With Gold Cup the latest disappointment, ‘Chepo’ & ‘El Tri’ face uncertain future

Jose Manuel de la Torre

By IVES GALARCEP

You might think that losing in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup isn’t all that big a deal for a Mexican National Team that is coming off having played in the Confederations Cup, and fielded a weak team that was a stretch to even call a proper Mexican B team. That isn’t an unfair observation to make if not for the fact that the rest of the 2013 calendar year has been one long string of disappointing results for ‘El Tri’ and under-fire manager Jose Manuel “Chepo” De La Torre.

Losing in the semifinals of the Gold Cup, and to a Panama side that also beat Mexico in the group stage, is the latest brutal blow to the psyche of a team that has struggled badly this year, and has looked a shell of the team that won the 2011 Gold Cup and 2012 Olympics so convincingly.

Just how bad have the Mexicans been? They are 4-4-8 in 2013, with their wins coming against Jamaica, Japan, Canada and Trinidad & Tobago. Defensively, their numbers aren’t terrible, having allowed just 14 goals in 16 matches. It is offensively where ‘El Tri’ just doesn’t show the quality expected. The Mexicans have managed just 14 goals in those same 16 matches.

So no, the angst and anger coming from Mexican fans about the state of their national team isn’t strictly about losing to Panama, or missing out on a chance to three-peat as Gold Cup champions. It is the product of the latest disappointment being piled onto a mountain of unmet expectations and fears that things may only get worse.

Take Mexico’s World Cup qualifying campaign. When the year began, Mexico was penciled in as a favorite to top the group. It hasn’t worked out that way though, and ‘El Tri’ sit in third place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, just one point ahead of Honduras, the  next team they face in the Hex. That makes the Sept. 6th meeting with the Catrachos all that much more important. Especially with a visit to Columbus to face the red-hot U.S. Men’s National Team awaiting just four days later.

A loss or tie vs. Honduras could leave Mexico in serious jeopardy of falling out of the top three automatic qualifying places, with a visit to Costa Rica and home match against Panama looming in October. That final stretch of matches is a daunting one, which is making the qualifier vs. Honduras essentially a must-win situation.

Before you go writing off this Mexican team, it should be remembered that ‘El Tri’ has faced tough stretches before, and been able to fight through them. In 2001, Mexico looked like a team doomed to miss the World Cup after winning just one of their first five HEX matches. All ‘El Tri’ did then was finish 4-0-1 in their last five HEX matches to lock up their place in that World Cup.

The 2010 World Cup qualifying cycle saw another similar turnaround. A 1-3 start in the HEX led to Sven-Goren Eriksson to be fired and Javier Aguirre brought in to save the day, much as he did in 2001. The Mexicans responded yet again, rattling off five straight wins to cruise to a place in the 2010 World Cup.

Mexico’s current struggles have felt a bit more discouraging though. Not only because this generation was supposed to be ‘El Tri’s’ Golden Generation, but because the recent surge of success by the USMNT has made Mexico look even worse. While De La Torre’s team has struggled to post good results, and even score goals, Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. team is riding high, heading into Sunday’s Gold Cup final on a team-record 10-match winning streak.

It has been a strong year for the Americans, who are 11-2-2 in 2013, leading the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying group, and have scored a whopping 36 goals in those 15 matches. Klinsmann has not only succeeded in getting results, and cultivating depth, but also integrating a real attacking style of soccer that has U.S. fans excited for the future.

That is in stark contrast to what Mexican fans are currently feeling about De La Torre, and there is some sweet irony in the fact that a U.S. team coach’s success is only adding to the pressure on De La Torre.

It was just two years ago that De La Torre was the coach riding high, and winning, and leading a team that was playing attractive attacking soccer while his U.S. counterpart at the time, Bob Bradley, was facing pressure due to what was perceived as a disappointing run by the Americans, and what many believed was a growing gap between the U.S. and ‘El Tri’.

Back then, De La Torre could do no wrong, and was propped up as some master coach who had finally helped ‘El Tri’ realize its vast potential, while also helping put the U.S. team in its place. Mexico’s Gold Cup Final triumph over the United States in 2011 helped seal Bradley’s fate as U.S. coach, and paved the way for Klinsmann to take over the American team.

Since then, the U.S. is unbeaten in three meetings with De La Torre’s Mexico, and is looking like a good bet to add another win to that total when the two rivals meet on Sept. 10th.

By then, the pressure on De La Torre could reach an excruciating level, especially if ‘El Tri’ fails beat Honduras at Estadio Azteca, the once-vaunted fortress where Mexico has failed to win, or even score a goal, through three home HEX matches.

De La Torre could wind up facing the United States on Sept. 10th with his job on the line. Assuming he even lasts that long.

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52 Responses to With Gold Cup the latest disappointment, ‘Chepo’ & ‘El Tri’ face uncertain future

  1. squirtlover says:

    If they were going to make a move, why would they wait until the next round of qualifiers? Wouldn’t it be better to do it now?

    • Lost in Space says:

      I would expect that in the next week we either hear that Chepo has been released as the coach….or he’ll be kept at least through the Honduras WCQ game. If Tri fail to get full points against Honduras on 9/6 Chepo will be sent packing. The Mex Federation will have no choice. Tri’s fans cannot stand the notition that their beloved team fail to perform…and could potentially be left out of another WC or that the US top the group again.

      • Bean says:

        There are millions of dollars riding on this as well. I expect that there is high pressure from the TV industry right now as they watch millions of dollars slip away. Mexico is CONCACAF’s cash cow.

    • DC Josh says:

      That what I am thinking. The Mexican Federation will splash big bucks on anyone. And now is a good time to bring in a new coach — if they want to make a change.

      One name that is fun to throw into the pot is Guus Hiddink. He is currently unemployed.

  2. Petaluman says:

    Love the pic. Deer in the headlights.

    • Snack Time says:

      “¡Todavía no se armó!”

    • alf says:

      I was at the Mexico v T&T match in Atlanta and it looked like the T&T GK punted the ball at him in the first half. The ball went right into the bench area he was standing in front of. Did anyone else see this funny thing?

  3. The Imperative Voice says:

    It would be an accumulation of things, sitting precariously in 3rd in qualifying, struggling to score including at home; spanked in the Confed Cup and 3rd in that group, eliminated before knockouts; 2nd in their group in Gold Cup, 2 losses to Panama, eliminated in semi. They could probably limp into the World Cup status quo but could you see them playing any better? Tough draw and they’d probably just look bad again.

    I’d get rid of him because his (negative/lack of) impact on the team is clear across competitions and time periods. Tactics are questionable and ill suited to roster. Mexico may not be top dog this cycle but they should never look this consistently bad even at low tide. Do it now to maximize turnaround and player/tactic experimentation time.

    • Mike Santoro says:

      You realize these are all the criticisms we had of Jurgen in 2012 and the first few games of 2013. We stuck with Jurgen and were rewarded.

      • Justin says:

        Doesn’t mean that’s the right thing for Mexico. We dropped some bad friendly results and had an uneasy Round 3 of CONCACAF WCQ, but our situation was never even close to as bad as it is for Mexico right now. It made all the sense in the world to stick with Jurgen because he was putting a new system in place a good year in advance of the crucial matches. We might have been complaining, but we did not suffer any inexcusable losses – losing away to Jamaica in Round 3 and losing away to Honduras to may have been disappointing, but they didn’t signal disaster.

        Mexico, on the other hand, are failing to get results in matches that count, with a coach that theoretically has his system in place and a roster of supposedly world-class talent. Say what you want about whether the Gold Cup “matters”, but it has certainly provided evidence that Chepo is a lousy tactician, and he has guided his team into a desperate situation. At some point, necessity trumps patience.

        Also, it is entirely possible that Klinsy is just a demonstrably better coach than Chepo.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        We were never this bad. The last Gold Cup, before Klinsi, we made the final and just lost the lead, which helped Bradley lose his job. We’ve lost two games this year, only one of which counted, and even in a weaker situation last year lost two, only one of which counted. We are currently top of the heap in qualifying. There was a rough period in 2011, but nothing was counting then. All the stuff I was pointing out is Chepo losing games that count.

        • Kevin says:

          I don’t disagree with a lot of this, but we had some seriously shaky games against Barbuda and Jamaica that gave us worry. More than the results, it was his now abandoned tendency to play head scratching lineups, like playing 6 defensive mids at once.

  4. Judging Amy says:

    Love this article. Mexico’s tears are delicious.

  5. Ness says:

    Mr.Burns voice, “Excellent…”

  6. Mike R says:

    Not Chepos fault that his team was overated. Hopes were inflated because they beat the US in the Gold Cup final against a decimated US backiline and they did not do anything until Bornstein turned in the worst performance by any US player ever.

    Mex also got their hopes up because they won those kiddy tournaments. They should have asked Nigeria how many kiddy world cup champs translate into senior level World Cup wins.

    • Felix says:

      To add to your point, I think Chepo benefited from the excellent form of Chicharito, Guardado and Barrera, and was able to to get Gio dos Santos into the middle with little defensive duties, where he thrives.
      .

  7. Goalscorer24 says:

    Feel bad for the coach. It is not his fault, but I am happy to see Mexico under the magnifying glass out in the hot sun!

    • Beto says:

      How cant you blame him! Poor tactics, poor selections, no motivation or enthusiasm, bad record and numerous problems with key players…

  8. David says:

    Ives, assume that six months from now, Chepo’s no longer coaching El Tri. Was he canned before, between or after the September qualifiers?

  9. ChrisTheLSUTiger says:

    Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, Jozy, Fabian, et al on the same pitch against Mexico? CANNOT WAIT.

    • inkedAG says:

      Looking forward to that too. And have to mention Tim Howard.

      • We will see!! says:

        Howard will cry again like a little bit!@@#@ punching the floor don’t worry Vela is on his way back!

        • CCJC says:

          Ha ha ha….. Boy you guys must really be in bad shape when you pin all your hopes on a player like Vela. Good player on his club team, never really proved anything on the Mex National team. What’s next??? You’re gonna dust the cobwebs off of Cuauhtemoc Blanco? No? Oh that’s right….. You have Vasco Aguirre on speed dial! Pathetic!!!!!

          • We will see!! says:

            As long as Chepo gets fired , vela will come back, and gio and vela together the US can’t stop.. If it wasn’t for Donovan and other players from your A squad you wouldn’t be in the final, we didn’t have any A squad in our team!

            • josh says:

              Yeah, but Mexico celebrated in 2009 when they beat our C team. In the Final. Yes, our C team made the final, unlike your B team.

              • We will see!! says:

                2009 you had Beckerman, Cherundolo, Davies, Holden, Ching, Conrad,Adu yeah that sounds like your C team alright but I never mentioned 09, but we both played A teams in 2011 and we know how that went any how I hope you guys beat Panama regardless good luck no shame in wishing you guys good luck !!!

              • Edwin in LA says:

                Davies, Cherundolo and Adu were NOT in the knockout stage and you KNOW it….they went back to Europe to start preseason with their clubs as it was in late July just like this year. Dolo only played Gold Cup but the other 2 were coming off the Confederations Cup as well so they were never going to play the whole GC. Beckerman is STILL not as good as 4 guys in front of him and back then was NOT part of the A Team….Ching even tho Bradley kept him around is crap.

                Guys you DID have in that Final were Dos Santos, Vela, Barrera, Torrado, Juarez, Memo, and a few others I can’t remember

            • ANM says:

              Shorter WWS: “If it weren’t for your players, you wouldn’t be better than us.” Brilliant.

        • DGH says:

          Awe man, I love it…

        • Ali Dia says:

          This just in… Carlos Vela has emerged from a telephone booth in a cape. Somebody call Jonathan Bornstein– only he can save us!

          WWS– let us know when you get the flux capacitor fixed, and we can all take a road trip back to 2011.

  10. Tim F. says:

    He didn’t have his full complement of players for this tournament so I give the Coach a pass but the problem is they have struggled to score goals and win games during World Cup qualifying.

  11. John says:

    I think that stat that really stands out to me for Mexico is 3 goals in the first 6 matches during the hex. At times it appears they are so worried about keeping possession they never take risk. Certainly on the senor team they really don’t have many ideas in the final third other then pass it around looking for a cross to Chicharito.

  12. marden08 says:

    The greatest generation is nada.

  13. whoop-whoop says:

    3 mos ago a good amount of posts were lamenting the end of Landon Donovan’s national team career, calling for the end of Juergen Klinsman’s and of course there were the ever present string of “what is wrong with US Soccer” diatribes that inevitably follow a defeat or bad streak. Things change SO quickly in the sporting world and soccer in particular is a crazy, fickle mistress….. fortunes swing on injuries, balls take wicked bounces and games cruel turns… the most deserving don’t always win and talent guarantees nothing. Well… today the pendulum has swung in the USA’s favor and SBI is full of sugary optimism, but… if say Panama were to pull off the upset on Sunday the picture would immediately look much different. If Mexico were to recover and pull out a W in Columbus, the doubters and nay-sayers and other roaches would slink back out of hiding and we’d all be back to reading rants about what is wrong with US Soccer.

    I don’t think this is what will happen, but knowing it could makes me not take a thing for granted. I am absolutely relishing how fun the last few months have been and looking forward to Sunday. Mexico always seems to like to do things the hard way, with a bit of drama and intrigue, but I’m pretty certain they aren’t going anywhere…. they’ll make the World Cup and they’ll be back in form soon enough. There is too much soccer talent and passion in that country for it to be any other way. The rivalry, the region and US soccer will be better off for it.

    • William the Terror says:

      Would Panama beating us really be that much of an upset? I guess it would, in the technical sense of the term “upset.” But, I worry about Sunday. We just beat Panama in the Hex. Wasn’t it 1-0? And that was with our A team.

      • Justin says:

        It was 2-0 and we really coasted through much of the game. We obviously need to respect this Panama squad, but keep in mind that this is a team that struggled to get by Martinique and drew with Canada.

        Moreover, we’ve been averaging nearly 4 goals per game in this competition (even if you throw out the Belize game, it’s still 3+ goals per game) and have only conceded 4, so if we were to lose to Panama, something will have gone drastically awry with our attack, defense, or both. Based on the US Gold Cup squad’s current form, we should really put this one away if we play anywhere near the right level.

        • William the Terror says:

          Thanks. We’ve played so many games in the last six weeks that the Panama qualifier kind of got lost in the shuffle.

  14. Beto says:

    How is he still in charge! I would have fired him before the gold cup. So many quality mexican coaches available. La Volpe, Chelis, Herrera, Vucetich, others have your pick

    For all the bad reasons i hope September in Ohio is when the axe falls!

  15. TheFrenchOne says:

    Remember during the 2011 gold cup, how Mexico was tearing it up, scoring 4+ goals each game, while we were losing to panama and generally not playing attractive soccer? Yeah, those memories are finally starting to fade…

  16. Fuera Chepo says:

    Leave it to a Gringo to get the facts wrong…It wasn’t Hugo Sanchez who saved the day. It was El Vasco Aguirre. Saved them twice in the 2002 and 2010 WC quals.

    • Old School says:

      What’s that? Sorry…can’t hear you from inside the Gold Cup Final.

      Let us know when you get a little higher than third place in qualifying. We may be able to hear you more clearly.

      • Art says:

        Yep, let’s point out all of the facts that are unrelated to the current team’s state. And then go onto make a racist statement. Nice job, Fuera Chepo, by exhibiting all of those traits you rightfully hate in Gringos.

  17. Brad C says:

    Honduras is really going to have fun Sept 6 knowing the fans will turn against El Tri and Chepo if they don’t perform. And at this point, there’s no reason to think anything will change since Chepo hasn’t proved willing to experiment or take risks…

  18. Enos says:

    My Mexican schadenfreude is delicious… Mmmmmm. Yummy.

  19. Lost in Space says:

    It is undeniable that player by player; position by position; Mexico & the USA have the best players in CONCACAF. In the past 10 years (for the most part) the US has a played stingy defense….while Mexico was all about the attack/offense. Mex was seen as the CONCACAF flag baerer, and the US was the upstart punching above it’s wait class. More reciently the US has gained ground offensively (albeit by sacrificing some of our Defense).
    While in and of itself this Gold Cup doesn’t mean a whole lot (1/2 award of Confed) for either Mex or US….it is worth noticing the progress of the US team’s depth and youth, as well as the overall improvement of the CONCACAF region. 12 years ago the US & Mex could field “C” teams and still walk through to the final….that is no longer the case. While US & Mexico are still the top teams in the region…other countries have upped their programs/perforances as well. This is good for the region and for Mex & US as it gives us greater compitition which will make our players & teams better.
    I personally hope that the 4 teams representing CONCACAF perform well come Brazil.

  20. Scott e Dio93 says:

    haha….I love to see the bad guys lose.

  21. John says:

    Brilliant