Neighbor Watch: Mexico’s Roster for 2020 Olympic Qualifying Announced

After failing to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Mexico faces a steep uphill challenge as it tries to qualify for the women’s soccer tournament at this year’s Summer Olympic in Tokyo. With just two slots available at the upcoming CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualification Championship, Mexico must first finish in the top half of Group B, which also includes two WWC squads, Canada and Jamaica, along with debutante minnow Saint Kitts & Nevis.  Should Mexico get out of the group, most likely in the runner-up spot, behind a solid Canada team, Mexico’s opponent in the all-or-nothing semifinal will be the reigning world champions, the United States Women’s National Team (absent a shock result in Group A).

The Mexico WNT roster that was announced last week (miseleccion.mx) is on the youthful side, with an average age of 25.24 (and a median age of 25.14).  Just one player is above the age of 30:  Midfielder Liliana Mercado.

About half of the roster was uncapped at the senior WNT level prior to 2017, with two players only earning their first caps in December 2019 (in one of a pair of friendlies against Brazil):   Midfielder Diana Evangelista (Monterrey), and back-up goalkeeper Itzel González (Tijuana).  At least two other players earned their first senior caps earlier in 2019:  Forward Adriana Iturbide (Atlas) and defender Jimena López (Texas A&M).

Of the 20 players on this roster, just 9 return from CONCACAF WWC Qualifying in late 2018.  Only 7 players are veterans of the 2015 WWC, with just 4 of those players being core starters from that tournament:  Goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago, defender Kenti Robles, midfielder Stephany Mayor, and forward Renae Cuéllar.

Although the roster is on the youthful side, no current Under-20 or younger players were included.  Only two players are currently playing for American college or university teams:  Goalkeeper Emily Alvarado of TCU and defender Jimena López of Texas A&M.  Seven others previously played for NCAA teams.  Of the nine total players with NCAA connections, all but two were born in the United States:  López and goalkeeper Itzel González.

Alvarado and López are not the youngest players on the roster.  That honor goes to Liga Feminil midfielder Lizbeth Ovalle (Tigres), who scored twice at this year’s Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru.  (Forward Daniela Espinosa of América is also younger than the two active NCAA players.)

The Liga Feminil also dominates in terms of providing players for this qualifying roster:  15 players are currently associated with Liga Feminil squads, while just 3 players currently ply their trade professionally outside of Mexico:  Spain-based outside back Kenti Robles, forward Kiana Palacios (Real Sociedad), and goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago (PSV Eindhoven, where she is currently the #2 ‘keeper, behind Elixabete “Eli” Sarasola).

* * *

From the current training camp (miseleccion.mx), just two players were cut:  Midfielder Joana Robles (Atlas) and forward Katty Martínez (Tigres).

Notably excluded from both that camp and the qualifying roster were forwards Charlyn Corral (Atlético Madrid) and Katie Johnson (Chicago Red Stars).  Corral, who has been outspoken against previous Mexico coach Leonardo Cuéllar, posted a thread on Twitter explaining that she was fully available for the current camp.  An additional omission worth mentioning (Twitter) is defender Ari Romero (Perth Glory / Houston Dash).


MEXICO WNT 2020 OLYMPIC QUALIFYING ROSTER
Parenthetical Key:  Current Team; Country of Birth; College/University (if applicable; links go to their roster profile)

Goalkeepers (3):
Emily Alvarado (Texas Christian University; USA; TCU)
Itzel González (Tijuana; MEX; UC San Diego)
Cecilia Santiago (PSV Eindhoven; MEX)

Defenders (6):
Mariana Cadena (Monterrey; MEX)*
Janelly Farías (Guadalajara; USA; New Mexico / UC Irvine)*
Jimena López (Texas A&M University; MEX; Texas A&M)^
Jocelyn “Joss” Orejel (Tijuana; USA; Colorado)^
Kenti Robles (Atlético de Madrid; MEX)^
Bianca Sierra (Tigres de la U.A.N.L.; USA; Auburn)*^
*center back
^outside back

Midfielders (7):
Rebeca Bernal (Monterrey; MEX)*
Diana Evangelista (Monterrey; MEX)
Stephany Mayor (Tigres de la U.A.N.L.; MEX)
Liliana Mercado (Tigres de la U.A.N.L.; MEX)
Karla Nieto (Pachuca; MEX)
Lizbeth Ovalle (Tigres de la U.A.N.L.; MEX)
María Sánchez (Guadalajara; USA; Idaho State / Santa Clara)
*Bernal also has been used as a center back for Mexico

Forwards (4):
Renae Cuéllar (Tijuana; USA; Arizona / Oklahoma)
Daniela Espinosa (América; MEX)
Adriana Iturbide (Atlas; MEX)
Kiana Palacios (Real Sociedad; USA; UC Irvine)

Head Coach:  Christopher Cuéllar


Table:  Mexico WNT Roster for 2020 Olympic Qualifying

                                                        PAG  WCQ  WWC  WWC
PLAYER              P.     HEIGHT      D.O.B.     AGE   '19  '18  '15  '11
Alvarado, Emily     GK   5'11"/1.80  06/09/1998  21.64   Y         Y
González, Itzel     GK   5'5"/1.65   08/14/1994  25.46
Santiago, Cecilia   GK   5'9"/1.75   10/19/1994  25.28   Y    Y    Y    Y
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cadena, Mariana     DF   5'6"/1.68   02/13/1995  24.96
Farías, Janelly     DF   5'6"/1.68   02/12/1990  29.96
López, Jimena       DF   5'8"/1.72   01/30/1999  20.99   Y
Orejel, Jocelyn     DF   6'0"/1.83   11/14/1996  23.20
Robles, Kenti       DF   5'4"/1.62   02/15/1991  28.95   Y    Y    Y    Y
Sierra, Bianca      DF   5'7"/1.70   06/25/1992  27.59   Y    Y    Y
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bernal, Rebeca      MF   5'7"/1.70   08/31/1997  22.41   Y    Y
Evangelista, Diana  MF   5'1"/1.56   11/05/1994  25.23
Mayor, Stephany     MF   5'4"/1.63   09/23/1991  28.35   Y    Y    Y    Y
Mercado, Liliana    MF   5'5"/1.65   10/22/1988  31.27   Y              Y
Nieto, Karla        MF   5'1"/1.54   01/09/1995  25.05        Y
Ovalle, Lizbeth     MF   5'4"/1.62   10/19/1999  20.28   Y    Y
Sánchez, María      MF   5'6"/1.68   02/20/1996  23.94   Y    Y    Y
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cuéllar, Renae      FW   5'7"/1.70   06/24/1990  29.60             Y
Espinosa, Daniela   FW   5'6"/1.67   07/13/1999  20.54   Y
Iturbide, Adriana   FW   5'4"/1.63   03/27/1993  26.84
Palacios, Kiana     FW   5'7"/1.69   10/01/1996  23.32   Y    Y

Sources:  Lima2019.pe (PDF roster), ligafemenil.mx player profiles, Wikipedia

Column Legend:

  • HEIGHT:  The player’s reported height in feet and inches, as well as meters
  • AGE:  The player’s age as of the start of the tournament (28-Jan-2020)
  • The last four columns indicate whether the player was on a specific tournament roster:
    • PAG ’19: 2019 Pan-American Games (Lima, Peru)
    • WCQ ’18: 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship (USA)
    • WWC ’15: 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup (Canada)
    • WWC ’11: 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup (Germany)

BONUS:  MEXICO’S RECENT LINE-UPS VERSUS THE USWNT

Since the 2016 Summer Olympics, the USA has played the Mexico WNT four times, all within the past two years.   The USWNT won each of those matches, all by a margin of at least 3 goals.

Bolded names indicate the player is on Mexico’s roster for this tournament.

26-May-2019 – Friendly – 3:0 USA Win
(Goals:  Heath, Pugh, Press)

USA:  Alyssa Naeher; Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn (Mallory Pugh, 46), Crystal Dunn (Allie Long, 46); Julie Ertz, Samantha Mewis, Rose Lavelle (Lindsey Horan, 46); Tobin Heath (Emily Sonnett, 71), Alex Morgan (capt.) (Carli Lloyd, 46), Megan Rapinoe (Christen Press, 46)
Substitutes not used: Ashlyn Harris, Adrianna Franch, Morgan Brian, Ali Krieger, Tierna Davidson, Jessica McDonald

MEX:  Cecilia Santiago (capt.); Kenti Robles, Arianna Romero (Jocelyn Orejel, 89), Rebeca Bernal, Jimena López; Daniela Espinosa (Alexia Delgado, 90+1), Karla Nieto, Lizbeth Ovalle (Yamilé Franco, 63), Joana Robles (Belén Cruz, 85), Katty Martinez (Dinora Garza, 85), Kiana Palacios (Andrea Sánchez, 82)
Substitutes not used: Emily Alvarado, Karen Díaz, Zulma Hernández

* * *

4-October-2018 – CONCACAF Women’s Championship – 6:0 USA Win
(Goals:  Rapinoe x2, Morgan x2, Ertz, Heath)

USA:  Alyssa Naeher; Kelley O’Hara (Emily Sonnett, 67), Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn; Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle (Carli Lloyd, 66), Lindsey Horan; Tobin Heath (Mallory Pugh, 77), Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe (capt.)
Substitutes not used: Samantha Mewis, Morgan Brian, Hailie Mace, Casey Short, Ashlyn Harris, Christen Press

MEX:  Bianca Henninger; Kenti Robles, Rebeca Bernal, Arianna Romero (Christina Murillo, 78), Cristina Ferral; Bianca Sierra, Nayeli Rangel, Nancy Antonio (Katie Johnson, 61), Stephany Mayor (capt.), María Sánchez (Kiana Palacios), Charlyn Corral
Substitutes not used: Cecilia Santiago, Mónica Flores, Karla Nieto, Lizbeth Ovalle, Ariana Calderón, Mónica Ocampo

* * *

8-April-2018 – Friendly – 6:2 USA Win
(USA Goals:  Pugh, Horan, Lloyd, Morgan x2, Rapinoe)
(MEX Goals:  Ocampo, Palacios)

USA:  Jane Campbell (Ashlyn Harris, 67)Emily Sonnett (Sofia Huerta, 75), Becky Sauerbrunn, Tierna Davidson (Hailie Mace, 59), Crystal Dunn; Morgan Brian (Allie Long, 29), Lindsey Horan (Haley Hanson, 40), Carli Lloyd (capt.); Mallory Pugh (Tegan McGrady, 58), Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe
Substitutes not used: Savannah McCaskill

MEX:  Cecilia Santiago; Kenti Robles, Bianca Sierra, Greta Espinoza (Mónica Flores, 50), Christina Murillo (Annia Mejía, 46); Karla Nieto, Cristina Ferral (Vanessa Flores, 79), Stephany Mayor, Mónica Ocampo (capt.) (María Sánchez, 60); Ariana Calderón (Anisa Guajardo, 70), Kiana Palacios (Renae Cuéllar, 74)
Substitutes not used: Bianca Henninger, Jocelyn Orejel, Marcela Valera

* * *

5-April-2018 – Friendly – 4:1 USA Win
(USA Goals:  Pugh, Morgan x2, Lloyd)
(MEX Goal:  Johnson)

USA:  Alyssa Naeher; Emily Sonnett, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn; Andi Sullivan (Carli Lloyd, 53), Morgan Brian (Allie Long, 71), Lindsey Horan; Mallory Pugh (Becky Sauerbrunn, 77), Alex Morgan (capt.) (Ashley Hatch, 80), Megan Rapinoe (Savannah McCaskill, 71)
Substitutes: Jane Campbell, Hailie Mace

MEX:  Bianca Henninger; Kenti Robles, Annia Mejía (Christina Murillo, 57), Bianca Sierra, Mónica Flores (Greta Espinoza, 46); Cristina Ferral (Ariana Calderón, 46), Karla Nieto (Vanessa Flores, 78), Katie Johnson (Renae Cuéllar, 76); Mónica Ocampo (capt.) (María Sánchez, 76), Stephany Mayor, Kiana Palacios
Substitutes: Anisa Guajardo, Cecilia Santiago, Jocelyn Orejel, Marcela Valera