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Grasping at straws: Mexico changes course (again), to replace Víctor Manuel Vucetich with Miguel Herrera

Oct 17, 2013, 4:33 PM EDT

FBL-MEXICO-AMERICA-MORELIA Getty Images

After Mexican broadcaster Televisa reported the news this morning, soccer’s slice of the internet blew up with speculation that Victor Manuel Vucetich was out as Mexican national team coach. But with only one report in hand and no independent verification, all news was being prefaced with “if this is true.” Follow international soccer long enough, and your “if this is true” pile will soon dwarf your “this actually happen” list.

It’s time to move this story from one pile to the other, now that ESPNFC has their own verification. Vucetich, who ended his highly successful reign with Monterrey to take the national team’s job, will be fired after two matches in charge of El Tri. According to both reports, Club America head coach Miguel Herrera will be tasked with getting Mexico through next month’s playoff against New Zealand and into the 2014 World Cup.

Herrera’s in the middle of a period of wild success with the Mexico City giants, the reason why he’s in position to assume Vucetich’s post. He guided them to the title of Liga MX’s winter-spring tournament (Clausura) and has the club six points clear through 12 games this fall.  If there’s a coach of the moment in Mexican soccer, Herrera was it before being linked with the Tricolor’s post.

His club also has a number of players who, while not called up in the last round, could be brought in for the playoff,; players such as defenders Francisco Javier ‘Maza’ Rodríguez and Paul Aguilar and midfielder Juan Carlos Medina. Current America players Miguel Layun and Raul Jimenez were called up for matches against Panama and Costa Rica.

The appointment would make Herrera Mexico’s fourth coach of the qualifying cycle, an insane amount of turnover for a team that was favored to win the Hex 10 games ago. Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre managed the team’s first seven final round matches before being dismissed after a home loss to Honduras. Luis Fernando Tena coached the squad to a loss in Columbus to the United States before Vucetich was appointed as permanent boss. The former Monterrey man defeated Panama at home before losing on the road to Costa Rica.

Given those results, Vucetich’s sacking would be impetuously harsh. His Mexico team wasn’t the first to lose to Costa Rica, a team that’s qualified for the World Cup. Though they did need a miraculous, late finish from Jimenez to claim full points against Panama, Vucetich’s Mexico had essentially held serve, something they’d failed to do under de la Torre. Perhaps Mexico still weren’t playing up to lofty (and justified) expectations, but Vucetich’s small sample had shown progress, at least in the results.

Now he’s set to be replaced by a man who, while very successful in recent tournaments, has a résumé which pales in comparison to Vucetich’s. The 45-year-old Herrera has won one Mexican championship, though he’s in position to claim another. Vucetich has five Primera Division titles to his credit. He’s also won CONCACAF Champions League three times (in a row), two Copa Méxicos, two second division titles (early in his career), and has two manager of the tournament awards.

source: AP

Victor Manuel Vucetich won five Mexican titles and three CONCACAF championships, but after going 1-1-0 in his two World Cup Qualifiers, he’s set to be fired as Mexican National Team coach. (Photo: AP Photo.)

Perhaps most telling, when comparing the two, is the time they’ve spent at Monterrey. Herrera coached the Rayados from 2004 to 2007, taking them to two tournament finals but failing to claim a championship. Vucetich, who took over Monterrey in 2009, won five major honors during his time in Nuevo Leon. Of course, domestic records can only tell us so much about international success (de la Torre’s accomplishments in Mexico are very impressive); however, the side-by-side comparison between doesn’t falter the incoming boss.

It all leads to the impression Mexico’s grasping at straws – struggling to accept the reality of their circumstances.  That’s not something you could have said about the Vucetich hire, which carried the impression of a revered boss joining the team in its time of need (much as Javier Aguirre did last cycle, replacing Sven Goran Eriksson). Now, the FMF’s resorted to change for change’s sake.

Herrera may not be the man who couldn’t win at Monterrey — he may have matured from the young man who fell short four jobs ago — but there’s little reason to believe he’s a better option than Vucetich. This is a man whose 12-year coaching career is about to embrace its eighth job. In the face of Vucetich’s success of Monterrey, that speak poorly of Mexico’s decision-making process.

Rather than continuing to look at coaches as the problem, it’s time for the FMF consider something’s broken with this squad. Sometime after the successes of the 2011 Gold Cup and 2012 Olympics, Mexico did a face plant from which it’s been unable to recover, and given the constant has been the players, it’s time to stop placing blame with the coaches. Whether it’s chemistry, fit, motivation, or just a prolonged blip in performance, these players are not the star most thought they’d be. It’s a problem that’s transcended coaches.

But instead of taking that approach, the FMF seems to be adopting a two wrongs make a right view. If the squad’s broken, let’s break the coaching situation, too. Maybe the match between two fractured parts, a technical area as aimless as the talent on the pitch, will allow them to luck into the World Cup.

With Herrera, it may work, but odds are Vucetich would have come up with a solution. He just needed more than a month.

  1. footballer4ever - Oct 17, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    LoL, “El Piojo”? ok, let’s reserve the playoff winner for New Zealand already!!!! Let’s go Kiwis!!!

  2. danielofthedale - Oct 17, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    Adding just another layer of pressure to the Mexican team and they have shown they don’t have the mental toughness to handle a lot of pressure here lately.

  3. hildezero - Oct 17, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    This is why the Mexican national team will never go back to where they were before if they keep this up. The Mexican team lacks mental toughness and confidence.

  4. oquintero99 - Oct 17, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    Stupid move by FMF.

    • footballer4ever - Oct 18, 2013 at 1:03 AM

      It goes without saying it that I am not Mexican, but putting myself in their shoes for a moment, I would feel disappointed they replaced Vucetich (Sp?) for Herrera.

      Mind you that Vucetich’s nickname is “King Midas”, but in no way he’s Jesus to resucitate a dead national team like Mexico’s team is now. However, the way he portrayed and dealt with the press, He comes out as a dignifying/self controlled and someone who can bring peace to this chaotic team, if given the additional month needed to work until the playoff game vs New Zealand. “El Piojo” Herrera is the opposite character/personality than Vucetich and as many great things Herrera has done with America Football Club, a national team is a different beast.

      El Piojo had been salivating for a while to become Mexico’s national football team’s coach for a while, but really, his explosive or intense personality is the least the national team would need right now. In other words, RIP Mexico, because USA won’t be able to help you once again.

  5. talgrath - Oct 17, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    So, can we finally call that whole “Golden Generation” idea dead? Because it is dead. I do think coaching is a factor here, but it can’t be the only factor; I think the rest of the region is catching up to Mexico in terms of talent and the players and coaches just haven’t adjusted to the new reality. The Mexican domestic league and MLS have increased the imported talent from CONCACAF nations significantly, that extra training with better coaches in better facilities against better competition shows. Mexico isn’t sliding backwards in my opinion, they just stood still while everyone else kept running. This should be the wake up call Mexico needs that CONCACAF isn’t the pushover region it used to be.

  6. pjbowmaster - Oct 17, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    I would expect Mexico to start heavily recruiting American kids eligible for Mexican citizenship. Call it the Club Tijuana model on a national scale. The Mex/American kids DO have a different mindset.

    • footballer4ever - Oct 18, 2013 at 12:50 AM

      “The Mex/American kids DO have a different mindset”

      Would you mind elaborating on that more? It may be an interesting thing to read your perspective.

  7. hildezero - Oct 17, 2013 at 10:55 PM

    They are already. They called up an American and called up a Mexican (who plays in Club Tijuana), but who’s mother is American. Which he actually got interest from US Soccer unlike the American who plays for Pumas UNAM. Now they wanna recruit Luis Gil. Can you believe that?!

  8. braxtonrob - Oct 18, 2013 at 3:18 AM

    This is like watching a Mexican soap opera (for me); I don’t understand all the words, but I can’t bring myself to change the channel, it’s just too entertaining.

    Seriously, … I think this is a mistake, I like Vucetich … I hope they hire him back before the World Cup :P … and I hope he finds out that his new beautiful young bride killed his brother, while he was hooked up to tubes in the hospital, after that coma.

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