The Top 10 Ways for FMF to Destroy the Mexican National Team

The Federacion Mexicana de Futbol needs no help looking foolish. The collective decision-making of the federation along with the questionable moves by their employed managers have rivaled only the actual play of the footballers on the field for staggering heights of mediocrity and stupidity. Things haven't been going well.

However, as any true fatalist sports fan knows, it can always get worse. Hence, I've provided the powers that be with ten strategies that will keep them on the same road they've headed down.   It's a road to misery and self-loathing that hasn't been trodden by Mexico in a few years[1].   Counting down from the "good ways to stay awful" all the way to the "best methods to lock down disaster", my  ten approaches are guaranteed to be terrible. Happy travels!

10. Continue to mismanage call-ups

With every list of players selected to El Tri, comes an inevitable media rush of stupidity. The number of players from each Mexican squad are tallied, and the apparent absurdity of not having teams at the top of the table more heavily represented is mentioned. The inclusion of naturalized players is questioned and scrutinized. The snubs and silly call-ups are met with laughter or derision. And life goes on.

Yet, there is usually some thought that players included on that list serve some purpose. Perhaps they are pegged starters, back-ups at the ready, situational substitutes, or leaders of some kind.  They are there for a reason.

I don't know why Lucas Lobos was included in the team for the last two matches. To not start was strange; to not play at all was downright bizarre. Why call up the veteran Lobos, whose inclusion comes with all the naturalized player baggage, to then have him sit on the bench.

Normally, I don't like pulling players in to the fold this late in a qualifying campaign. The team will be largely foreign to him, and he doesn't have time to build chemistry with his teammates. Yet, Lobos has been arguably[2] the best player in Liga MX for years. His ability to create offensively is unrivaled in the league. He's the kind of guy that when you can use him you don't squander the chance. 

Rumors emerged that Lobos was unimpressive at training leading up to the last two qualifying matches. I'm not sure how many training sessions El Tri completed during this international break, but I'm fairly confident in saying they were too few to make this kind of judgment. Perhaps, his stellar play over years should be a bigger factor. There's no right answer to the question over picking the 'in form' players vs. the players with a longer track record. But I do know for sure that using a small sample size to make important decisions is a bad idea. Calling up a player the caliber of Lobos and not utilizing him is ludicrous.

9. Fire Victor Manuel Vucetich

Oh wait, they already checked this one off. Well done, FMF.

As for Vucetich, for being one of the most respected managers in Mexico, this guy sure knows how to get canned unceremoniously. I don't agree with the debacle of a back four he sent out there. Obviously, I wasn't thrilled with his non-use of Lobos. Yet, what is the positive side of firing him after two matches? Can we clearly point to decisions that Vucetich made over two matches to be indicative of his need to exit the team?

The federation stuck by Chepo through some of the worst times for the team. El Tri were dropping points that were lost from poor play but also clear missteps from the manager. The list to warrant his ouster was running off the page. Everyone knew he needed to go, but he stayed.

Now, the federation can't fire managers fast enough. Luis Fernando Tena, who guided Mexico to Olympic gold, was only permitted to walk with the team for a few minutes. Vucetich had lunch with the squad, but was stuck with the bill. 

8. Hire Miguel Herrera

You are just too quick for me Liga MX owners! And by Liga MX owners, I mean Televisa, as they appear to be the only actual decision makers.

Only months ago, Vucetich was the prized commodity for the national team. Seen as the manager with the Midas touch. His teams had a way of coming through in big games and coming out on top. By contrast, Herrera was looked at as the manager who failed in the big spot. He couldn't get it done. Today, Vucetich is a has-been who is worth brushing aside for the Pert Plus-laden locks of Miguel Herrera. Herrera did win the last Liga MX title with Club America, therefore he must be the best man for the job.

The speculation is that Herrera and his staff are being brought in to use a predominantly Club America-based roster for the New Zealand matches.  It feels somewhat ridiculous explaining why this is off-base, but I suppose I must proceed. Chemistry and the ability to play as a unit is one of the most important factors in the success of a team. National sides often struggle to overcome the disjointed All Star team group that often gets thrown together.

Yet, using players simply because they already play together is simply preposterous. Pulling in random America players because they are on a good team is a joke. Club America is on a good run currently, but this is a temporary run. Santos knocked off Club America a few weeks ago. Perhaps, we should base the entire national team around Santos Laguna.

In my (albeit biased) opinion, there are already more America players on the roster than what is deserved[3]. Filling the roster with Aguilas will do nothing but weaken the team. Yes, they've played together but they will also carry the same individual weaknesses the team currently holds in to the national team. This is a bad road to go down regardless of how desperate the times might be currently.

7. Continue using players out of position

Nothing reinforces the all-star game roster mentality than squeezing players in to a lineup regardless of position. The group brought in to the national team is obviously highly talented, but does that not mean that they should be in the lineup regardless of function.

Chepo kicked off this trend earlier in the year with his insistence upon using 'Jerry' Flores (the offensive-minded left back at Cruz Azul) in midfield. Flores is a great young player. He's a decent defender and can make great runs up the right wing. However, he's not talented enough to be in the midfield. There was a reason he was moved to the defense. To move him back to the midfield in such a big spot was bizarre.

The recent use of Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Aquino also raises plenty of questions. Why place Aquino, who does not possess a left foot, on the left flank? Why restrict the creative influence of Dos Santos by sticking him on the right wing? These players are flourishing with Valencia in other positions. Putting them in less than ideal places takes away from their potential contribution.

6. Continue to give marquee players a free pass

Dos Santos is being played in various spots with varying tactical approaches. There can be some expectation to see his level of play dip a bit from what we've seen with his club. Yet, should he be playing like hot garbage? His performances against Costa Rica (in limited minutes) and Panama (in too many minutes) were mind boggling. He had infrequent play on the ball. His few touches were horribly handled. He simply had little impact on the game. A player of his ability and potential should never have games like these, regardless of where or how they are being used.  I am in no position to question the effort of the player. Who knows what was really going on with the player? But on the surface, he looked like a player who was completely disengaged.

Unfortunately, Dos Santos hasn't been the only player to get a free pass based on stature. The face of national team, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez could not be performing any worse. Chicharito apparent lack of confidence and conviction have been startling. Every match for Mexico features at least one blatant sitter that Chicharito manages to mishandle. These happen with any striker, but the frequency with which Chicharito squanders great scoring opportunities is alarming. 

Hernandez is a great player and should absolutely be given the benefit of the doubt. We are just well past that point. Chicharito's play doesn't warrant his inclusion in the starting lineup for his former Chivas let alone El Tri.

5. Move away from the Azteca

The mystique of historic stadiums are often over-hyped. They aren't fortresses . They possess no mental hold over opponents. They are just stadiums.

Much has been made recently of the loss of the home field advantage at the Azteca. The collection of disappointing draws and hideous losses in Mexico City has prompted talk of the loss of the stadium's mystique. Eh, the team is playing terribly. No matter where they play they will get disappointing results. Yes, the fans in the Azteca have now repeatedly turned on the team. If the team wants the fans back they should start putting out efforts worthy of that fan base.

Moving key home matches away from the Azteca would be a mistake. So much of the team's identity if tied in to the city and the stadium. Taking the team away is conceding too much based on a recent poor run.

4. Strive for instability

Keep changing managers. Let everyone know that when they come in they have one game to impress or they're out. Cut players from the squad for one defensive lapse. Be sure to use a different starting eleven for every match you play. We don't want the water to turn stagnant. Keep it moving.

3. Wheel out another horrendous back four

I'm going to be extremely stubborn on this one. The defense that Vucetich used in the last two matches was a nightmare. Everyone knows that this unit didn't play very well, but I'm not hearing enough about how poorly this group played. They were a liability through the entirety of the shrunken Vucetich era.

Let's start with the monstrosity of central defense. I really am not even sure what to say about Hugo Ayala. He is paid to play soccer. It is not clear why that is. His partner in crime[4] was the one and only Rafa Marquez. As any MLS fan would be more than happy to tell you, Marquez is well past his prime. A competent[5] run at Leon in the past few months does not warrant him a place in the starting lineup for El Tri. He finds himself out of position with regularity and no longer possesses the pace to keep up with top flight scorers.

The play on the outside wasn't much better. Jorge Torres Nilo probably played his worst game of his career in Costa Rica. He was like the rookie cornerback that was targeted by the opposing offense all game. It was bad. The problem is that Torres Nilo was the clear left back for this team. He's been like a clogged sink that has been slowly draining over time. Torres Nilo gets a little bit worse every time he plays. We may have some kind of weird Benjamin Button situation going on here.

The other side is not much better. Miguel Layun, often the target of derision, is a decent soccer player. He has some skill with crosses, some decent spatial sense and moderate pace. He is not, however, a very good defender. Playing in defense, this is sort of a problem. Being used as a wingback, he makes plenty of runs forward. This does not excuse him from defensive responsibilites, though. Someone should probably tell him that.  His lack of being in the right place at the right time in defense could be excused if he was an efficient force going forward. He is not. Layun does make great runs, but he also loses the ball and gets lost too often. He is not a midfielder, so he gets excused all the time for his poor plays coming forward. He gets credit for making a good play for a defender, but he does little defending. I have to give Layun credit. He is definitely a guy who seems to be giving it his all. However, his all is not good enough to start for El Tri. Again, wearing a Club America crest should not give you a spot on the national team. They aren't Barcelona. 

2. Underestimate New Zealand

I'm not sure where the confidence comes from for this upcoming two-legged playoff for Mexico. What has Mexico done to instill confidence?

One of the narratives that has come out of World Cup qualifying, is the increased parity and quality in Concacaf. This makes sense if you look at the final standings and the heated competition to qualify. This story does not jive if you watched many of these games. The quality of play has been abysmal. Yes, many matches were close, but that does not prove quality of each side. Mexico had a hard time with Costa Rica and Panama, but never did these teams actually look impressive.

Concacaf is weak. The fact that three and possibly four teams from this region will be heading to the World Cup is unjust. I'm thankful for Mexico's sake that they still have a chance, but it's certainly not deserved.

We assume Mexico will be so much stronger than a team from Oceania. This is dangerous. Mexico should be better than many teams; they continually are not. Mexico are going to need to play much better than they have in the past year to get past a highly motivated set of Kiwis.

1. Get Jorge Vergara involved

Victor Vucetich is known as King Midas for his golden touch. Whatever he touches turns successful. Jorge Vergara would then have to be known for his 'fecal touch'.

At the federation meeting yesterday, one Jorge Vergara featured prominently.   Justino Compean delivered his ridiculous speech with the frumpy presence of Jorge Vergara flanked over his right shoulder. This is a bad look. Vergara came out and delivered ridiculous and nonsensical quotes to the media about the national team woes.   With any luck, no one was listening.

[1] Also known as the Chepo Memorial Highway
[2] And I would be happy to argue this.
[3] I'm looking at you, Layun.
[4] the crime of playing terrible defense
[5] I'm sorry. You can't say more than that.

 

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