I came across an article here which examines the Mexican U-23 team in the aftermath of their failure to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. Not surprisingly, the Mexico City dailies are calling for Hugo Sánchez’s head on a plate. Normally, I would say this is an overreaction but there is a reason he was canned by Pumas 3 years ago: he’s simply not a very good manager. This is a position I’ve taken for a long time and I’d like to think it’s been proven now.
But Mexico’s problems go beyond the manager. Mexico’s problems are institutional. For the last decade or so, as the countries around them have improved (I’m thinking mainly the United States and, to a lesser degree, Canada), Mexico has remained stagnant. They’re afflicted with the disease of the past: they think it’s still 1980 or 1990 when they could show up to any venue in CONCACAF and win on sheer talent. That’s no long the case. The United States can field a genuinely good team, especially on home soil. Canada is capable of winning any given match. Guatemala is occasionally good, as is Honduras. True, there are doormats but it’s more crowded at the top than before.
Mexico’s problem is that it refuses to admit this. Luis Bueno has written here and in other places about that. Mexican players have lately been showing more class – shaking hands post match, etc. – but until recently they behaved like the emperor with no clothes: contemptuously looking down on those with clothes as if they are the crazy ones. Sánchez played into this, creating (reinforcing?) a poisonous culture around the Mexican national team. I’m going to do something I rarely do: agree with the Mexico City dailies. Sánchez needs to be fired.
Hugo Sánchez was never the right choice. He’s overmatched tactically and, more importantly, he’s a relic of the bygone era of automatic Mexican dominance. Mexico needs new blood. To use a tired expression, the federation needs to think outside the box. They need someone who is tactically sound and a good motivator. In the first article, Sergio Tristan suggests Raul Arias at San Luis or Daniel Guzmán at Santos. Both are relatively young and have good credentials at the club level. They’re both tactically sound. I think the Mexican federation could do worse than one of those two. They need someone who will harness the country’s abundant young talent. With players like Vela, Guardado, dos Santos, and Ochoa, Mexico is primed to have some very good years. The federation needs to hire a manager who can take advantage of these talents.
But more than that, the Mexican federation needs to re-think its place in the world and in CONCACAF. The sooner they re-evaluate and get serious about the regional tournaments the sooner they’ll reach the heights of past teams. As it stands now, Mexico is looking up at the US.