Vucetich victim of Mexico's ineptitude
Chaos raged around Victor Manuel Vucetich on Thursday. He batted away rumors of his imminent departure as Mexico national team manager in the morning. He heard the rumbles about a coaching change grow louder during the afternoon, though he still did not have any official word about his future.
The speculation continued well into the evening until Vucetich himself brought clarity. He confirmed his departure after just two matches in charge. A new man -- almost certainly Club América boss Miguel Herrera -- would lead El Tri into the World Cup playoff against New Zealand next month.
At one of the lowest points of his wildly successful career, Vucetich mustered the foresight and the perspective his federation could not. He cited the conditions surrounding his appointment, eluded difficult questions about the power brokers behind his dismissal and then revealed the true depths of the problems facing Mexico ahead of next summer's World Cup.
“It was an experience,” Vucetich told ESPN Deportes. “It was positive, but it wasn't what I wanted. It ends this way. There were only six training sessions. I'm confident, I'm King Midas, but I am not God. This is why we are as we are.”
#Vucetich: "Ya me informaron que estoy destituido de la Selección. Soy el Rey Midas, no Dios. Por eso estamos como estamos".— Raza Deportiva (@razaespn) October 18, 2013
If only the club owners and the federation officials understood the power of those astute words and the pleas for considered and gradual progress behind them. They chop and plot with little regard for the future and scant adherence to any sort of modern normative standards. It shows in the way they run Liga MX with its outmoded draft for internal transfers and the ludicrous swapping of cities and first-division licenses to contradict competitive outcomes. It manifests itself more harmfully in the way the national team is operated like a fiefdom run by a small group of biased, misguided lords.
The same honchos who often struggle to run their own clubs in a functional manner determine the path of the national team. They lurch from decision to decision beholden to television concerns, encumbered by self-interest and influenced by personal ties. Their inconsistent edicts create strife without providing any semblance of accountability. And this group needs a rebuke every now and then after showing its repeated incompetence in these matters.
The past two World Cup cycles show repeated patterns of evident miscalculation and poor judgment across the board to the understandable detriment of the performances on the field. The ill-suited Sven-Göran Eriksson took charge and wasted precious points during the qualifying campaign four years ago because the powers wanted a flashy hire. José Manuel de la Torre remained far longer than he should have this time in a bid to compensate for that short-term approach, an admirable and wholly misguided display of leniency that cost Mexico valuable points in September. Vucetich arrived too late to rescue a direct berth and needed more time reverse the damage done by the last few months of de la Torre's reign. The defeat in Costa Rica ensured he will not receive it despite his generally accepted status as the only viable candidate to replace de la Torre a month ago.
Constant tumult in the boardroom and in the dugout hinders the on-field efforts and provides cover to a generation of talented players lacking the constitution and the grit of their predecessors. They feel empowered to act unprofessionally, demand guaranteed starting berths or turn down call-ups because there are no structures in place to admonish their behavior or set the proper standards. No amount of skill -- and there is plenty of it in this pool -- can close the fissures created by those inherently selfish decisions or mask the inability to cope with any modicum of pressure as a result of that entitlement. The indifferent performances and the poor results constitute the toll exacted by those unseemly flaws.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (C) failed to lead Mexico to victory against Costa Rica (Image: Miguel Tovar/Getty Images).
Installing the fourth manager in a month will not solve any of those problems. Herrera will alter the playing squad considerably and spark its holdovers accordingly with his brash style without enacting permanent fixes in short order. His arrival might inspire a response comprehensive enough to dispatch the All Whites, but it serves a patch job rather than a permanent solution ahead of the difficult task potentially ahead in Brazil next summer.
.@jonyrico: "The guys in suits, pants and ties are to blame for Mexico's current form."— Mexican Soccer Show (@MexSoccerShow) October 16, 2013
Mexico must confront entrenched, widespread issues within its national team setup to meet its considerable potential on and off the field. Only introspection and meaningful reform will cure the lingering ills that ultimately prompted Vucetich's premature sacking. The canny manager identified all of them on his way out the door, but he is no longer charged with producing the answers. He has stepped out of the chaos once and for all, leaving it to swirl around without any end in sight.