So long Jose Manuel de la Torre. The Mexican Football Federation announced Saturday that "Chepo" would no longer be in charge of the national team, despite the key matchup coming up against the U.S. national team on Tuesday.
The decision comes after Mexico lost to Honduras at Estadio Azteca for the first time in history Friday night, dropping them to fourth in the CONCACAF group table. It also marked the first time "El Tri" lost on home soil in the past 28 World Cup qualifier games.
In late July, Justino Compean, president of the Mexican Football Federation, and the owners of the Mexican clubs ratified de la Torre as national team manager despite his tumultuous tenure.
The catch? He could not tie another game, let alone lose.
The 2-1 defeat against Honduras was painful. The team was exposed in every line. Physically, they were not fit; mentally, they were completely lost.
This is something that has been going on for months. The first sign of trouble came in the first three games of the Hexagonal. Mexico did not win any of them and tied two at Azteca.
Then came the Confederations Cup, in which El Tri left Brazil after the group stage. They lost to Italy and the hosts, and defeated Japan (barely).
The Gold Cup was also a mess. An alternative squad proved that the crisis was as bad, if not worse, than what was thought. Panama secured two victories against Mexico, including one in the semifinal match—the first time "Los Canaleros" ever surpassed El Tri.
"Chepo" needed a win soon, especially after his ratification. He found one a month later on Aug. 14. Mexico, without Javier Hernandez, Andres Guardado and other key players, won 4-1 over Ivory Coast in a friendly.
Although the victory was a confidence booster, Mexico had a lot to prove at the Hexagonal. Finally, the pressure was too much and the lack of strategy and execution buried the team.
Removing the coach was the right decision.
The game against the United States was already huge and has become all the more important, but this was prudent. The efforts under de la Torre have yet to prove successful and already had 31 months to develop.
One of those involved in the process is Luis Fernando Tena, who has been named interim coach.
You may recognize him from the 2012 Summer Olympics. He was in charge of the U-23 team that won the gold medal. The same squad conquered the Toulon Tournament and the 2011 Pan American Games.
Tena, like Jose Manuel de la Torre, is an experienced coach that has won the Liga MX title—once with Cruz Azul (Invierno 1997) and once with Morelia (Invierno 2000).
His coaching style is completely different from de la Torre’s. Tena is a loose guy that gives his players freedom and takes their opinions into consideration. All of which de la Torre did not always do.
However, let’s not forget that he is inheriting a wounded team that lacks confidence and respect. If Tena manages to draw against the United States and edge out Panama, he may save Mexico from the playoff round with the 2014 World Cup on the line.
Will that be enough for him to keep the job? Maybe. He has had some tough moments too. The U-23 team lost all 2011 Copa America group stage matches.
Currently, he is the best pick. He knows all the players personally and professionally. He understands his needs and is one of the few who really knows what is going on inside the locker room.
But if Tena leaves after the Hexagonal, the Mexican Football Federation has another obvious option: Miguel Herrera.
Herrera led Club America to its first league title since 2005 in May, and the club leads the Apertura 2013 tournament, which concludes in November.
"El Piojo," as he is known, is a friendly guy that promotes companionship inside and outside the pitch. He is also a very demanding and emotional coach, whose strategy tends to be very offensive with emphasis on ball possession.
Tomas Boy may be another option. The Mexican coach recently saved Atlas from Liga MX relegation. But not only that, he also took the team all the way to the Liguilla (playoffs). Boy has changed the mentality of beaten-down teams like Atlas and Queretaro. He usually goes for an offensive strategy.
Mexico has the toughest task to date of its football history, and the first step comes next Tuesday in Columbus, a city where they have yet to win.
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