Sunday, March 16, 2008

Save Sanchez

Everything will be decided tonight when Mexico plays Haiti in the Olympic qualifying finale. If Mexico wins, El Tri could advance as the Group B runner up and would face the U.S. in a do-or-die semifinal Friday in Nashville.

Anything short of a victory - and even a win is no guarantee of advancing - and this Olympic campaign would go down as a major disappointment for Mexico.

While El Tri's fate will be decided tonight, coach Hugo Sanchez's own future will be up for review on March 31. By then, the Olympic ticket will have been punched or revoked and the senior team will have played Ghana in London.

However, if what many thought was inconceivable comes to fruition and Mexico does not get out of the group stage, that should not signal the end of Sanchez's coaching tenure. As embarrassing or catastrophic a fate that would be, it would be the Under-23's fate and not the full national team's. And however you spin it, the Under-23 national team is not as important as the senior side.

With the full national team, Sanchez has had mixed results as well. Mexico lost in the Gold Cup 2007 final and bowed out in the semifinals of the 2007 Copa America. He's had his share of setbacks in friendlies (losing to Paraguay in Azteca perhaps the most painful). But the national team is evolving and well into this current cycle. Sanchez has brought in the next generation of national team talent in Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Nery Castillo and Jonny Magallon; has given more responsibility to players such as Guillermo Ochoa and Andres Guardado; and has moved Mexico into the post-Blanco, -Borgetti and -Oswaldo era.

Sure, he might go down as the worst Under-23 coach in Mexico's history - at least based on results. Even then, you could argue that Mexico would have had a better fate with Vela, Dos Santos and Guardado in tow. And surely results may have been better with three Spanish league players on the field.

Mexico committed to Sanchez for four years. His project and plans were based on South Africa, not Beijing. Sacking Sanchez because of the Olympic team's failures could potentially harm the full national team, as a new coach would have roughly three months to prepare for World Cup qualifying. Such preparation is more than just filling out a roster of 20 players and lacing up the boots against a regional foe. That involves identifying players who will help now and in the future, deciding on which players would be best suited for this year's semifinal phase and (if El Tri qualifies) the 2009 final round as well as the World Cup itself, and figuring out what opponents would be best suited for friendlies to help Mexico adequately prepare for each stage of upcoming two-plus years.

That is a huge undertaking for anyone, but it's one that Sanchez has had in mind for nearly 18 months.

Now, Mexico may go out and put three goals on Haiti and advance to Friday's semifinal. Or Haiti could drop 11 players behind the ball and pull out a 0-0 draw. But whatever happens, Sanchez's path to South Africa should not be derailed because the Under-23s could not get it done.


Gabriel in Argentina said...

nice apology for Sanchez..I am sure the "Mexican" National team with Zinha and Franco will do great! Here is an interesting idea for an article..why don't you write a story about how Mexico is using more Naturalized players than the U.S.! That would be a good article.

briguy said...

I'm loving this. Allez Haiti!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Luis, but if he can't coach the U-23 team to the Olympics, how in the hell is he going to coach the national team to the WC?

What's been so troubling, throughout his 14 months or so on the job, is that he has shown to be a horrible tactician and blames everybody but himself.


Despite how bleak things look right now, if Mexico wins two more game they go to the Olympics and all of this is forgotten.

Only in soccer, right?

A.C. said...

Mexico often pulls out results when it's not expected. After they lost to the U.S. in the Gold Cup, they beat Brazil in Copa America. After Mexico fell behind the U.S. twice in the last meeting, they pulled even. Hugo will be considered a hero by many if the U23 team is able to pull itself off the brink of elimination and spank Haiti. He may not like to get blamed for the losses, but he certainly takes credit for the successes.

Christian said...


You seem to have quite a boner for Mexico since all you do is criticize Luis and Andrea for posting about Mexico. Maybe you should get your own blog and then you can talk about how much you hate Mexico.

As for your comment about naturalized players, well I'm gonna have to correct you. USA has Adu and Feilhaber while Mexico has Zinha and Guille Franco.

I'm sure you'll be glued to ESPN Deportes with your lube tube ready to bust one out when Mexico fails to qualify, congratulations.

Anonymous said...

A hero? For beating Haiti? I wouldn't go that far.

Maybe you were trying to say he'll be a hero for getting Mexico into the Olympics. In which case, you might be right. Hugo we'll be considered a hero IF he gets El Tri to the Beijin by way of a victory against the U.S.

In Mexico, heros are made by beating gueros, not French-speaking African-Americans.

Paulo said...

No excuses for Hugo, he has proven that he was not the right choice for the job. A new coach, a good one, can make quick reparations, of the mess Hugo has made, in the three months leading up to WC qualifing. Keeping him there would not give Mexico any better a shot. Sadly, Mexico is no longer the "favorite" and we fans are no longer confident, Hugo has a lot to answer for, as we used to be.

Gabriel in Argentina said...

I have no problem with Mexico qualifying or not qualifying. As far as the examples of Benny and Adu, both came here when they were kids. Franco and Zinha both became citizens simply to play for the national team. I think there is a big difference. It is also very strange how bad Hugo use to complain about the use of foreigners on the National team. According to him, we did not need foreigners because there are sufficiently good Mexicans to beat anyone at every position. Maybe not, huh? Again, if Hugo was honest and said..,"Ok..I was wrong..we do not have the players at every position to compete" then I would be fine. All I ask is for honesty from both Hugo, and Luis and AC.

christian said...

Yea I agree with ya there Gabriel, Hugo ran his mouth for a long time and now he has to answer to all his critics. To be honest, I'm embarrased he's the coach of my national team, he says the most idiotic things and is always full of excuses.

After the tie with Canada he bitched about the grass and the HDC crew made sure to cut it for our next game against Guatemala and they still lost. It's quite obvious that he's a poor tactician and he's relying on the individual talent to win the game for him but at this level you need more than that, you need team-work and a capable tactician who scouts his opponents and shows them respect, that is not Hugo.

Anonymous said...

Actually I think Zinha was a naturalized Mexican for some time before being considered for the national team. Franco on the other hand was naturalized specifically so he could play for the national team.