USA vs. Mexico: Where El Tri will turn if they lose Andres Guardado

guardado lineup

Ankle ligaments. The most buzz-worthy storyline for Mexico and U.S. fans ahead of October’s playoff between the two nations for CONCACAF’s 2017 Confederations Cup berth has revolved all around ankle ligaments; specifically, left ankle ligaments. And more specifically, the left ankle ligaments of Andres Guardado.

Ever since the reigning Gold Cup Most Valuable Player, clearly the best player for Mexico at the tournament El Tri won to force this one-off, limped off in PSV’s Champions League victory over Manchester United, fans and press on both sides of the border have been anxiously awaiting updates about the 28-year-old’s status. The diagnosis came down Monday, and it’s not looking good for Guardado.

The first thing for American fans to note before they start celebrating is that Mexico hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Guardado recovering in time for the playoff. The Mexican national team sent kinesiologist Carlos Pecanha over to the Netherlands to help rehab and hopefully recover more quickly than the four-to-six week time table his club offered.

SEE MORE: CONCACAF releases US, Mexico preliminary squads.

It’s not just hopeless optimism. Little has come out about the specifics of Guardado’s injury, and even if we knew more, even the medical community isn’t always well-educated on the topic. “Despite the fact that the ankle ligaments are prone to injury during the vast majority of sports, literature focusing on the ankle ligaments is rare,” Pau Golanó writes in a paper published in the journal Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy.

Skipping the literature and reading the tea leaves, there’s a very good chance Guardado isn’t good to go, something that would be big blow for interim Mexico manager Ricardo Ferretti. “Tuck” now faces not only the question of who to play in Guardado’s absence but the possibility of an entire formation switch.

After trying his preferred 4-4-2 against Trinidad and Tobago and getting a hard-fought 3-3 draw, Ferretti went with Mexico’s familiar 5-3-2 against Argentina to much-improved results, albeit in another stalemate. Guardado is a versatile player who has seen time at fullback for club and country but found a home on the left side of the Mexico attack, coming inside to shore things up when Miguel Layun pushes forward from his wingback spot.

But the 5-3-2, with Guardado on the left of a midfield also including Jose Juan “Gallito” Vazquez and Hector Herrera, seemed most likely for next month’s clash in Pasadena. Ferretti could try to keep the formation the same, but he might be better served switching back into a four-man midfield, especially with the possibility center back Rafa Marquez may also miss the playoff with an injury.

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