Herrera's America future in the balance as vital stretch begins v Monterrey

Getty Images
Las Aguilas have suffered just one loss in league play but something is still missing as the playoffs approach

Miguel Herrera is the most recognizable manager in Liga MX. If you don't know him from his time with America or Tijuana, you know him from his stint with the Mexico national team. If you don't know him from that, you've seen the gifs of Herrera going super saiyan  while celebrating Moises Munoz's title-winning goal in 2013.

Yet, who is Herrera? At times, he's jovial, chatting with fans and winning them over with his distinctly Mexican sense of humor. Others, he's getting in physical altercations with critics, accusing police officers of assault after a dust-up in the tunnel or, reportedly, screaming at his players after a defeat with enough force to take some paint off the America locker room.

Which Herrera you get usually depends on the fortunes of his team (though not always, with Herrera getting fired from the El Tri job hours after winning the Gold Cup). Right now, things are not going well.

America has lost just once in league play this season but sits only third because of an abundance of draws. After another stalemate last weekend against Necaxa and CONCACAF Champions League elimination after a tie with Toronto FC during the week, we don't need to check in on Herrera's facial expression to know he'd rather not see Monterrey coming to town this weekend.

Rayados, like Necaxa, are led by another former America manager. Antonio Mohamed's team isn't playing the same way it did last tournament when it was far and away the best team in the league. It is, however, still a threat, one Herrera has to cope with while balancing attacking absences because of injuries to forward Henry Martin and winger Cecilio Dominguez. Monterrey could leapfrog America with a win and lock up playoff qualification in the process.

Las Aguilas will get into the Liguilla. That's no issue. How far they can go with their clear limitations is. Despite signing a trio of attacking players during the winter, the team still has problems up front. Oribe Peralta always has been a streaky scorer, but the good streaks are coming less and less often as he enters the final stage of his career. He has just three goals in the Clausura.

Article continues below

Herrera is fond of saying the expectations at America are to win a title. After the winter moves the club made after last tournament's frustrating elimination in the Liga MX semifinals and the hot start it had, those expectations didn't seem so unreasonable. A team with only one loss is hardly in crisis, but a title does not look to be in America's grasp after the week it has had. Another tournament without any silverware to show won't sit will with America's fans or directors.

The stakes are even higher than normal for him this year, though. With Mexico national team manager Juan Carlos Osorio likely headed for the exits after the World Cup, either to a higher-profile gig after a successful tournament or being forced out after a disappointing one, there could be a big job opportunity for Herrera this summer. Yon de Luisa will leave Televisa, which owns America, to take over the Mexican federation. Hiring a manager who just won the league is an easy sell. Bringing on a coach who already has had the job and wasn't able to get his team over the hump is tougher to justify.

Even if Herrera isn't getting set for a second act as El Tri boss, how he responds to a bump in the road will determine whether or not he can meet the lofty expectations America supporters have for him or if his return to Mexico City is headed for a disappointing end.