes, Dos Santos, Fabian; Alvarado, Antuna, Hernandez.

If there is one thing Martino has this international break, it is options.