- Mexico's experimental Gold Cup team has had an uneven start to the competition and was frustrated–and self-limiting–against Jamaica in its second match.
In 2001, when Juan Carlos Osorio used to work with Manchester City as an assistant coach, he would often head to Manchester United’s training facilities to observe Alex Ferguson’s training sessions.
He would spend hours watching not just the daily routine of United’s first team schedule, but also how Ferguson meticulously prepared for every match.
Even now, Osorio often speaks on how these visits would make such an influence on him as a manager, as Ferguson, who was known for his man-management style and focus on rotational policy ended up becoming one of his biggest mentors.
But on Thursday night in Denver, during Mexico’s unimaginative 0-0 stalemate against Jamaica, Osorio (who wasn’t on the bench as he was serving the second of his six-match suspension) and his coaching staff failed to imitate the one thing Fergie was known for: when the match is in need of a spark, produce it yourself.
Case in point: It was the beginning of the second half and the Mexican crowd was getting anxious. Houston Dynamo’s Erick “Cubo” Torres was not playing well, leading the line with little to offer, and a goal was desperately needed. So what happened? Luis Pompilio Paez, Osorio’s assistant and the main voice on the bench, brought in promising center back Cesar Montes to replace Rodolfo Pizarro, an attacking midfielder.
By that time, when Jamaica had done nothing to threaten goalkeeper Moises Muñoz’s box, Osorio’s coaching staff brought in another defender–at that moment there were four natural center backs on the pitch.
What would Ferguson have done in that moment?
The match ended 0-0 as the crowd yelled for Osorio’s sacking. This part is extreme, but the sentiment remains: it was not good enough from a nation that is currently leading this region in World Cup qualifying and has 12 victories and four draws against CONCACAF opposition under Osorio’s tenure.
Mexico’s Gold Cup has been, much like for the United States, a case of mixed reviews–despite a first-place standing in the group based on a tiebreaker. While El Tri brought much excitement in a 3-1 win over El Salvador in the first match of the tournament, especially from wonderful winger, Elías Hernández and forward Orbelín Pineda, there is still a lack of team cohesion.
While it’s true that this is a squad made up of fringe players who are fighting to stay relevant, they are no slouches and by far the best team in the group, and possibly the tournament. What these players lack in experience, they make up for in overwhelming talent and technical ability.
But when they are faced against nations who simply wish to sit and counter, there is no Plan B.
“(We need) more patience," Torres said after the match. "We have to move the opponent's defense around quicker, try to destabilize them faster, be more effective.”
But forget Osorio, these are players who hope to be part of a squad fighting for a spot in Russia, so part of the solution on how to beat defensive-minded teams must come from them.
"[It's] an opportunity for them and all of us to show our coach that we want to be in the next World Cup," Muñoz told reporters. "That's the main objective that we have in mind. We have to win this cup to get a spot on that roster that is going to be representing Mexico at the next World Cup."
If that’s the case then the advice is simple: Trust your team and go forward without hesitation. Sunday's group finale against Curacao should offer the opportunity to do just that.