Following Mexico’s Gold Cup Title win on Sunday afternoon, things quickly went from great to sad for head coach, Miguel Herrera.
It was announced Tuesday morning during a press conference with Decio De Maria, future president of the Mexican Football Federation, that Miguel Herrera would step down as the manager of El Tri.
The decision came when rumors sparked Monday afternoon that Miguel Herrera hit TV Azteca reporter, Christian Martinoli, while in the airport in Philadelphia following the Gold Cup victory. A video showing Herrera getting into a verbal altercation with the reporter along with his daughter hitting another reporter, Luis Garcia, surfaced hours later.
Herrera being sacked leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. When news about the story broke, I had my doubts. I did not believe that Herrera had really hit someone at the airport, let alone just hours after he had been celebrating a great redemptive victory with his national team.
The story continued and continued and more speculation and information came about regarding the incident. Then I became frustrated. Because it was the narrative that I had just finished talking about in another one of my posts a couple of weeks ago. This constant expectation or grudge that the media has with the Mexican National Soccer Team.
It resurfaced following the Costa Rica game. As an aspiring journalist, especially one that looks up and idolizes many reporters that follow the Mexican National Soccer Team, the approach that Univision Deportes and many other media outlets approach the results of that game were nothing short of scandalous. For starters, Edgar Martinez constant jabbering into the microphone that Guardado should miss the penalty was ridiculous and insulting. Our voices should be non-confrontational as journalist, not spewing with so much personalized emotion. Once he got started, a ripple effect erupted. People were beginning that Mexico did not deserve to advance to the final (which was accurate in many ways). They were an example of the corruption going on in CONCACAF. Bad thing after bad thing was said about the team.
Herrera’s approach to the controversy surrounding that game was brilliant. He took the very truthful direction that the game was this way. You could play great (like Mexico did against the Netherlands) and lose and you could play pretty horribly and still be given an advantage.
This blunt truth, however, was not enough for the media. They wanted him to grovel and plea and expected the same from Ochoa and Guardado, who also said along the same thing during their own post-game interviews. The media wanted Mexico to say they were helped to the final and that they did not deserve to be there.
Since this is the personal section of my blog, I’ll admit. I did not think that Mexico was going to win the final. I though Jamaica was going to come out dominate and determined. Even the coach, Winfried Schãfer, was saying that all the expectations and pressure was on Mexico, and rightfully so. El Tri’s road to the final was the result of penalties in both their quarterfinal and semifinal game. It was not the way to get to the final so my expectations of them were not very strong.
Hector Herrera had been playing bad the whole tournament. Vela and Oribe Peralta were mediocre when it came to finish after the Cuba game. The defense lacked assertiveness. The only solid player was Guardado. To me, there was no way that they would win the way they were playing at all.
Then Sunday came around. And Mexico did not play the way they had been playing. They were not the team that they could be. They were the team they should have been the whole tournament.
With Vela out of the final, Tecatito played well up top. And Hector Herrera finally was taken out and was replaced with Dueñas. Just those two changes and you saw a difference. Take that in with Guardado and Jonathan Dos Santos’ fast approach in the middle to get every ball possible. Along with the defense finally being as assertive as they could possibly be, and what you got was 3-1 victory.
There was no controversy. No penalties or referee calls were provided during this game. Mexico was able to shut their critics up and prove that they are a strong team not just in CONCACAF, but globally.
But, as with the media, it was not enough.
Mexico still did not deserve to be there, some wrote. Others believed they had nothing to celebrate. Winning this tournament was only going to allow Mexico to throw their trash under the rug and learn nothing from this experience. It still was not enough. They should still mention the help that they received on the journey to the tournament.
Enough!Was all I thought in my mind. It was a button that did not need to be pushed. Yes, we analyze and spend our lives making sense of the team because El Tri is such an interesting team to follow, but there was a lot of hostility from the press.
To expect them to win is true. But the approach that the media has had since Copa America has been malicious.
Fast forward this to Miguel Herrera’s termination after this altercation with Martinoli. Yes, from a business standpoint, he had to be fired. There was no way around it. Sure, the video just happened to start taking place after the alleged punch took place, but there were enough witnesses that were saying it happened. So he had to go.
And while many are saying that Miguel Herrera is hotheaded and he has pushed his limits both on and off the field, perhaps the real attention should also be put on Martinoli and the rest of the media’s role in abusing their freedom of speech.
There were plenty of examples throughout Mexico’s summer of soccer.
Record tried to prove the team had drama and hostility within each other. Univision Deportes tried to claim Mexico should have given up their spot in the final and Guardado should have missed the penalty. Christian Martinoli was talking about Herrera since the Copa America and even creating hostility with him on social media and as when proven, at the airport, where witnesses say that allegedly Martinoli was saying things to Herrera’s daughter. There was this stigma of making the situation worse for the sake of scandal. And it was very disheartening to watch.
Herrera had to go. That is certain. But this is not a good thing for the team. The chemistry that emerged once Herrera took the reigns had been unlike any other manager-player relationship I had ever seen. Social media could have influenced the relationship as a way to appeal to the fans, but even on the field, one could see it. How happy Herrera got when one of his players scored. How they would run to their coach when they scored in order to celebrate with him. Herrera had delivered in his promise that they would win the Gold Cup.
The worst part of it all was that Herrera’s dismissal is not for a football reason. It was political. Yes, he had to leave. But his reign deserved to continue. For it to be diminished because of a scandalous situation where the two-sides to every story puts just as much responsibility as the person that was hit is a horrible way to leave. It was not a reflection on his coaching.
In my opinion, had this not happened, he would have stayed until 2018. He would have continued to made a difference for the team.
His legacy is one that does not leave in shambles. He won the Gold Cup just days ago. He redeemed himself against the Netherlands during a friendly in November of 2014. He brought back a team that was on the brink of not qualifying for the 2014 World Cup and not only played great, but better than anyone expected Mexico to play. He should hold his head high.
Him leaving is detrimental. The chemistry of the team would still exist amongst the players but bringing in a new coach during a time when they are set to face the United States for a playoff spot in the Confederations Cup is going to be tricky. A new coach, a new approach, a new tactic and a new way of doing things is something that needs time. It might prove to not be enough time.
Mexico is set to face Argentina and Trinidad & Tobago in September for FIFA friendlies. Their Confederation Cup playoff match against the United States will take place on October 9th in Pasadena, Ca.