“El Tri” draws more love than the coach

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By John Meyer Mark Ral­ston, Getty Im­ages

When Mex­ico took the field for its sec­ond-leg CON­CA­CAF Gold Cup match against the Reg­gae Boyz of Ja­maica on Thurs­day night, Sports Author­ity Field at Mile High was a sea of green with flag-wav­ing fans cheer­ing for their beloved “El Tri,” but Mex­ico’s coach wasn’t on the bench. No doubt many in at­ten­dance would be happy if they never saw him there again.

Juan Car­los Os­o­rio, an un­ortho­dox Colom­bian who was hired to coach Mex­ico in Oc­to­ber 2015, was serv­ing the sec­ond of a six-game FIFA sus­pen­sion for us­ing “in­sult­ing words to­wards the match of­fi­cials while dis­play­ing an ag­gres­sive at­ti­tude to­wards them” in a Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup game for third place against Por­tu­gal in Rus­sia on July 2.

Os­o­rio is un­pop­u­lar with Mex­ico’s fans and de­mand­ing me­dia. Some spec­u­late that he needs to win the Gold Cup, or at least make it to the fi­nal July 26 in Santa Clara, Calif., to keep his job. Had he been on the side­line Thurs­day night, he might have been booed.

Mex­ico lost the Por­tu­gal game to fin­ish fourth in the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup. In the semi­fi­nal, El Tri was routed 4-1 by a Ger­man team that left its en­tire first team at home, au­di­tion­ing re­in­force­ments for next year’s World Cup when Ger­many will be de­fend­ing cham­pion.

Os­o­rio, Mex­ico’s 12th coach in nine years, has a ten­dency to make whole­sale lineup changes, and that’s one of the things that irks the team’s pas­sion­ate fans. Os­o­rio says he “ro­tates” line­ups be­cause tour­na­ments such as these in­volve mul­ti­ple games in a week. The four teams play­ing here Thurs­day night played Sun­day night in San Diego. Dur­ing group play in the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup, teams had only two days rest be­tween games.

“There was a very in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cle pub­lished (Tues­day) where it said if you look at the cal­en­dar and the amount of games, in­stead of play­ing each game three or four days (apart), there should be six days,” Os­o­rio said. “There was a doc­u­ment pub­lished in Eng­land that said lack of rest is caus­ing a lot of mus­cle in­juries. When there isn’t a min­i­mum of five days of rest, the in­juries in­crease a lot.”

Rapids coach Pablo Mas­troeni has said it is “border­line crim­i­nal” when teams are asked to play twice in 72 hours. Nor­mally he jug­gles his lineup when the Rapids have to play twice in a week. But twice this sea­son he kept the same lineup, and on both oc­ca­sions the team was routed 3-1 in the sec­ond game, by Los Ange- les on June 21 and by Seat­tle on July 4. Both times the Rapids clearly had dead legs.

“Those are fac­tors we take into con­sid­er­a­tion when we’re set­ting up the lineup,” said Os­o­rio, who had brief stints in MLS coach­ing Chicago and New York a decade ago. “We want to have a fresh team that gives us the best op­por­tu­nity to win.”

Os­o­rio on Thurs­day made four changes from Sun­day’s lineup in­clud­ing Erick Tor­res, a for­ward who has been on fire for the Hous­ton Dy­namo this sea­son. Tor­res, who is tied for sec­ond place in MLS scor­ing with 12 goals in 18 games, made his fifth ap­pear­ance for the na­tional team.

Mex­ico and Ja­maica played to a 0-0 draw. In the first game, El Sal­vador de­feated Cu­ra­cao 2-0.

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