Currently the head coach of a thriving Club America, el “Piojo” Herrera finds himself in a very envious situation. He has been coaching for nearly 20 years now, and has turned in as consistent results as you’ll find, especially with Club America, and he’s only gotten better as time goes on. And already having coached the Selección for whatever short a stint it was during the 2014 World Cup, many would argue that the only thing left for Herrera to do is take a job overseas to take the next step in his coaching career.
He began his head coaching career in the Verano 2002, when he started that season as Carlos Reinoso’s assistant coach. But after a terrible start to the season, Herrera replaced the Chilean and immediately turned the team around, as he won 5 out of the 11 remaining games on their schedule. He would remain at Atlante for 2 more years, proving he could be consistent with a low-budget team, reaching the semis in the Clausura 2003. He would then move on to coach Rayados, where he would go on to lose 2 finals in his first 3 seasons with the club, and after that, would only win 17 games over the next three and a half seasons before eventually being fired.
After a couple of unsuccessful stints with Veracruz and Tecos, Herrera found his way back to Atlante by the Clausura 2011, where he would once again take the team to the playoffs. A year later, Herrera was hired by Club America for the start of the Clausura 2012, where his amazing run of results began. His first term with America lasted four seasons (he would leave to coach the Selección in the World Cup), where he finished no worst than 4th place in the regular season, lost in the semis twice, lost a final, and also won his first title as head coach.
Having a surprising World Cup display where he ultimately lost the round of 16 game that he should have won, the following year would exit the Selección abruptly after punching TV Azteca broadcaster Christian Martinoli. In the Apertura 2016, he took over a troubled Tijuana team. He led them to two consecutive 1st overall seeds, but would not reach the final in either of them. Soon after, Miguel Herrera would return to Club America for the start of the Apertura 2017, where he remains today, having already earned his second head coaching title.
Not to mention, Herrera has always displayed a very spectacular, offensive-minded and attacking style with his teams, frequently deploying a 5-defender line, with his two wing-backs always going forward and providing additional attacking width and power. So, it all looks good on paper. Where’s the catch?
For all of his great numbers, he has struggled mightily in the big games. His two finals losses with Rayados (vs. Pumas and Toluca), were both titles he should’ve had as he closed out both series at home. He could never make it far with his Atlante teams or with his two first-placed Tijuana teams. They always had a letdown come playoff time. And with America, most of his stellar seasons have ended abruptly in the semifinals, as they always seem to have some sort of letdown. Not to mention this last final loss vs. Monterrey which they had in the palm of their hands at half-time in the Azteca.
This brings me to his two titles. His first one in 2013, which came thanks to a last-minute header from his goalkeeper Moi Muñoz, which lucky for him got deflected by Alejandro Castro, and sent the game to extra-time. Cruz Azul should’ve won right there. And his second title, which was just over a year ago, came against a very offensively weak Cruz Azul team who showed during the regular season that they did not really have an offensive system in place. They were very defensive-minded with head coach Caixinha, and you could really see them struggle offensively when falling behind against better teams. They just were lucky to not be behind on the score much during that season.
So, when you look at it, without discrediting “Piojo”, those two titles haven’t proven much to me, as he was 30 seconds away from losing one, and beat a weak team for the other. He continues to prove that he’s still not there tactically. He has much to show when it comes to adjusting during important games, just as he showed this past December when he was 45 minutes away with a totally controlled game, and let it slip.
This one has to be a slight BUY for me. He might be a great motivator and has shown great consistency in his numbers, and can keep his players fighting season after season. But when the game is on the line, just like in the World Cup loss to the Netherlands, for instance, his teams tend to fall apart, and he tends to blame the refs in these situations instead of being critical of himself. He has yet to show he can convincingly win those important games. Unfortunately, that’s how the system works in Mexico. If we had the European league system, it would be a definite SELL on this. So, until he proves he can adjust during those big games and win them convincingly, he’s got to be a tad overrated.