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Mexico, de la Torre face tense future

Carlos Salcido (L) and Andres Guardado (R) react to Mexico's draw against Costa Rica.
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Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy writes about the beautiful game for FOX Soccer, the Boston Herald and several other publications. Follow him on Twitter.


Mexico City Earthquake


Wonder why Mexico's winning the future? Here's a hint: Youth.

The two-word chant started several minutes before referee Mark Geiger brought a merciful end to Mexico's wretched 0-0 home draw with Costa Rica. Every repetition plunged like a dagger ready to exorcise the lingering and unexpected demons currently haunting El Tri.

”Fuera Chepo. Fuera Chepo. Fuera Chepo.”

It is far easier to dismiss one manager than to replace a squad full of underachieving players, but the audible angst toward the embattled José Manuel de la Torre emerged justifiably as a third consecutive scoreless stalemate at Estadio Azteca wound to a close.

De la Torre and his players can offer no viable explanation for these performances or these results in this hallowed venue during the Hexagonal. Three points from three attempts is nowhere near good enough. Zero goals in three outings is patently unacceptable.

And this insipid offering provided plenty of fodder for the increasing furious followers demanding a change to rectify the increasingly desperate state of affairs.

Costa Rica deserves ample credit for exacerbating the inherent concerns created over the first five games. Veteran boss Jorge Luis Pinto set out his stall in his usual 5-3-2 setup to restrict the available room in the wide areas and told his players to push forward astutely on the counter. Their plans yielded a manageable night in defense and the three best chances – including Joel Campbell's shot off the post inside the first 10 minutes – of the evening.

Even with the visitors in fine form, Mexico did not do nearly enough to stretch that well-drilled shape. The lingering problems – a dearth of creativity in central midfield, a lack of service from the wide areas and a paucity of incisive work in the final third – emerged once again and hindered El Tri for the duration of the night.

De la Torre attempted to combat those concerns by introducing Aldo de Nigris, Gerardo Flores and Hector Herrera and reverting to a 4-4-2 formation to provide additional support for Javier Hernández. The alterations – and the associated decision to leave Giovani dos Santos on the bench until the final quarter of an hour due to his dearth of tactical discipline – failed to produce the desired results. De Nigris and Herrera departed during the second half after making minimal contributions on the night. Flores threatened once or twice from set pieces without supplying the expected threat on the overlap.

As the previous five qualifiers have shown, Mexico struggles to carve open the opposition when it cannot either break on the counter or create additional space by stretching the play horizontally. The minimal production in the final third – a modest allotment of half-chances, including Flores' header wide from an Andrés Guardado free kick five minutes from time – inspired the usual bout of hopelessly direct play and sent Mexico sliding to a third consecutive draw at this previously impenetrable fortress.

The galling decline on home soil and the increasingly tenuous state of affairs leaves Mexico with plenty of work to do when it resumes its Hexagonal duties in September. El Tri must wring a minimum of eight points out of its four remaining games – home to Honduras (Sept. 6), away to the United States (Sept. 10), home to Panama (Oct. 11) and away to Costa Rica (Oct. 15) – to guarantee qualification. Significant improvement is required to navigate through that tricky slate and seal a direct berth to Brazil.


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And the peril ahead may indeed prompt Mexico to wonder whether it should heed the wishes of its supporters sooner rather than later. De la Torre possesses scant job security at this point even though he has established a solid defensive unit (two goals conceded in the Hex) and has watched several of his key performers (including dos Santos and Guardado) fail to meet their usual standards. The current performances and results fall well short of expectations. A hasty exit from the Confederations Cup – certainly a possibility in a group including Brazil, Italy and Japan – will almost certainly force the Mexican Football Federation’s hand and usher de la Torre out the door.

Even if de la Torre survives through the end of the month, he faces an uphill battle to retain his job based on the current evidence. The discontent in the stands reflects the anger within the country. Unless the stunning situation changes in short order, the two words de la Torre heard as this awful night concluded will inevitably drive him from his post and lead to a new era for El Tri.

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