One of Mexico’s favorite types of TV shows are telenovelas, or soap operas. Year after year, soap after soap, people (largely ladies, but hey, guys will eat that drama up too) will watch at the edge of their seat as they see the drama of the shows unfold. In all truth, if you take a step back all the shows are pretty similar, and use the same blueprint to catch all those Mexican eyes.
For the better part of more than 10 years, the Mexican National team might be the best real life soap opera in Mexico. Across the country analysts, journalists, and former players dress in nice suits and sit in a nice studio and discuss, argue and yell about Mexican soccer and the Mexican national team. Much like the telenovelas, the same things are said that capture the interest and eyes of everyone.
Lucky for them, most of the coaches over the years for Mexico had the personalities and flair to give everyone what they wanted. Javier Aguirre talked in slang and with the personality of everyone. Chepo De La Torre was so sour that once Mexico started losing it was easy to point to his cold personality. Miguel Herrera had no filter and spoke from his soul and wore his emotions on his sleeves, which in turn, lead to his firing.
Juan Carlos Osorio is different. He seems personable, talks like a college professor who has the experience you respect, while also personable where you’re not bored or turned off by what he has to say. He gets your attention without grabbing at it. He’s a thinker, he’s a philosopher, when he speaks he does it with thought, but without it feeling scripted.
In his first big test as Mexican coach came against Honduras in San Pedro Sula, and was able to do something no other coach, with no other team has been able to do in 50 years, he went in and won.
Yet as you turned to the post game talk, it was seen as nothing more than a “Meh” moment. Both Hugo Sanchez and Jared Borgetti, arguably Mexico’s best player, and Mexico’s all-time leading goal scorer, said they didn’t like how Mexico won. Yes, they won but they didn’t like the matter in which they did it. This from two players who neither were able to do what Osorio was able to do no matter how pretty or well they played in Honduras. Sanchez especially, since as Mexican coach, he was fired before even starting the World Cup qualifying process eight years ago.
Osorio in his pre-game news conference said he’d go out and attack to win the game, people complained that he didn’t do that. Instead he played with four center backs and Mexico didn’t get their first clear chance till the 50th minute. Yet while Mexico played with four center backs, they played without a defensive midfielder. Instead Osorio relied on Captain Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera to do the dirty work and playing both ends of the field.
A student of the game, Osorio must have seen how Mexico have been burnt a time after time on the counter by teams such as Honduras by balls being played in the gaps left by the outside defenders pushing up. With four center backs, Oswaldo Alanis and Hugo Ayala were not going to push up and there were no gaps to expose. Four center backs also meant four great ball winners in the air, and at no point on Tuesday did they get beat from a ball over the air and have a forward turn them.
Some didn’t like the lack of aggression shown, but instead of throwing flames into an already hot fire that was San Pedro Sula yesterday in a hostile crowd; Osorio’s game plan was to slowly take Honduras out of the game with side to side ball movement, before attacking through the middle. It wasn’t glamorous, but an hour into the game, Honduras didn’t produce a goal and had been left to only foul, had lost their legs, and the crowd had lost their hunger as well. The will of everyone in blue and white had been slowly taken away from them.
Osorio most likely won’t be fazed by this, but it’s something he will need to come to expect. While he does what is expected from him, it won’t be enough for some people.
They will instead talk about him rotating his players and using different formations. They will question why Guillermo Ochoa didn’t play, and why Giovani Dos Santos didn’t get called. Even where there isn’t anything to criticize, the media will need to find something to talk about. Players and analyst in suits need something to argue, need something to disagree with. While losing isn’t accepted in Mexico when it comes to the CONCACAF region, winning isn’t everything either, it's how you win or with who to some. Because after all, without the drama, there’s no telenovela, and Mexicans sure do love our Telenovelas.