Mexico and the Head Coach Instability

On Thursday evening, the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol (FMF) appointed Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti as interim manager of the Mexican national soccer team. Fans were relieved to see the vacant position filled with September friendlies and a crucial playoff in October fast approaching, but the lack of a permanent solution perpetuates the instability preventing Mexican soccer from achieving its full potential.

Mexico has turned in disappointing results since September 2012, and many regional rivals are gaining ground on the once-formidable squad. There are plenty of examples of underachievement. The team amassed only eleven points in ten games in the final round of World Cup qualifying, including a series of shocking results at the vaunted Estadio Azetca. In the 2015 Gold Cup, Mexico drew with upstarts Trinidad & Tobago and Guatemala despite being heavy favorites. La Seleccion Mexicana eventually won the Gold Cup, but the championship was marred by controversy over two dubious penalties that propelled Mexico past Costa Rica and Panama in the knockout rounds. What is the root cause of the underachievement?

The failure on the field can’t be attributed to lack of talent. The current generation of Mexican soccer players is perhaps the best crop the country has ever seen. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is seven goals away from eclipsing Jared Borgetti as the most prolific scorer in a Mexico uniform ever. Midfielders Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado continue to impress in Portugal and the Netherlands respectively. Defender Hector Moreno has provided Spanish club Espanyol with consistency on the back line, and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa gained worldwide fame with his incredible saves at the 2014 World Cup.

The problem is simple: Mexico lacks continuity at the head coach position. The head coach sets the entire tone of a team. He implements his personality, his style, his scheme, and his players. Each time a new leader steps into the role, the reset button is hit and the players must spend time understanding the dynamics of the new system and re-building chemistry on the field.

Ferretti is a good choice to lead Mexico, and players such as Giovani dos Santos believe he will help turn things around. Few would argue against his credentials. The coach has spent 24 consecutive seasons coaching at the club level in Mexico. His teams often challenge for the Liga MX title, and he recently led Tigres to the finals of the prestigious Copa Libertadores.  However, he’s the fifth coach to lead Mexico since the 2010 World Cup. The constant roller coaster is extremely counterproductive.

Mexico will hit the reset button again when it takes on Trinidad & Tobago in September, Ferretti’s debut. After four games, another candidate will likely be hired and the players will be forced to adapt yet again.
This group of Mexican players has produced short-lived flashes of brilliance before, but consistency has always been a major issue. It’s hard to blame the players. Isn’t it time the FMF hired an outstanding candidate for the long term and trusted him to deliver on his strategy to realize the potential of the “golden generation?”

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