Here we are again. Mexico has underperformed in a summer tournament and its manager is under fire and it’s all so terribly predictable and cliched.
Earlier this summer, El Tri probably flattered itself with a Confederations Cup semifinal showing in Russia. After all, it relied on an injury-time equalizer and two come-from-behind wins to bumble through the group stage with a good deal of fortune. Then, it was hammered 4-1 by Germany’s B-team in the semis. It was the ninth time in a row that Mexico was bounced from an intercontinental tournament in its first knockout round game.
On paper, a final-four performance wasn’t bad. On the field, it didn’t look nearly as good.
But Juan Carlos Osorio held onto his job. And the famously fickle Mexican federation even stuck with him after learning he would be suspended for six games — or all of the Gold Cup. But in this stateside tournament, Mexico’s B-team didn’t set the world alight either. It did just enough to make it through to another semifinal, and then it was upset by Jamaica’s own B-team on Sunday.
Osorio seems to have lost the confidence of much of the fan base and many of the legion critics of Mexican’s national team. He had to leave the Rose Bowl under a police escort and a barrage of insults on Sunday, according to ESPNFC’s Tom Marshall. Such is the life of a Mexico manager, where even if you do well, as Osorio inarguably did until this summer began, fresh criticism is pulled from thin air. For a while, the big knock against him was that he wasn’t born a Mexican — as if that was in his control.
Osorio, the studious Colombian with the unlikely career path, has been in the Mexico job for 21 months. In the decade before his appointment, Mexico had 11 managers. That means Osorio has brought a period of relative stability, after his predecessor — Miguel Herrera, the third Mexico manager in 2013 alone — was fired for punching a journalist at an airport.
Generally, there are a few different components to the equation of when and whether to replace your manager. First comes the question of whether you think your current manager is no longer effective. Then you consider if you could actually hire someone more capable to replace him.
Osorio, by all accounts, is a meticulous and adroit manager who is popular with his players. He can be overzealous with tactical changes though, and stands accused of rotating his players too much. What’s not in question, though, are his coaching chops. At times, Mexico has dazzled under him.
Meanwhile, would another manager be willing to take on El Tri, considering the enormous and unruly cast of power brokers — from within the federation to Liga MX owners and even television barons — who decide how long you’ll remain in the job? Laureled foreign managers like Sven-Goran Eriksson and Cesar Luis Menotti have tried their hand at it and come away disillusioned.
With respect to Osorio, the fact that the job fell to him the last time around is also telling of his possible succession. Osorio, for his charming self-made man story, had forged his name in Major League Soccer and the Colombian league. However qualified, he was hardly a big name.
And the Mexican federation still seems to believe in its manager, even if plenty of observers and fans don’t. They like that he actually has a long-term vision, and they have, through president Decio De Maria, given him a very public and unqualified vote of confidence. And unlike with other such proclamations, it sounded entirely sincere.
Because the federation, too, must know that replacing Osorio would be tricky. The above calculation, after all, is complicated further by the fact that managing national teams just isn’t terribly in vogue right now. The best managers all work in the club game.
And maybe there is, for once, some perspective that is broadly shared. That the failure to perform in the games that truly matter far precede Osorio. That nobody else has gotten this golden generation performing consistently either. That the ballyhooed young talent coming through seems perpetually stuck in prospect-mode, never quite graduating to finished product. And that the influx of foreigners into Liga MX has stymied the development of young players nationwide. And maybe even that all this pressure isn’t actually ever productive.
It seems that Osorio’s job is safe. For the clamor on the outside, there’s no evidence — and not even any reporting — that his position is being considered. Mexico, for once, will stick with its manager.
Or so it seems. For now. Maybe.
And in that sense, this summer might be different from all the others.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is the Yahoo Sports soccer columnist. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.
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