Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre may have kept his job as Mexico's boss for the time being, but he'll need positive results soon in order to stay in his position much longer.It wasn’t exactly like waiting for the white smoke to arise from the Sistine Chapel, but the meeting between Mexican soccer’s big-wigs to ratify Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre had the same kind of secretive vibe.
Would there be a decision tonight? Will Chepo be forced out? If so, who could be brought in as a replacement?
Rumors swirled throughout the day, with the initial feeling amongst journalists in Mexico that Chepo would be backed. Then ESPN’s John Sutcliffe told viewers Tomas Boy was readying his bags and would be unveiled as the new boss in the evening.
In the end, the result was immediately much less entertaining, with the Mexican federation (FMF) and the Liga MX owners agreeing – although there were voices of discontent – that Chepo’s performances as coach in 2011 and 2012 meant he deserved another shot to get the team out of its current rut.
The decision flows very much against tradition when it comes to Mexican national team coaches, with only Ricardo La Volpe (2002–2006) and Ignacio Trelles (1965-69) ever to complete four consecutive years at the helm.
Maybe the options to replace Chepo weren’t attractive enough, or maybe there has been a real change and a conscious decision to go with continuity over quick-fire reactions.
Only those inside that meeting are likely ever to know, and only time will tell if the decision is the right one. Certainly, it seems risky considering World Cup qualification is on the line and Mexico has failed to truly convince in almost all its 17 games during 2013. And this at a time when the “process” should be more defined and starting to build to a crescendo ahead of the World Cup next summer.
Now that Chepo has been given the backing of his bosses, thoughts have to turn to some of the pressing concerns needing to be addressed.
Not least is how to get confidence back in his team ahead of the Aug. 14 friendly against Ivory Coast and, more importantly, before crucial qualifiers in September against Honduras in the Estadio Azteca and in the United States four days later.
Part of the lack of confidence has to come from the fact Chepo still seems undecided on a number of players and positions within his starting XI.
De la Torre has chopped and changed in the central midfield positions, right back, goalkeeper, striker and on the right wing throughout 2013 and even his initial formation is not 100 percent defined.
But all that needs to be put into the background and the form players picked for these upcoming games.
On the more positive side, the fact that it is last chance saloon for both players and manager may see everyone put whatever problems there are to one side.
Perhaps Chepo’s biggest task is adding some variations into El Tri’s style of play. Honduras will come to the Azteca intent on doing exactly the same as Jamaica, the United States and Costa Rica have done this year: sit back and frustrate Mexico.
One of the biggest criticisms of Chepo is that he has failed to find a way to overcome teams that “park the bus.” It was a similar story with Panama at the Gold Cup, and El Tri fell into the same trap in two different games against the Canaleros.
Ironically, one of the potential ways Chepo could attempt to fix some of the predictability is likely to bring him even more controversy: call up newly-naturalized Mexicans Christian “Chaco” Gimenez and Lucas Lobos.
Both would add some quality and consistency, but it is extremely high-risk and with Angel Reyna, Luis Montes and Marco Fabian showing some form, calling them up would only cause more friction and raise the stakes yet more.
Chepo may have been given the tentative vote of confidence in Mexican soccer’s secretive halls of power, but he’s certainly not off the hook and is more under the microscope than ever with little room to maneuver.