According to ESPN’s Rafael Ramos, El Tri’s front office have already established a backup plan if things were to continue to go south with Tata Martino and his coaching staff in the WC qualifiers. He mentions that Yon de Luisa, FMF president, has already lost faith in the Argentine coach and actually his own project, since he is the one responsible for having brought Martino on board in the first place. Mexico currently sit 3rd in the CONCACAF qualifiers with 17 points (2 behind leader Canada) and five matches remaining.
It’s no secret Mexico have struggled since the start of the Gold Cup, and that form has dragged on throughout the qualifiers, worsening game by game, to the point of being 10 minutes away from losing a match to huge underdog Jamaica, who by the way, were down to ten men for the entire second half. Despite this, Mexico went undefeated throught its first six matches (4W, 2D), sugarting it temporarily. But since their two consecutive losses to the hands of USA and Canada back in mid-November, Martino has been under fire.
With all of that being said, Martino hasn’t been dealt the easiest of hands, to be honest. He was the elected head coach to take this team through a difficult transitional period, with players such as Carlos Vela, Rafa Márquez, and Oribe Peralta either retiring from El Tri or soccer altogether. Miguel Layún, Gio dos Santos, and Chicharito have dropped off the radar due to their low level of play in the recent years. Not to mention, key players such as Andrés Guardado (35), Héctor Herrera (31), and Héctor Moreno (34), all aging and becoming seasoned veterans, having lost that important edge a younger version of themselves once had. That’s a huge chunk of your team backbone lost from one World Cup to the next. In other words, he’s dealing with a great shift in his players’ value and contribution levels to the team, as well as their abilities. Never an easy task for a manager.
And the reality is, the players he’s been left with don’t have as much impact as the ones that are either aging or have left. Of course, it’s on him to make that right and solve the problem. That’s what he was brought in to do. But is this whole thing really his fault? Would any other manager have done it better? Four years ago, so many complained about Osorio despite still having those players. Even Miguel Herrera before him had gotten to the point just before his termination in the summer of 2015 where their style of play was a mess as well, and had been for some time. That’s dating six and a half years back.
Gerardo Martino has proven he’s a heck of a manager. He knows exactly what he’s doing and has been around the best in the biz (FC Barcelona, Argentina NT). But more importantly, had success with those teams. Doesn’t get much better than that. And more than that, he appears to be an honest and transparent guy who speaks his mind and does it with a high level of logic. He explained his reasoning for not calling upon Chicharito (for example) and has made moves that have mostly made sense. Heck, he even made the winning substitutions last night in Jamaica.
Now, if these reports are true and Miguel Herrera has been contacted by the FMF, this would be a huge slap in the face for Martino by everyone involved. How is it possible these reports surface in the middle of your second to last FIFA WC qualifier break with only five games to go? That’s the mishandling of the Mexican NT we’ve gotten used to over the past decades. When you’re this far into it, you trust the process and the more than proven man you brought in to take you to the next level. And if true, how unprofessional and disrespectful on Herrera’s part as well to be vulturing this situation with another man currently holding the job. Surely he wouldn’t appreciate that being done to him.
With five matches to go in the WC qualifier, those two goals in two minutes last night might’ve saved Martino’s job, as three consecutive losses may not have cut it for de Luisa. For now, he seems to be safe, and has two winnable, yet tough home matches coming up within the next five days which could define his destiny for good. On Sunday night, Mexico play hosts to Costa Rica (5th, 12 points), followed by a home date against Panama (4th, 14 points). Only time will tell, but if this report is true, we could potentially be looking at Martino’s final days as Mexico NT manager.