Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Curbing instability

Mexico would be a stronger team right now had they kept Ricardo Lavolpe.

Now, I'm not saying that Lavolpe is a better manager than Sven-Goran Eriksson, or that the Mexican media and supporters would have put up with Lavolpe after the 2006 World Cup, when Hugo Sanchez was all the rage.

But I am saying that Lavolpe had one thing that Eriksson didn't, and that's time. Lavolpe was hired to take over Mexico in late 2002 and had time to build the team, bleed new internationals and weed out veterans, guide the team through a tournament like the Gold Cup... all before he played a single World Cup qualifier. And then, Mexico had a waltz through the semifinal round before qualifying for the World Cup with two games to spare.

Eriksson was thrown into the fire, and by his own admission had little knowledge of the Mexican league and its players. In a few months, he was asked to guide Mexico through qualifying against some decent competition. Having had little time to prepare and zero experience in managing a CONCACAF team against other CONCACAF teams.

So what happened? Mexico went out and struggled on the road, and everyone was surprised. There has been little continuity in Mexico since 2000. Manuel Lapuente had some good teams at the turn of the century but he moved on, and Enrique Meza took over. That's one coaching change in the midst of a World Cup cycle. Meza lasted not even a year on the job as he nearly sunk Mexico's World Cup 2002 hopes. Javier Aguirre came in, did well to lead Mexico to the World Cup, and moved on after '02. Lavolpe came in, and after the '06 World Cup, enter Hugo Sanchez.

Sanchez actually had the team in decent shape. Where he failed was 1) the Olympic team, which he never ever should have coached, and 2) bringing in the foreigners he so harshly criticized. He may have been able to weather that storm had his popularity not sunk like a stone in the ocean.

Out with Sanchez, in with Eriksson, and that's three coaching changes in the midst of World Cup cycles. And that's just since 2000.

Now there's rumors and speculation about Eriksson own future. If he loses, he's toast seems to be the gist of most of them. While it may seem logical to remove him - a struggling team struggles again, which will only lead to more struggles - if history has shown anything, it's that the lack of continuity has gotten Mexico to where it is today; a talented team with lots of resources and support but also lots of questions and instability.

But if Mexico does lose tonight, Eriksson should stay. Even if its a bad loss, he should stay. If it's a win, everybody is happy and all is right with the world, right? Not exactly. Eriksson has lots and lots of work to do, no matter the result. And he should be given the time to do the work.

After all, if the Mexican federation brought him in as coach, let him coach.


man-from-michigan said...


I think that we should have kept La Volpe as coach. It wouuld have helped having someone continue a prcoess than to start a whole new one that failed right away. That IS the problem with our NT liek you mentioned. Hopefully they let this process move forward, win or lose tonight. The GOAL is to qualify to Africa 2010, not beat the US on US soil. Of course that would be great, but I would much rather lose to the US and qualify to Africa 2010 than to beat the US and not qualify.


Anonymous said...

Has everyone forgotten the 4 games Chucho Ramirez coach the NT?

Anonymous said...

hey luis,

loved your post. quick point: there has never, ever, been continuity in mexico's national program... going back as 1970, no national coach has stayed on for more than three, four years... even bora (86) and cardenas (70) did not stay on, despite great world cups.

planning is not something we do well, decisions are often taken on the fly, responsibility often shifts depending on the speaker... dollar signs, quick returns rule supreme, no surprise there...

yes, lavolpe should have probably stayed, but our own xenophobia and a number of internal interests (ie. televisa's struggle for control of the national program) would have never allowed this.

with sven at the helm, we now risk missing the world cup, which would be fit punishment for the tremendous mismanagement of resources we have witnessed.

really, how naive does that decision look now? bringing an european coach... with the hopes that he could help us win in places like columbus, tegucigalpa, san jose, kingston... it might have been great marketing, but the sheer stupidity is just mind-boggling.

saludos, d