In good or bad, Juan Carlos Osorio stays committed to his Mexico project

Jim Brown
The Mexico coach has fewer vocal critics after Friday's victory over Costa Rica, but seems genuinely indifferent to outside support or criticism.

As the public address announcer read off the names of Mexico's starting lineup Friday, the fans in the Estadio Azteca grew louder.

"Guillermo Ochoa! Carlos Salcedo!"

With a huge amount of visiting Costa Rican fans already in the stadium early for security measures, the home teams' supporters were eager to make their voices heard as well, and shout down the Ticos. Each name was greeted with a huge shout.

"Nestor Araujo! Hector Moreno! Miguel Layun!"

Layun, a former Club America player who helped the team win two titles in the Azteca, received an enormous ovation.

"Hector Herrera! Rafa Marquez!" Another louder cheer came for Mexico legend Marquez. "Jonathan dos Santos! Oribe Peralta! Carlos Vela! Javier Hernandez!" And another level for Peralta, the current America player, and beloved striker Hernandez.

"And the coach of the Mexican national team, Juan Carlos Osorio!" Suddenly, the crescendo ceased. The Ticos' fans could be heard again. There were whistles and jeers.

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Osorio has avoided defeat in all but one of the matches he's overseen since taking over Mexico, his first national team job. Despite the 15-1-3 record he now boasts after seeing Mexico to a 2-0 victory against Costa Rica, there are plenty of fans who aren't convinced. His player rotations are controversial, the 7-0 loss to Chile still stings as an embarrassment and, well, he hasn't really won anything anyway, right?

The tide may be changing. Osorio doesn't care.

"The last two times in the Estadio Azteca, the fans booed. They asked for your head," a reporter told Osorio after the game. "Today the fans left cheering. How does Juan Carlos Osorio feel after the victory?"

"It doesn't matter. That's the truth," Osorio replied. "The most important thing is what the guys and group did. Today they showed they have the moral fiber to take on this responsibility of playing here. Me? I'm 55 years old. If I can't take the pressure, it would be a serious problem."

Juan Carlos Osorio Mexico

The coach has spent many of those 55 years plunging into the game, studying coaching methods, researching how players can get the most out of their bodies, sitting at the feet of coaches who came before him. Just this month, he was in Spain to watch Jorge Sampaoli's work with Sevilla.

Now, with so much of that research behind him, Osorio is convinced he has things figured out. So confident is he in his strategies, in his methods, that whether he is cheered or booed, adored or hated, he's going to continue on with the project.

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In fact, the only thing that did seem to bother the coach Friday after his players executed his game plan — playing from the back and using Herrera and Dos Santos to spring attacks after creating a numerical advantage on one side — was those Costa Rican fans before the game.

Mexico emerged from the locker room to watch a video paying tribute to Marquez's 20 years with the national team, featuring Mexico greats, former teammates at European clubs, family members and coaches like Osorio himself.

Marquez would've had a hard time hearing those messages, though, as Costa Rican fans continued their singing (and, to be fair, the Azteca is not a building well designed for multimedia presentations). Osorio is a man who respects and venerates the game's history. To obstruct a retelling of part of that is a sin.

"First, it seemed strange to me that Costa Rican fans didn't stop celebrating and it made it difficult to hear what they were trying to show to people to tell Rafael's story. We didn't hear it clearly. After the second goal, we didn't hear them again," said Osorio, in a moment made into an unexpected thug life video by supporters' group Pancho Villa's Army. "The fans in the Estadio Azteca gave power to the stadium, as it should be, and I think the guys felt that support."

Osorio himself is yet to feel a swell of support from fans or the press that so often serves as a direct pipeline of criticism to the Mexico head coach, no matter who it be. However, he seems genuinely apathetic about treatment, positive or negative.

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This is not a coach falling back on the tired cliche of, "I don't read what you guys put in the papers," then taking to Twitter when a negative headline runs online. This is a coach who does stay abreast with the chatter in the press but spends much more time watching games to analyze upcoming opponents or to rip a page out of the book of a manager he respects. 

That's probably for the best. Osorio won't become a beloved figure overnight. But if his method is as good as he believes it to be, Mexico will have plenty more victories in the Azteca and abroad and fans will be cheering the mention of his name at every opportunity.

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