On Sunday, Mexico beat El Salvador 3-1 in their opening match of the 2017 Gold Cup, a relatively comfortable scoreline that hides some of the rot currently hindering El Tri. At the head of the issues is manager Juan Carlos Osorio, the Colombian sparkplug who was actually suspended for the match after a expletive-laden tirade during the–rather meaningless–third-place Confederations Cup loss against Portugal. Whether it be via his behavior, his selections, or his tactics, it’s safe to say that Osorio hasn’t been propelling Mexico to its brightest future. Is it time for El Recreacionista to step down or, more aggressively, get fired?
That’s the question that will inevitably pop up in the coming weeks as Mexico either succeeds in spite Osorio, or falls due to his lack of direction and seeming inability to field a solid defense. It’s a double-edged sword following Mexico’s embarrassing exit from the Confederations Cup, where they fell to eventual champions Germany by the tally of 4-1.
On the one hand, Osorio got them to that semi-final matchup, and he has them at the top of the CONCACAF Hexagonal World Cup qualifying group. On the other, El Tri didn’t exactly impress in the Confederations Cup group stage, needing a 91st minute equalizer against Portugal before falling behind against both New Zealand and Russia (in all fairness, Mexico did come back to win both games 2-1).
It’s up to the FMF to decide which Mexican side they will get in the run-up to World Cup qualifying and, especially, at the big tournament next summer in Russia. If it’s the one that has beaten teams like Costa Rica and Honduras in qualifying, they must feel confident in Osorio’s ability to better their past round-of-16 exits in soccer’s biggest stage. But if the Colombian’s squad plays like it did at the Confederations Cup, or in drawing 1-1 with the United States in their supposed fortress of Azteca, maybe it’s time for a switch now to get players ready for the World Cup.
Osorio himself acknowledges the pressure that comes with losing as El Tri’s manager, saying earlier this year that “at this level, you as a manager are three defeats away from crisis. If I was in another country, maybe they would allow me three defeats. In Mexico, no. Probably one and that’s it.”
One thing is certain: for a country that prides itself on its CONCACAF domination, having its manager suspended for the entirety of the Gold Cup is not ideal. Osorio will have to tone down his outbursts before it costs El Tri more than just its continental tournament. For a Mexican team that looked to be in cruise control just a month ago, that’s unacceptable.