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Tigres and the “Tuca” Ferretti conundrum

Is legendary coach Tuca Ferretti holding Tigres UANL back from reaching their super-team potential with his conservative playing style?

Tigres UANL v Morelia - Torneo Clausura 2018 Liga MX

There is no disputing that Tigres UANL coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti is a legend in Mexican fútbol. As a player, the 64-year-old Brazilian spent most of his career in Liga MX with Mexico City side Pumas UNAM playing 283 games, scoring 113 goals and winning two championships. Ferretti was such an instrumental part of Pumas UNAM that he scored the winning goal against cross town rivals Club América in the 1990-91 season finals. As a coach, Tuca Ferretti has lead Chivas, Pumas UNAM, and his current squad Tigres UANL to championships. In fact, four of Tigres’ six titles have been won while Ferretti was head coach.

Despite his legendary status in Mexican fútbol, recent disappointing performances from Tigres UANL, who without a doubt have the best squad in all of North America if not the entire Western Hemisphere, have left many wondering if Tuca is is actually preventing Tigres from reaching their true super-team potential with his coaching style.

As a coach, Tuca Ferretti is known for his disciplined, slow tempo, possession-based playing style. Teams under his leadership have been known to have well over 50% possession over the course of their matches. At the same time, Tuca-coached teams are known to be extremely patient, willing to pass back to defenders/the goalkeeper if necessary, and unafraid to build from the back. However, the true key to Tuca’s style of play is control of the midfield.

Under Tuca Ferretti and his trademark playing style, Tigres UANL have become one of the dominant forces in Mexican fútbol. Despite this, there are many people who would claim that it is Tigres’ ability to buy top talent from across the world that have turned them into a regional powerhouse, as opposed to Tuca Ferretti’s coaching and style of play.

This season, more than ever, it seems as though the critics of Tuca Ferretti might actually be right. The super-powered squad from Monterrey has failed to dominate teams both domestically as well as in the CONCACAF Champions League. Their largest margin of victory has been two goals. A team with the likes of Enner Valencia, Eduardo Vargas, André-Pierre Gignac, and other talented players should easily be able to routinely defeat opponents by three or more goals. However, Tigres have been unable to do so this season. Perhaps Tigres’ humiliating elimination in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals to MLS Champion Toronto FC was the most glaring example of how Tuca Ferretti’s playing style has prohibited Tigres from playing like the super-team that they are.

In their first leg matchup, Tigres came out into the frozen Canadian night with a very conservative formation and a slightly rotated lineup. For large portions of the match, Tigres maintained possession by passing the ball aimlessly from the midfield to the backline with an occasional long ball towards a streaking offensive minded player. Thanks to some individual talent, Tigres were able to take the lead. Following the goal, Toronto FC raised their level of play and began to tirelessly attack the visitors. Tigres had absolutely no response to Toronto’s attacking and allowed two goals before the final whistle blew.

For his part, Tuca Ferretti made no adjustments as he watched his team get pushed to the ropes by a very impressive attacking display from Toronto FC late in the match. In the most Tuca way possible, the Tigres manager simply sat on the bench with a scowl as his team dropped their first leg match.

Tigres UANL started the second leg match almost exactly as they did in Toronto. They maintained possession, but instead of using their possession with a purpose, the star studded squad from Monterrey aimlessly passed the ball between midfielders and the backline with a few errant long balls towards streaking wingers or Gignac. There was absolutely no urgency from Tigres and Toronto FC was all too happy to let Tigres waste time by aimlessly passing between midfield and backline/goalkeeper. Tigres never looked like troubling Toronto FC at any point in the first half.

In the second half, Tigres came out with a mutch more attacking style of play. Jürgen Damm was tearing up the wings, but poor cross after poor cross cost Tigres the chance to open the scoring. After falling behind 2-1 in the match and needing three goals in order to advance to the semifinals, Tigres went into an all out attack. As the match came to a close, Tigres found themselves on the winning end of a 3-2 scoreline but eliminated from there CONCACAF Champions League thanks to the away goal rule.

The last 21 minutes of the second leg match, in which Tigres scored three goals, showed just how amazing that the squad from Monterrey is capable of playing. It is simply mind boggling to think how easily Tigres could have advanced to the semifinals if they had played this way the entire two-legged tie. Instead, Tuca Ferretti chose to play his same slow-paced style that hasn’t been working to perfection this season.

At times, Tigres style of play under Tuca Ferretti could be described as a high powered sports car never getting out of first gear because the owner is afraid that it might crash. Tuca’s style of play is far too conservative and has restricted the creative ability of Tigres’ attacking superstars. Something has to change if Tigres hope to truly evolve into a super-team on and off the pitch.