Reviewing Mexico's 2009 - Part Dos

As the 2008-2009 season wound down, Javier Aguirre had come back to Mexico, hailed as a savior once more. Although, he didn’t see it that way. “El Salvador is not me, but the team we play next in the hex.” He said.

The local league had seen a good number of upsets as the teams entered into the liguilla. None bigger, though, than Indios improbable victory that sent both Chivas and America packing.

Ciudad Juarez hasn’t had much to celebrate these days. We can talk about the drug wars, the unsolved murders of hundreds of women and girls, the unpaved streets, they lack of electricity in large parts of the city, but this is a footie page. Let’s just say it’s a tough place to live.

Five years from now, the attendance of today’s game vs. Chivas will have swelled to well over 500,000. Because everybody who is anybody in the Chihuahua border town will swear they were there, an eye witness to the Miracle at the Estadio Olimpico Benito Juarez. For it was the day Indios knocked out Chivas and America from the 2009 Clausura’s Liguilla.

And then there was the swine flu scare.

Mexico, as a country, shut down for two weeks. Games were played behind closed doors for two match days. South American teams refused to travel to Mexico to play their Libertadores ties. The FMF responded by pulling out of the tournament altogether.

There are many solutions to this problem. I do applaud the FMF for standing up for their teams, but I prefer that they would have found a way to settle this on the field. Let us be clear about one thing. It was the South American teams that refused to travel to Mexico for their ties. Yet the FMF are the ones who offered to forfeit. Shouldn’t it be the other way ‘round? I wonder if CONMEBOL’s position would be more flexible if the SA teams involved were from Peru and Venezuela, not two of the sacred cows like Nacional and Sao Paolo.

This will get resolved because they both need each other. Mexico needs the elevated level of competition and CONMEBOL needs the economic boost from having such a large market like Mexico in their demographics.

Big Soccer member LMvCP offered a compelling rebuttal:

I am convinced despite the politricks involved in the clandestine world of footie, the better teams can rise above unfavorable conditions. They find ways to break bunkers, they find ways to beat bad officiating, they find ways to offset home field advantages. Is it fair? Should they have to endure discrimination? Of course not, but it does make victory much more sweeter.

I think that the FMF should have continued their participation and if they still felt that they wanted distance themselves from CONMEBOL, it should have been after the tournament with cooler heads and warm hearts..”

In the end, of course, the FMF and CONMEBOL kissed and made up. But CONCACAF did intervene by putting an end to all CONCACAF participation in the Copa Sudamericana. Gee, thanks.

The Clausura ended with a thrilling extra-time tilt in Pachuca, where Pumas got the goal to win the final and lift their sixth trophy. If only those of us could have seen it.

My cable system does not carry Telefutura, so I had to scramble just to get a signal. When I finally did that, Telefutura was 15 minutes late in getting a proper signal from TV Azteca. And when it was all over, Telefutura could not wait long enough to switch off to Cine de las Estrellas. So no trophy presentation for us Telefutura viewers. Univision does the absolute bare minimum to broadcast these games. They delay them for no reason and the announcers are on their best day are very average. They can do better. A lot better.

With the domestic leagues all done for the year, attention turned this summer to the final stretch of world cup qualification. Tri fans were all expecting Javier “Gandalf” Aguirre to turn Mexico’s fortunes around with a flick of his wrist. It didn’t happen.

Most of us were all beyond panic.

As for Mexico, everything was supposed to be different now that their savior Javier Aguirre, was back in the fray. FMF can change the coaches after every game if they want, but the constant that has plagued Mexico during this current slide have been the players. Until they make the commitment and the sacrifice necessary to get the results they need, it'll be more of the same. It's not all over for Mexico, but their margin of error is now microscopically thin.

As always, there was a voice of reason. This one from Various Styles:
“Mexico has played 3 out of their 4 games on the road, their next two are at home, if they dont win then I will be worried, until then, whatever.”

Mexico hadn’t shown any heart at all. And in their next game, the barely got by Trinidad and Tobago at the Azteca. But they did have a Gold Cup to figure it all out. And they did, but not before Aguirre made sure the Tri couldn’t get any worse.

The sunshine pumper in me believes that maybe, just maybe, this would catalyze the team for the good, but I had thought that when Nery went off on the press. The “team unity” lasted all of 90 minutes. The realist in me sees a team from top to bottom in complete disarray. The suits hasten decisions, the players lack any kind of heart, and the coaches (all of them) seem powerless to do anything about it.

Aguirre’s deplorable actions against Panama turned out to be the turning point for Mexico. Ever since that day, I have often wondered if what he did was a shrewd, calculated move, or just a temporary lapse in sanity. I tend to think it was the former. But then again, I also believe that new coke was the greatest marketing move in the history of modern capitalism. So what do I know?

The Gold Cup did galvanize Mexico, but more importantly, it gave Mexico a base of players that would carry them through their eventual qualification.

So what does it all mean for Aug 12? Not much, really. The teams that take the field in the Azteca will be vastly different than the ones that lined up in the Meadowlands today. But Mexico does have a renewed sense of confidence. Something the really haven’t had since the 2005 confed cup. This Gold Cup reminds me of the 2001 Copa America. Javier Aguirre took his players down to Colombia to get back in rhythm. They went all the way to the final and then didn’t lose any of the remaining games in the Hex. Let’s hope history repeats itself.

Luckily for Mexico, it did.