Coaching a national team is like no other role in the sport. It can either lead to heaps of praise and glory or vicious and relentless attacks unrivaled in sport. For the most part, neither are usually deserved to the extent that they're handed out. With such little time in preparation for matches that carry so much weight, managers have much less impact on the course of the team than most seem to believe. If players play poorly, they are judged to be put in the wrong position. Not choosing player A and calling up the dreadful player B is seen as a nightmare, even though neither are likely to play. I can't remember the last time a national team manager actually made what was generally accepted as the correct substitutions. These guys generally can't get it right, without a trophy of course.
Some of the decisions that Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre has made during his tenure at the helm of El Tri have made taking this stance of outrage a bit easier. Some of his errors have been blatantly obvious and his decisions go against the common grain of thought of most Mexico supporters.
Yet, instead of calling for the man's head (or forcing him to take the black), I've decided to show him mercy. Chepo could obviously use a little assistance. Hence, I provide this helpful checklist of Do's and Don'ts to guide the man through the upcoming set of World Cup Qualifiers.
Stick to your guns
A manager needs to have beliefs. They could be terribly misguided, but they must be present. Starting with the matches against Costa Rice last year in the earlier round of qualifying, Chepo pulled out the 4-4-2 formation. Much to the chagrin of nearly everyone with a keyboard, Chepo stuck with this formation through the majority of Mexico's matches.
The common thought is that Chicharito can't function with another striker (especially Oribe Peralta) paired alongside him at the front. The thought is that Giovani Dos Santos needs to take that spot and play the traditional 'number 10' role. On the surface, that makes sense. However, it can't be viewed as a cure-all. Moving to this formation hasn't always panned out in the past. Coming in as the prohibitive favorite for all of the upcoming matches means that Mexico will also be facing some highly defensive looking sides. Mexico will need to create more shots and not just accumulate possession. One formation isn't exactly the answer as much as positive interaction between those in the final third. The players need to put the ball in the back of the net. The chances are always there.
Sort out the central midfield
To be honest, I'm not sure what the answer is here. I do know that playing Gerardo Torrado isn't helping anything. He had a resurgence with Cruz Azul toward the end of this season, but that is no way justifies him a starting role with El Tri, friendlies or not.
Jesus Zavala seems to have a pretty good luck on the defensive central midfield spot. Mexico does not need two central midfielders playing this role. Carlos Salcido and Torrado should only be backups to this spot. Dos Santos should probably assume the other midfield spot and leave as many scoring options on the field as possible. Getting Hector Herrera good minutes heading toward the World Cup wouldn't hurt either.
Keep Jorge Torres Nilo at left back
Torres Nilo is Mexico's best left back. I really can't be more straightforward than that. He should be starting every match and be playing the full ninety. He is a great defender with the size that won't hurt when facing off against European forwards. His ability to contribute offensively is also vital.
In the Nigeria match, Chepo moved Carlos Salcido to his natural left back position. Salcido played a good but not great game in Houston. He was able to hold down the left side fairly well and got the assist on Chicharito's second goal. However, the truckload of errant crosses and long balls he delivered can't be overlooked. He's never shy about taking the ridiculously long range shot and overlooking his teammates in the process. Salcido is a great player, but the 33 year old should not be the answer at the position moving towards the World Cup.
Torres Nilo has not always had flawless games for El Tri. He hasn't always clicked well with Andres Guardado down the left flank. Perhaps, the highly talented player should be getting the minutes to try and form this bond now when the games carry less meaning.
Be sure to get Raul Jimenez minutes
Speaking of getting players minutes, I can't think of any player who would benefit more from playing time than Raul Jimenez. Jimenez has ridiculous potential for Mexico. The pass-first forward is coming off a great season with Club America. Playing alongside a finisher like Christian 'Chucho' Benitez has been the perfect training for a pairing with Chicharito. Jimenez might not be the answer today for the team, but a bond formed now with the key players of the squad could pay major dividends next year.
Give the keys to Gio
Giovani Dos Santos could possibly be Mexico's most dynamic player. Every time he is on the field he has the potential paralyzing the opposition's defense with a brilliant run, slicing pass, or killer shot. He's that good. He also has the potential to undermine defensive structure, alienate other scoring options, and force teammates to watch. He's El Tri's Carmelo Anthony.
Gio should absolutely be starting for this team. His presence is missed when he is injured or "kidnapped". Chepo just needs to find a way to get him to play within a defined role. He can't be given free rein on the field. You don't want to take away his creative potential, but you also don't want him losing his place in the team.
Play Maza Rodriguez (nor make him your captain)
Francisco Javier 'Maza' Rodriguez was a fantastic defender. Please note the past tense in the last sentence. There was a reason Maza was released on a free transfer back to Mexico. There was a reason he was one of the weak links on an otherwise strong Club America defense. There was a reason he was culpable for the two goals allowed Honduras. He's just not that good any more. Maza is a decent defender and nothing more. Considering the wealth of talent at center-back on this roster (and much younger talent), Maza needs to grab a comfortable seat on the bench. He should stay there for a good long while.
Use Jerry Flores and Severo Meza as a combo on the right side
It was only a friendly on Friday night in Houston. With all the substitutions some weird things happen. However, for a long stretch in the second half, Severo Meza was at right back with Gerardo 'Jerry' Flores playing in front of him in midfield. Flores has flourished for Cruz Azul this year in the right back position. He is good coming forward and delivering a nice cross (for a defender). He's played midfield before but not well. It's Meza or Flores not Meza and Flores.
Play the old men so much
This one should be fairly obvious. It's not an easy task trying to navigate how to incorporate the talented youth from the Olympic squad with the established veterans entrenched in the team. Chepo needs results now in this qualifying matches and can't make development his top priority. Yet, using players like Torrado and Angel Reyna who are neither important for the future nor producing now is unforgiveable. Stop it, Chepo.
Following this handy list will help Chepo avoid some of the pitfalls that he seems to keep bumbling through. Then again, perhaps some of his squad just needs to start playing better.