Five Mexico players with the most to prove against Honduras, Panama

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico -- There's a reason Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera has called exactly 22 players into both his post-World Cup squads. Over the next two friendlies against Honduras and Panama, the cult World Cup favorite is set to name two separate starting XIs and he wants all the players to get meaningful playing time.

The thinking is obvious. Herrera has stated in recent weeks that he will be choosing different squads for next summer's Copa America and Gold Cup. "El Piojo" needs players, lots of them, for next summer and even this far out from the tournaments, he's trying to chisel away at two sides that can represent Mexico positively in both.

With the Gold Cup offering the pass to a playoff against the United States for a Confederations Cup spot, it will naturally be the priority, but Herrera will also look to avoid Mexico's dire performance in the 2011 Copa America. Other Mexico managers -- most notably Hugo Sanchez -- have suffered majorly for not producing results in tournaments that don't feature a full first team. Herrera seems to realize that.

Places are up for grabs starting now, with players who impress also potentially moving up in Herrera's mind from the Copa America to the Gold Cup.

Certain positions are especially competitive, like defensive midfield, goalkeeper and the center backs, while others seem to be well covered. It is unlikely at present that Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado, for example, will be dropped if they continue their current form for club and country, especially considering the positive World Cups both had.

All players in international matches naturally have to prove themselves over and over, but here are five Mexicans that could really do with shining over the coming days.

Javier Hernandez

It might seem odd to include "Chicharito" in this list, considering he has 36 goals in 66 matches for El Tri at just 26 years old. Yet he has started just two matches since Herrera took control of the team and has to be considered one of the players on the outside of this team looking in, despite being a Real Madrid player.

Raul Jimenez, Oribe Peralta and Giovani Dos Santos are the strongest competitors for Hernandez's spot and the upcoming games represent a chance to get his national team career back on the right path after a poor last 12 months in a Mexico shirt.

A couple of goals and good performances against a CONCACAF rival would help Hernandez show Herrera he can no longer be overlooked, even if he isn't getting the desired amount of minutes at club level.

Javier Guemez

Guemez's stock is on the rise. The 22-year-old Tijuana player has broken out and become one of the most consistent holding midfielders in the Liga MX. And he only made his debut 14 months ago.

Antonio Rios, Jonathan Dos Santos and Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez are the immediate competition, but there is still the feeling that no-one has nailed down that defensive midfield spot and the door is open for one of them to grow into it and make it his own.

Oswaldo Alanis

This is a little bit like the Guemez situation. Julio Cesar "Cata" Dominguez is a well-known Liga MX quantity and will provide a solid presence, although there is a question mark about whether he has the quality at international level.

Alanis has that little bit of extra quality and even when he was playing for Estudiantes Tecos there were gentle whispers about the player having the talent to move over to Europe one day. The Santos Laguna player is left footed -- a type of player Mexico has struggled to find in defense with Hector Moreno injured -- and could soon be a regular.

Nevertheless, Alanis didn't have the ideal debut for Mexico and has struggled a little in recent weeks for Santos, only emphasizing the need to make a statement this time around.

Guillermo Ochoa

No one is likely to admit it in the Mexico camp, but there is a contradiction between Herrera's rhetoric ahead of the World Cup about players needing to play at their clubs to get in his El Tri squads and his staunch defense of calling up Ochoa last month.

It was in many ways understandable considering Ochoa's exceptional World Cup, but the question remains: How long Herrera can call up a goalkeeper that is simply not playing at his club Malaga?

That debate would intensify if Ochoa were to put in sub-par performances, especially with Alfredo Talavera in excellent form for Toluca.

The simple fact remains that Ochoa needs to be playing regularly in Spain to be in top form when the important games swing round for Mexico.

Hugo Ayala

Once pinpointed as one of the natural successors to the Carlos Salcido-Francisco Rodriguez-Rafa Marquez generation of Mexican defenders, Ayala was one of the regulars that was least culpable for El Tri's Brazil 2014 qualification nightmare.

Nevertheless, he was ditched by Herrera ahead of the World Cup as Marquez and Salcido returned and Rodriguez also held his position. Now with another chance to impress Herrera, Ayala has experience in the bank and if he shows the quality he regularly has with Tigres, there is little reason to think he can't once again become a starter for Mexico. But that starts with impressing Herrera with his ability to adapt to a 5-3-2 system in matches and on the training field.