After a wretched trio of games just a couple of months ago, where Mexico somehow managed to escape unscathed yet again versus the lacking CONCACAF squads, and with rumors continuing to swirl regarding head coach Tata Martino’s future, El Tri are just over a day away from squaring off against their most hated rivals, the United States. With both teams even at 21 points, the US own the tiebreaker thanks to their wider goal difference. In what is expected to be a highly emotional match, the winner of this one could officially clinch a World Cup position.
Since taking the Mexico job at the start of 2019, Martino has faced the stars and stripes a grand total of 5 times. The first of those was a hard fought 1-0 win to claim the 2019 Gold Cup. Just a couple months later, the two squads would meet again for a friendly, which Mexico again claimed, this time by a 3-0 final score. And since then, it’s all been downhill for the green, white, and red. The third meeting came in June 2021 for the CONCACAF Nations League final, where Mexico gave up a late lead and eventually lost in extra time. Their following meeting was yet another final just a couple months later. This one would go scoreless in regulation, only to see the Americans score again in extra time to claim victory. Finally, they met this past November for the WC Qualifiers, where the US walked calmly to victory by 2-0 over a shell Mexico squad who looked afraid on the pitch.
In other words, Martino suddenly has a three-game losing streak to Gregg Berhalter’s side, and with the way these two have been playing of late, it could easily become four, despite the fact they meet in the historic Estadio Azteca tomorrow evening. It is imperative Mexico show significant signs of improvement after their recent performances. During the past FIFA break, there were already rumors of Martino being replaced had he lost either of those matches. While that came close to happening in Jamaica at the end of January, fortunately for him, Mexico found a couple goals in dramatic fashion and picked up the W on the road.
Now, Yon de Luisa made it clear last time around that nobody was safe if the results weren’t there. Considering the recent Liga MX events (Querétaro) combined with the Mexico NT’s horrid form of late, the pressure he is under has only continued to mount with the passing weeks. Martino could be the one to pay for this mounting pressure if tomorrow’s result is a negative one. What Mexico would do if Martino’s head was to roll remains unclear, with different versions already out and about, such as Miguel Herrera taking charge for a second stint.
Mexico are all but qualified to the WC thanks to Panama and Costa Rica’s difficult remaining schedule, so that shoudn’t really be in question here. What will be evaluated is just how the Mexican NT perform for these final three qualifying matches, which could serve as one last chance for Martino to prove he can right this ship and lead them into the 2022 WC. However, losing for a fourth consecutive time to their arch nemesis would prove exactly the opposite, which is why tomorrow’s match is so key for him. Whether it’s fair or not, Martino’s job could ultimately be in play tomorrow night in the Azteca.