Commentary

Osorio's Mexico job is safe for now -- but watch out after the Hex starts

The start of the Hexagonal is still two months away, but Mexico will return to Columbus to play the USA on Nov. 11, again facing a crisis of confidence.

More than five months ago, El Tri wrapped up its berth in the Hexagonal with four wins in four games, but little has gone right for the new regime under head coach Juan Carlos Osorio since then.

Mexico exited the Copa Centenario with an historic defeat, 7-0 to Chile in the quarterfinals. Olympic champion gold-medalist four years ago, Mexico didn't survive the first round at the Rio Olympics.

On Tuesday, shouts of '¡Fuera, Osorio!' ("Osorio out!") were heard across Azteca Stadium as Mexico could only tie Honduras, 0-0, in the final Group A match of the semifinal round of World Cup 2018 qualifying in Concacaf.

One blemish in six qualifiers is not enough to dump Osorio. Nor is the situation anything like in 2013 after one of the darkest periods in Mexican soccer history.

Mexico entered Columbus for the eighth game of the Hexagonal with just eight points. After the previous game -- a 2-1 loss at home to Honduras -- Chepo De la Torre was hired and Luis Fernando Tena was named interim coach.

It took two more losses -- 2-0 to the USA in Columbus and 2-1 at Costa Rica on the final day of the Hex -- and two more coaching changes, but Mexico finally qualified for the 2014 World Cup when it beat New Zealand in a playoff.

Mexico has a long tradition of firing coaches, but Osorio shouldn't be concerned in the short term. El Tri has never changed coaches to start the Hexagonal. It's the long-term he should be worried about.

Like the USA, Mexico has qualified for the World Cup from the Hexagonal every time the six-team tournament has been held. The USA has gone to the World Cup with the same coach every time. But only once has Mexico gone to the finals with the same coach who started the Hex.

Coaches have been fired after Game 3, Game 5 and Game 7. In 1997, Bora Milutinovic was fired shortly after the Hexagonal ended and even though Mexico was unbeaten in 10 games. He went to the World Cup any way -- as the coach of Nigeria.

Mexico Hexagonal coaches:
1997:
Bora Milutinovic (10 games)
Note: Manuel Lapuente named coach for World Cup.
2001:
Enrique Meza (5 games)
Javier Aguirre  (5 games)
2005:
Ricardo La Volpe  (10 games)
2009:
Sven-Goran Eriksson (3 games)
Javier Aguirre  (7 games)
2013:
Jose Manuel de la Torre (7 games)
Luis Fernando Tena (1 game)
Victor Manuel Vucetich (2 games)
Note: Miguel Herrera named coach for playoff.

There should have been nothing to be ashamed about tying Honduras on Tuesday night. Mexico had nothing to play for; Honduras' easiest path to the Hexagonal was with a 0-0 tie -- which it got with a solid defensive effort, the trademark of its wily Colombian coach, Jorge Luis Pinto.

More worrying has been Mexico's recent record in competitive matches at Azteca Stadium.

El Tri opened the 2013 Hex with three straight scoreless draws, then lost to Honduras, prompting de la Torre's firing. Its only win in five home games was a 2-1 victory over Panama on Day 9 -- and it needed a Raul Jimenez goal in the 85th minute to break the tie.

There was a time when Mexico was invincible at Azteca Stadium. Enrique Meza was fired in the middle of the 2001 Hexagonal following back-to-back losses. The first defeat was a 2-1 loss at home to Costa Rica that ended a 20-year undefeated streak at Azteca Stadium.

For now, Osorio is looking on the bright side -- the fans have turned on him, not his players.

"In a democracy, whoever pays for a ticket has the right to express an opinion," said Osorio in response to chants at Tuesday's game. "Fortunately, the booing was for me, not for [the players]. And the players feel frustrated for not having the support of the crowd."
Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications