MONTERREY, Mexico – Both Rayados Monterrey and Real Salt Lake are expected to enter tonight’s CONCACAF Champions League first leg final at the Estadio Tecnológico (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer and Telefutura) with full squads and their first-choice starting lineups.
Here’s a closer look at the projected starting XI for the Mexican side as well as a snapshot of the reserves who are expected to be the first off the bench.
Goalkeeper – #1 Jonathan Orozco (24yrs, started 14 of 15 league matches): Very secure goalkeeper known for his shot-stopping abilities. Weakness lies in coming off his line. Arguably the best ‘keeper in the country as far as playing the ball with his feet.
Left Back – #4 Ricardo Osorio (31yrs, started 9 of 15 league matches): Mexican national team veteran who recently returned to Mexico after the 2010 World Cup. Age has done nothing to slow him down or impact his agility. They call him a “scientist”: he knows when to push forward, when to stay back and when to go in for the tackle.
Left Center Back – #15 José María Basanta (27yrs, started 13 of 15 league matches): The Argentine is a quiet leader of the team. Very good in the air and fine individual technique.
Right Center Back – #21 Hiram Mier (21yrs, started 10 of 15 league matches): Together with Basanta, forms arguably the best sector of the field for Monterrey. Mier has lots of speed. He is shorter than Basanta but still strong in the air. Likely to cover for right back Perez when he advances into the attack.
Right Back -- #24 Sergio “Cherokee” Pérez (24yrs, started 9 of 15 league matches): May be the weak spot of the back line but only because he’s aggressive in the attack. Not known for his marking abilities. Only one between Pérez and Osorio will push up at any one time.
Left Winger: #18 Neri Cardozo (24yrs, started 13 of 15 league matches with 2 goals): Since he was signed to a permanent contract in December, the Argentine has never hit peak form again. But he’s quick and can throw a back line off balance with his acceleration. Great touch and has the ability to score. Although not in his best form, he’s still the best option on the left over William Paredes and Walter Ayoví.
Holding Midfielder: #17 Jesús Eduardo Zavala (23yrs, started 11 of 15 league matches): Has great understanding with captain Luis Ernesto Perez in the middle of the field. Just three years ago he was a forward but converted to defensive midfield because of his technique and size. May not have great vision, but he recovers a lot of balls and does not lose many. Strong in the air and can help defend headers as well as prove a threat in attack on set pieces.
Attacking Midfielder: #8 Luis Ernesto “Lucho” Pérez (30yrs, started 9 of 15 league matches): The motor of the team and does not stop running during a match. The Mexican national teamer and Monterrey captain recovers balls but also has the vision to launch the attack. Reads the game well and dictates the tempo for Rayados. He’s an extension of manager Vucetich on the field.
Right Winger: #11 Sergio Santana (31yrs, started 6 of 15 league matches with 2 goals): Experienced forward with several titles under his belt who can also play on the wings. Tactically disciplined but very busy. The manager, Victor Manuel Vucetich, is his biggest fan and calls on him in crucial moments.
Second Forward: #26 Humberto Suazo (29yrs, started 9 of 15 league matches and 5 goals): The Chilean is considered by many to be the most intelligent and crafty forward in the Mexican league. Typically receives the ball outside the box, especially now that team has been struggling, he’s been checking back a lot more. Creative. Not great in the air but can shoot from anywhere on the field with his left or right foot. Combines well with line mate Aldo De Nigris. He is carrying a shoulder injury that requires surgery but doctors have cleared him to play. Reports indicate that it has made him tentative on the field.
Target Forward: #9 Aldo De Nigris (27yrs, 13 of 15 league matches with 4 goals): Exceptional size makes the fiery Mexican the perfect target forward, who is strong in the air and can hold the ball up and bring it down. Great technique for a forward who bangs bodies. What he lacks in speed, he makes up in quickness and decision-making.
#22 William Paredes (25yrs, started 7 of 15 league matches): Left back or left midfielder. Known for his ability to attack down flank. Vucetich may move Osorio to right back and slot in Paredes at left back if he needs more of an offensive push on that side of the field.
#2 Severo Meza (24yrs, started 5 of 15 league matches): Right back who doesn’t push up but can be adept at marking closely a dangerous player like Fabian Espíndola may be with his runs down wings.
#5 Duilio Davino (35yrs, started 5 of 15 league matches): Conventional thinking says this former MLS central defender won’t be seen in this game except in the case of an injury emergency.
#6 Héctor Morales (25yrs, stated 6 of 15 league matches): Usually a substitution when the game is decided and Monterrey want to lock down a result. Manager Vucetich will put him in to be a third central defender or to replace Zavala at holding midfield. He’s more of a circumstantial sub than one used to change a game.
#13 Abraham Darío Carreño (23yrs, started 2 of 15 league matches): Striker with two goals in league play since January. Not a target forward but used more along the flanks and as a supporting forward.
#20 Walter Ayoví (31yrs, started 11 of 15 league matches): Ecuadorean was formerly the first-choice central midfielder with Luis Ernesto Pérez and has also played wide left. However, drop in form has relegated him to the bench. A recent victim of a car theft, he’s physically out of form and mentally out of sorts. May come into the match if Monterrey is chasing the game.
#10 Osvaldo Martínez (25yrs, started 9 of 15 league matches): Paraguayan may start at right midfield over Sergio Santana. Attack-minded winger who doesn’t check back nearly enough and is going through a period in which he is admittedly out of form.