Besides possibly England and Brazil, there are fewer coaching hot seats in international soccer than that of Mexico. In fact, since 2006 when Ricardo La Volpe finished his four year stint with El Tri, the team has had 11 different coaches take the bench. In a way, it speaks to the quality of the Mexican player.
Even with all these constant changes the team continues to perform at a respectable level and continues to be one of the teams just a level or two below the elites of the world (two round of 16 exits in the two World Cups played after 2006, and six straight round of 16 exits combined). Their current coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, continues to feel the pressure of the Mexican hot seat entering the start of the CONCACF Hex.
During that time, the USA has had two coaches, Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann. Unlike Mexico, the USA has shown the ability to allow their coaches to go through growing pains and the ups and downs. The federation has shown the respect to give the coach the chance to implement his ideas and style with little to no budding in.
You could argue that if the Mexican federation has their leash too tight, the US doesn’t have it tight enough. The only time the US Federation showed the type of ruthlessness that the Mexican federation shows in an almost yearly bases was when they fired Bradley in 2011 after falling to Mexico in the Gold Cup final a year into his second four year contract. Right after, the US Federation landed their dream coach in 2006 Germany head coach and California resident Jurgen Klinsman.
In just a few days, both coaches take their repsective teams to the middle of the country for an international fixure that has seen the USA leave four straight times with 2-0 wins. With not only a match against each other, both teams will be away in their second matches for tricky Central American battles against Costa Rica (For the USA) and Panama (For Mexico). Because of that, for possibly the first time these two teams will meet in Ohio, the Mexico coach won’t be the only one under heavy pressure.
Feet to the fire for Osorio
In the year Osorio has been in charge of Mexico, the team on paper has been impressive, 12 wins, 1 defeat, and 2 draws. Still, he enters Friday’s match against the USA under heavy pressure. This summer’s 7-0 defeat to Chile is still lingering in the minds of Mexican fans and pundits alike. While in the group stage of World Cup qualifying Mexico collected a possible 16 of 18 points, had their spot in the Hex locked up after four games, and only allowed one goal from the possible six games, the defeat from Chile hangs over the head of the team.
The Hex brings a fresh start for Osorio, but if Mexico was to leave Columbus and Panama City with only one point or none, that could be enough for the federation to pull the trigger on the Osorio experiment. Of course, on the other hand, Osorio brought his best possible roster and if they are able to leave Ohio with a draw or a win, something no other coach has done in four trips to Columbus, he’ll able to give himself some breathing room headed into next year and show his philosophy is working.
Klinsmann feeling the pressure
Under the same time Osorio has been in charge, Klinsmann has coached 19 games for the US with a record of 13 wins, 4 defeats, and 2 draws. The highlight for the US team was reaching the Copa America semifinals. The bad part was that the team was a complete no show and were thoroughly beat by Argentina 4-0 and produced zero shots in the match.
Also, unlike Mexico, who strolled to the Hex, the USA struggled at times with a defeat in Guatemala and a draw at Trinidad and Tobago, leaving their qualification to the Hex until the final day. Lackluster results and inconsistent play has lead to Klinsmann entering this double fixture against Mexico and at Costa Rica under the type of pressure that neither he, Bradley, or Bruce Arena ever felt entering a USA vs Mexico match in Columbus, Ohio.
This can be seen as a positive, because it means that there are real expectations from the national team where there hasn’t been before in the past. The build up to the game has been the famous scoreline of “Dos A Cero”. While Mexico brings a strong team into Ohio, the USA has one of their deepest rosters as well, and a defeat to Mexico can be seen as a step back when compared to recent history. Add to that, the daunting task of playing in hostile San Jose, Costa Rica, and Jurgen faces the type of pressure for a result on Friday night that no one on a USA bench has faced before.
Friday will not only see CONCACAF biggest rivalry take place, but it will put two coaches under the microscope from their perspective fan bases and federations. Two coaches who need a result to ease the tensions that have been building over the last year.