13 de Noviembre del 2016 11:19 pm.
*Editor's note: Parts of this interview have been modified when translated into English.
After a successful 2016 of camps and international tournaments, Mexico's Under 20 team - which includes a large bulk of players from the 2015 U17 World Cup cycle and five players from Santos Laguna - is inching closer and closer to 2017's World Cup qualifying games in Costa Rica, set to take place in February.
Mexico's youth categories are valiant defenders of the most recent CONCACAF titles, earning the title of Champion among the U17 and U20 in the last 2 years. Now, under head coach Marco Antonio Ruiz, our five Guerreros and the rest of their team will embark on another journey where they'll look to maintain championship status as kings of CONCACAF in their division.
Club Santos Laguna reached out to coach Ruiz - who himself has played with Mexico on the international stage, and with Chivas and Tigres at the club level - to get a better idea of how things work within the federation, what they look for when scouting within Mexico, and why he continues to rely on our Guerreros.
You said recently in an interview that your objective is always to train and play among the best. What can you tell us about how you’re applying that to this generation of U20 players?
We came together with our youth national team project and the goal really is first to qualify for the World Cup in the U20 category. The qualifiers are going to be in Costa Rica in 2017. As we all know, Mexico’s national team is not only looking to compete and in this case pass to the World Cup, but to seek the highest goal which is to win the draw. Mexico is the defending champion of CONCACAF and we are looking to repeat. For that, we have prepared throughout the year, competing in international tours with important teams and so far I think we have achieved a very good balance. They’ve played in several tours in which they have 11 victories, five draws and a single defeat, but at the end of the day it is preparation. We plan to end the year with one more camp, with two important games against a prestigious team like this Brazilian one.
*At the time of this interview, the Mexico U20 team hadn’t yet participated in the two friendlies against Brazil’s U20 team. To date, after a 1-0 loss and 2-1 win, where Santos forward Eduardo Aguirre scored the game winning goal, this generation of Mexico U20 has 12 victories, five draws, and two losses.
Do you see some players on your team who have a promising future, or the potential to be among the next generation of best Mexican players?
Well, that's the idea. This is a category where some of them have reached that point already. Most of them can say that they are already training with their first teams. Players at Santos Laguna are training and have made pre-season with the first team and some of them have already made their debuts in first division, like Jorge Sánchez and Ronaldo Cisneros. I believe in the next few months the boys will find their places in first division and we’ll be delighted for that, and I hope their teams will continue to lend them to us.
How does the Federation follow youth development programs within each team?
We have several departments. There is a general coordination of youth players that is directed by Denis te Klose, and on the sports side, the technical and tactical coordination is carried out by Juan Carlos Ortega. He is in charge of structuring the technical body (coaching staff), of the teams in the process of their World Cups – in this case the U17 and U20. Also, there are the intermediate teams who don’t have official participation, but there’s a process for them as well. Also within this area is a coordination of scouting in which we participate when there are no camps. We send scouts in Mexico and even the United States to find talent that can contribute to our national teams. Being in Mexico, fortunately the clubs have helped us a lot with that part because they work so well in their Fuerzas Basicas/youth teams.
What can you tell us about how the Fuerzas Basicas are perceived at Santos Laguna?
The fact that we have five players (from Santos) says they are doing something interesting and something very good. Santos, in the most recent camps (for the U20) and together with Pachuca and Chivas contribute the most players to our U20 national team. It seems to me that they’re working well and that these players have had the opportunity to play in the first division is the important thing. Now with the arrival of José Manuel (de la Torre), they will be reinforced. I know José Manuel well as a technician who has been with the national team; he knows it’s important for the Mexican player to develop.
And what are the characteristics that Ronaldo, Lalo, Uriel, Kevin, and Jorge offer that you continue to rely on them?
Each one has interesting characteristics according to the position in which they develop. Both Aguirre and Cisneros are players with the profile we look for in forwards: dynamic, not so static but have mobility, who know how to play on ball, and who have a presence in the area, especially (around the) goal, which is fundamental in this sport. In the case of Uriel Antuna and Kevin Lara, they are two players that give me much breadth, a lot of depth, imbalance. A characteristic of the Mexican player is a very resistant player, with a lot of dynamics and with a lot of skill. These two meet those requirements. Jorge Sánchez is also a player with an important dynamic , who can go back and forward adding to the attack. We have also been following (Gerardo) Arteaga, who is a left-back, and also has interesting things and is participating in the first division. Hopefully at some point we can start following him more closely.
Do you have any plans to train here at TSM before the qualifiers, like the U17 did before the World Cup in 2015?
We are in that stage of planning already after this camp. We’ll travel with the coordinators to Costa Rica for the pre-World Cup draw on November 29. After that, we’ll plan from the draw on January 2. Surely with Carlos Ortega and Denis, together with our coordinators, we’ll determine what’s best for us at that stage. Other youth teams have prepared at Santos and we find quality not only in the facilities, but it’s very open. There are people there such as Jose Manuel (de la Torre), Professor Guillermo Hernandez, and Benjamín Galindo himself, who were partners of mine with Mexico as players and with whom I have much confidence.