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Vucetich and Monterrey: Things Fall Apart

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Being a coach in the Mexican Primera is no easy task. The introduction of short tournaments in 1996 has significantly increased the pressure on coaches, who are now expected to deliver positive results instantly and continuously. One of the few managers who has overcome these challenges is Victor Manuel Vucetich. Currently the head man at Monterrey, Vucetich has now enjoyed over two decades of great success in the Mexican football coaching business.

This season initially appeared to be another successful outing for Vucetich. Monterrey looked unstoppable in the early going, beginning the Apertura season with a string of positive results. Monterrey, player by player, is probably the best team in the league, and before the season began the Rayados were labeled as favorites to win the title. During the first month of the season the victories seemed to come easily for Monterrey -- the lone exception being their loss to Pumas in Round 3. In Round 4 they bounced back instantly, beating Morelia 2-0 at home. But since that win, Monterrey has not been the same team. From Round 5 on, Monterrey has won only a single game, tied another, and lost four. This does not include the CONCACAF Champions League, where several disappointing losses to what many consider weak teams has begun to put the leadership of Victor Manuel Vucetich in question.

Adding to the losses on the field, there is now speculation that Vucetich has somewhat lost control of the locker room. In their game against Puebla earlier this season, the substitutions made by Vucetich did not seem to please the players as they walked off the field. In a game where Monterrey had total control and seemed to be heading to an easy win, Vucetich decided to protect the lead and drop back to defend. This strategy opened the door for an impressive comeback by Puebla, and nearly caused Monterrey to lose the game. Up 2-0, Vucetich subbed out Aldo De Nigris, Humberto Suazo, and Cesar Delgado all in a span of eight minutes. When Walter Ayovi came in for Suazo, both players did not make eye contact, clearly showing disappointment with the sub decision. After that move, the game immediately went downhill for Monterrey. The match ended 3-3, with only a controversial late penalty giving Monterrey the tie.

Since the great comeback by Puebla, Monterrey's chemistry on the field has further deteriorated. In the past two weeks, the Rayados have lost to Cruz Azul and most recently to Queretaro. In the CONCACAF Champions League the results have also varied. Though they are in second place of their group behind the Seattle Sounders, Monterrey has lost the spark they showed just two months ago. A disappointing home loss to the Seattle Sounders in late August marked just the second time in history that an MLS team defeated a Mexican team on Mexican soil. In the following round of CCL games, Monterrey was beaten by Comunicaciones. While Monterrey finally won their most recent game 1-0 over Herediano, the performance was disappointing, and the final whistle was followed by boos and jeers of disappointment from the home fans.

The question now is this: Can Vucetich regain control of this Monterrey team and return them to their winning ways? Adding to the pressure will be Monterrey’s participation in this year’s FIFA Club World Cup in December. Fans in Mexico will expect Vucetich to improve on past results by Primera teams, and better represent CONCACAF in the tournament.

As if multiple tournaments and all the normal pressure to perform weren't enough, there is now an additional element that just recently came into play within the Monterrey camp. That is the involvement and possible overtures from Club America towards their coach. In recent weeks it has been said that head people from America have approached Vucetich, though it has been denied by both sides. In a recent interview, Vucetich commented on the whole situation as being "rumors and false speculations by certain people".

Even in Monterrey's current position, the chances of Vucetich getting sacked at this time are fairly minimal. The team will be part of three tournaments towards the end of the year, and I believe the head people of Monterrey will keep Vucetich on at least through the end of the Club World Cup.

But after that what happens?

The performance of the Rayados in the coming weeks will ultimately determine the outcome of Vucetich's coaching career in Monterrey. If he is fired, it's almost guaranteed that America will be the first in line to bring him to Coapa. America fans and club officials would love to have Vucetich as head coach by the beginning of next season. For years now, America has been looking for an established and experienced manager to take over the team. Considered one of the "Big 4" in Mexico, America has not lived up to its name in recent years. The constant player and coaching changing have led America to be at times the laughing stock of the league this season. Vucetich would not only fit well with America, but he would also add his 21 years of managerial experience to a team that needs a new strategy on the field.

Will we see Victor Manuel Vucetich outside of Monterrey by next season? Only time will tell…