“El Tri” draws more love than the coach
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.