2015 in Review Episode 2: Attack of the Chon Chon
Any fan of Mexican football can attest to the fact that a roller coaster ride is an understated metaphor for the spectrum of emotions that one experiences in the course of following the team. That full spectrum, the whole Roy G. Biv, was on display yet again in 2015.
We left off this particular year in review in Eindhoven, where the PSV supporters let it be known that Andres Guardado was an integral part of their championship season. A well planned and executed display. It was nice to see. If only other parts of Mexico’s 2015 were pulled off as smoothly as this.
Mexico’s Copa America campaign
In 2011, Mexico was forced to send less than their best thanks to a Chuck Blazer mandated “it’s the U23 or don’t play” edict that ensured that Mexico’s best players would participate in the 2011 Gold Cup, and Chuck would maximize his 10% commissions on the $10 beers sold at Jerryworld.
The U23 team selected had a terrific run-up to the tournament, only for it to blow up in their faces after Chepo de la Torre suspended the core of the side after a prostitution scandal. The side that played in Argentina was a hastily put together mishmash of Liga MXers an U20 stalwarts. It didn’t work, but at least they had an excuse.
In 2015, there were no such limits to the roster, but Miguel Herrera decided to send a B squad anyway. Once again, a group that had never played together were lassoed into service while the A team was getting ready for the Gold Cup. Mexico did not embarrass themselves, but the results and the personnel could have been better. It also did not help that Miguel Herrera, fresh off his politically motivated tweets, lost what little support he had left with some more outrageous statements. Add to that Javier Hernandez’ post tournament comments that he was ready, willing, and able to play both tournaments, but was never asked to do so.
Mexico will continue to play in the South American tournament as an invited guest because the TV money generated by their participation is too succulent for CONMEBOL to pass up. But Mexico has to decide how best to play the tournament. A B side is an insult to CONMEBOL, even if the A side’s European clubs would not allow their players to double dip. The most logical thing to do, then, is to send a U23 with a handful of pros. Give the young guns a showcase for their considerable skills.
Most Underrated Coach
Raul “Potro” Gutierrez
He led one U17 to a World Cup title and another to the final. The natural progression was for Raul “Potro” Gutierrez to take charge of the U20 teams. He did not, and they were not able to match the results they achieved one level below. Instead he jumped a level, and led Mexico to their 2nd straight win in CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifying tournament. He is poised to take a team that may be more talented than the one that won Gold in London 4 years ago to Rio.
Yet anyone who has had the need to hire a coach over the past few months doesn’t have Potro’s digits. He has not gotten a sniff at any of the numerous openings that pop up like mushrooms around Liga MX. He was not considered when Mexico needed an interim (or permanent) National team. His current gig takes into next summer, but there is no reason why he can’t moonlight, at say, Morelia in the time being.
Whoever does take that chance won’t be disappointed.
Coach with most Pressure
Juan Carlos Osorio / Iganacio Ambriz
No surprises here. The former has stepped into a cauldron that is perpetually boiling. The latter had his motives questioned by his boss during his last game of import, a loss to Chinese club and Asian champion, Guangzou. Both have no choice but to respond with results in 2015.
Juan Carlos Osorio got off on the wrong foot with the Mexican media just by being announced as Mexico’s national team coach. And then when he had the nerve to talk about tactics, the media tried to paint him as an intellectually pompous brainiac. There is always a fatal flaw with Mexico’s coaches according to the media. Hugo Sanchez was too ambitious, while Javier Aguirre was not ambitious enough. Miguel Herrera was as educated as they were, so he did not deserve the position he had attained. Osorio is too educated, and, worse, a Colombian. Nothing he does will be good enough, wins will be discarded and losses will be indictments that will only add to the chorus of talking heads who want to fire the guy yesterday.
And he was one of the few who wanted the gig.
Nacho Ambriz has the players to contend for another title at Club America, and will have front office support as long as he keeps winning, or avoids blundering his way to a loss. He did so in the Liga MX Semis, when down to 9 men, did not sit back and absorb what little pressure Pumas was providing. And over in Japan, he inexplicably ceded momentum to the Chinese side, and paid the ultimate price.
America will have defeats, but will the other team beat them, or will they hand them the win on a silver platter. If Ambriz can avoid the latter, he should stick around.
Why don’t you stick around, we have a few more chapters to go.