Miguel Herrera is out as Mexico manager in a stunning development, just two days after guiding El Tri to its record seventh CONCACAF Gold Cup championship.
Herrera allegedly attacked TV Azteca reporter Christian Martinoli at the Philadelphia airport after the win, although scant video evidence has been produced to confirm it. Univision Deportes showed cell phone footage of the supposed encounter early Tuesday morning, but there was no smoking gun, no visible proof that Herrera indeed put his hands on Martinoli.
Nevertheless, the one-man GIF machine is out after reviving Mexico following a lackluster 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, managing El Tri to the World Cup round of 16 and another continental title. The record will show that the fiery, brazen and boisterous Herrera stepped in and stabilized Mexico, but the manner in which he leaves threatens to weaken the foundation with a crucial match against the USA just about 10 weeks away.
Here are three thoughts on Herrera's firing:
This seems like a convenient excuse
The writing had been on the wall for Herrera that a Gold Cup failure would've cost him his job. As is usually the case with Mexico, a failure to meet expectations means a new coach. Sometimes, a failure to win a single World Cup qualifier means a new coach (or three, as was the case in 2013). The fact that Mexico went winless at Copa America and then labored through the Gold Cup until the stellar showing in the final made it certainly seem that the FMF (Mexican federation) and the Liga MX owners who often wield the decisive influence, were mobilizing for another change.
Mexico winning the Gold Cup made replacing Herrera awfully difficult to rationalize. There's no way anyone could have anticipated this incident–or near incident, as it were–happening so soon, but it certainly gives the powers that be the convenient excuse they needed to pull the trigger. Once the bloom falls off the rose during your tenure as Mexico manager, there's little that can be done to restore your place in everyone's good graces.
Not even a trophy fully restored Herrera–who, don't forget, came under fire for political comments made during the country's elections–into a more secure place.
Had Herrera failed to lead Mexico over the U.S. at the Rose Bowl in CONCACAF's playoff for the region's 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup on October 9, the ax likely would've dropped then instead. And if not then, then for something else. Such is life on the Mexico manager hot seat.
Its impact on the Confederations Cup playoff
The development couldn't have come at a worse time for Mexico. On the heels of the Gold Cup triumph–which was completed Sunday night without the likes of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Hector Moreno in the lineup–the nation has CONCACAF bragging rights entering the playoff against the U.S. But where does this leave Mexico, and what does it do for team morale?
Dos Santos and his brother, Jonathan, both publicly tweeted support of Herrera, who, by all accounts, was popular among his players. Now they'll all have to quickly buy in under someone else's leadership and tactics with just two match dates remaining prior to the rumble at the Rose Bowl. September friendlies against Trinidad & Tobago (which has no fear of Mexico after their wild 4-4 Gold Cup group encounter) and Argentina don't exactly present opportunities to go through the motions and learn on the fly without any ramifications.
Was this a shortsighted decision, or not? That ultimately remains to be seen, but after finally appearing to have stability for the first time, Mexico is back on shaky ground.
Herrera was what Mexico needed
Herrera was certainly the beneficiary of some good luck. What if CONCACAF was drawn against CONMEBOL in the playoff for the place in the 2014 World Cup like it was in 2010? A two-game playoff against New Zealand wasn't exactly the most difficult objective for the incoming manager. And at the Gold Cup, Herrera and Mexico could have easily fallen in the quarterfinals and semifinals, had it not been for some awfully mysterious referee decisions.
But at the same time, he pulled the right strings in the last 21 months. He restored Rafa Marquez in defense and as Mexico captain upon his arrival, and it worked (well, until the "no era penal" debacle in the World Cup round of 16). He turned to domestic players from Club America he knew he could manage and get the most out of, and they delivered, leading Mexico over New Zealand in that playoff and securing El Tri's place in Brazil.
He eventually found a way to smooth things over with Carlos Vela and bring him back in the fold, and while Vela struggled during the Gold Cup to match his top club form, he's another tool in the arsenal. He gave Jesus "Tecatito" Corona a place on the senior squad, and at times Corona looked like Mexico's most capable attacking talent in the Gold Cup.
It should be mentioned, too, that Herrera had no problem with his players joining MLS, stating publicly that it had no impact on his player selection. Will that be the case going forward under the new manager? Giovani Dos Santos just signed a lucrative deal with the LA Galaxy for, reportedly, the next four and a half years. Cubo Torres just kicked off his stint with the Houston Dynamo. MLS teams are in hot pursuit of Chicharito, and while he may ultimately stay abroad in Europe, it's never felt like a more realistic time for him to sign with the league. After a breakthrough among Mexican talent in its prime joining MLS, you wonder if that might be frowned upon under whoever gets tabbed as Herrera's replacement.