A result that is becoming all too familiar for El Tri

Posted by Andrea Canales

After the 0-0 result versus Costa Rica, Mexico depart for the Confederations Cup under a cloud. Yes, it was shameful that some fans in the Azteca threw trash on the field during Costa Rican corner kicks, but was that really any more embarrassing than the manner in which Mexico played on the night?

There really isn't anything more to be said about El Tri's tragic predilection for draws under the leadership of Jose Manuel 'Chepo' de la Torre. It's almost comic, in fact, his complete mastery of that statistic, since he has guided the team to a higher percentage of ties than any other El Tri coach in history. Draws aren't a horrible result, and it's good not to lose, but draw upon draw upon draw coupled with dull, uninspiring play and very few goals scored is simply dreadful.

Mexico may be unbeaten in 2013, but that statistic isn't going to pacify many, least of all the fans who have watched El Tri in the past decade collect Olympic gold and two youth World Cup trophies. They firmly believe the talent in the pipeline and on the field merits better results than have come under de la Torre.

Some of them were in Azteca, chanting, "Fuera Chepo!" It was loud and insistent, clearly heard through the broadcast as the final minutes ticked away.

- CONCACAF Hexagonal Table

De la Torre put many on notice a few days earlier, however, declaring to the media that it didn't matter how the team won, as long as they obtained that result. Well, they didn't.

So much for that strategy, except, wait, De la Torre had all but said there was little strategy involved. "When you gain an objective, you forget how you did it," he said before the match.

Clearly, that's the way to achieve victory -- completely forget the path to get there.

Sarcasm aside, even if the sport of soccer can seem agonizingly random at times, there is in fact a clear correlation between playing well and winning. Thus, it's a big mistake to take on the perspective that how a team plays doesn't really matter. First the play improves, then, wonder of wonders, results improve. To say "first we'll get the results, then we'll fix how we play" is really underestimating how difficult World Cup qualifying really is, even in CONCACAF.

Sadly, that seems to be the biggest reason behind both de la Torre's attitude and his continued hold on the job at the helm of Mexico's squad. There's an assumption that Mexico will qualify, regardless of how badly they play, just because CONCACAF is considered that weak. No one in the Mexican federation wants to replace the coach before the Confederations Cup tournament, even though it is a relatively meaningless competition. Still, it's considered by many as more prestigious than CONCACAF qualifying, so Chepo's sin of leading a Mexican team exhibiting poor play is forgiven for a while longer.

Whether they should be is another question. With the USA's win over Panama, a sole leader has emerged in the Hexagonal. There's a clear example of a coach, Juergen Klinsmann, willing to take some lumps and loses in order to experiment and change the approach of a squad. He isn't afraid to take chances on new players, and forge a strategy that eventually yields both results and improved play.

What's more worrisome is that Mexico is mired in the thick of the standings, tied with Costa Rica and with both Honduras and Panama close behind, though El Tri has played one game more. Considering how much trouble Mexico has had scoring, it is perilous for the squad to depend on goal differential to save them.

Those circumstances aren't going to change even if Mexico returns from Brazil with the Confederations Cup trophy in hand, unlikely as that may seem given the way they are playing. They will return from Brazil with a lot of work to do. So far, de la Torre has not proven himself able to help them do it.

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