2 Possible Reasons Why Chepo has Kept his Job

How Mexican National Team manager Chepo has remained as the head coach
by Brendan Doherty   |   Saturday, July 13, 2013

 MEX Matters - column on Liga MX, El Tri & Mexican futbol.

Even before El Tri went on a terrible run of form in World Cup Qualifying, several observers were calling for the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) to relieve José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre of his managerial duties.

Before the start of the Gold Cup, Mexico had only won 2 games in calendar year 2013, a 1-0 qualifier in Jamaica and a 2-1 Confederations Cup match against Japan. These results have been crowded out by 8 draws, 5 of which were scoreless, and 2 defeats in Brazil.

Chepo's teams have lacked creativity in the final third and often appeared listless on the field. Players rarely showed an impetus to get forward with meaning until the last 15 minutes when 5 or 6 players attempted to win matches on their own.

Game after game was the same storyline without any noticeable improvement. Irrespective of who played on the right wing or up top with Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, the Mexican national team under Chepo could not produce goals against weak opposition playing a defensive tactical set-up.

The extenuating argument was that Mexico simply needed to play teams that would realistically try to attack instead of bunkering down. In that respect, the 2013 Confederations Cup offered Chepo an opportunity to prove his critics wrong with strong performances in Brazil. As the successes of 2012 seem like ancient history for Mexico, Chepo wanted to replicate the fluid style of counter attacking football that punished so many teams in recent years.

Confederations Cup

Even critics who wanted Chepo out after the poor series of results in WCQ admitted that a new coach would have a difficult time settling in before the start of the Confederations Cup just 5 days after the qualifying match against Costa Rica.

Italy has strong technical players that put them among the favorites for any tournament they enter. Certain exchanges here or there in the match gave Mexico glimpses of hope against Italy. Aside from Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez forgetting how to play soccer for a minute, Mexico was not played off the park.

Mexico were clearly 2nd-best against Brazil, as the host nation and eventual champions coasted on an early goal until Neymar turned up his game in the last few minutes to assist Jo. Apart from 2 moments of brilliance from the recent Barcelona purchase, Mexico took over a few positives from the game, including its defensive shape.

The tournament closing victory against Japan did enough to ease over immediate concerns about Chepo's tenure as that tired addage holds; “A win is a win.” Japan attacked Mexico with numbers which should have left them vulnerable to Mexican counterattacks in the back. However, despite the win, Mexico lacked a true killer instinct in this game. Chepo's substitutions almost cost Mexico the match because he closed up shop with nearly 20 minutes left in the game and dared Japan to find the equalizer.

In both the cases of World Cup Qualifying and the Confederations Cup, Mexico showed slight improvement over a series of games. Chepo's cheerleading section can point to a number of circumstances to shift blame off the successful club manager. While critics point to Chepo's dulled tactics and inability to manage a game with substitutions, his supporters will argue that players have lacked the discipline to actually implement his gameplans and that individual egos are counteracting the cohesiveness of the team.

Gold Cup

The congestion of Mexico's schedule again probably worked in Chepo's favor. An assistant coach actually started training the squad called up for the Gold Cup while Chepo was still with the first team in Brazil. Only 2 weeks between competitions created another instance in which replacing Chepo would put extra and immediate pressure on his successor.

Mexico's 2013 Gold Cup campaign started with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Panama at the Rose Bowl. In front of a very partisan crowd of nearly all Mexico fans, Chepo's experimental “B-team” squad failed to show much quality. The outfield players with the most national team experience, Raul Jimenez and Marco Fabian, were among the worst players for Mexico in the first 40 minutes and the defense was often fighting among itself to maintain any semblance of organizational shape.

Again, even that disappointing opening loss can be spun to reduce the blame on Chepo himself. Many of the players for Mexico were inexperienced at the international level on Sunday and several had never played with each other before. The argument in support of Chepo is, therefore, that the players need time to gel together and that organization and chemistry will be much stronger against the weaker teams in Group A.

Mexico's match against Canada was mostly an ugly affair but El Tri came out with a 2-0 victory. Even though the goals came from a phantom foul in the area for a penalty and a header on a corner kick, the result keeps Mexico on the course of making a deep run in the Gold Cup. Canada was poor enough for Mexico's B-team to get a result without really playing well and this match will obscure some of Mexico's continued weaknesses in positioning and in attacking creativity.

Playing Martinique in the final group game gives Mexico an opportunity to once again right the ship, which should be just enough to keep Chepo de la Torre at the helm.

NEXT UP: July 14 – Gold Cup: Mexico vs. Martinique, Sports Authority Field, Denver, Colo. 6 p.m. EST, Fox Soccer Channel, Univision.

Brendan DOHERTY

Nationality:
USA
College:
Hamilton College
Club Domestic:
Rochester Rhinos, RBNY
Club Foreign:
Tottenham, Club América
Household Jeopardy champion from a small town in Upstate New York. Simultaneously brought to Tottenham Hotspur by a youth coach & given a copy of FIFA 2004. Enthusiastically pragmatic & a student of the game. Covering the Mexican National Team & Liga MX.
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