Things had been going so well: Mexico won the Gold Cup and navigated the tricky semi final round without a blemish, not even a draw. The José Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre era started with 12 wins in 12 official matches. More of the same was expected in the Hex.
And then Mexico was lucky to draw with Jamaica. not in Kingston, but the Azteca. Two points lost at home. So the pressure's on, now, right, Chepo?
There is always going to be pressure with the National team. We always look to play well and get good results. We see (the Jamaica match) differently. Now we have the opportunity to get back to playing well. It was the first draw in an official match and we didn't like it one bit. That is not to say, though, that this game coming up is life or death.
Nothing new here. Chepo is adhering to the coach-speak theory as he always does. But this press conference was a little different, at least for a Mexico coach.
It has been my experience that Mexican coaches rarely acknowledge mistakes, but would rather blame something or someone else - or that very least begrudgingly praise the opponent. Mexico's biggest problem was it's awful passing and lack of control vs Jamaica. Hew was right.
What Chepo has not done, and what he won't do (unlike many, many of his predecessors) is make any comments that would be considered disrespectful toward his opponent, whoever it is. Honduras is no different.
It will be a difficult game against a well coached team with good players. They have gotten good results at home, but it is still a football match for which we are preparing to win.
It must be said, though, that Central American media can take even the most vanilla statement from a player and coach and twist it to fit their perpetual "they always disrespect us" MO.
A cursory look at the roster may indicate that Chepo is playing for a tie. And when he had the chance to bring on another forward to replace the injured Oribe Peralta, he opted for another DM (which I think makes an even dozen), Carlos "el Gullit" Peña. His answer, though, may have signaled that Chepo is leaning toward moving away from the 4-4-2 formation that stagnated his attack.
I have enough options up front for these type of games. If I want to change another player after the Honduras match, I can exercise that option. Peña has played well at León and it's a good time to call him.
Interesting. Chepo has also said that he does not necessarily see Gullit as strictly a holding midfielder. Gullit is a big boy, and he may be a better option vs. the more corpulent Hondurans, than, say, a Javier Aquino, who never gained any footing vs the much bigger Jamaicans. Peña also has a much better scoring presence than Aquino, and we all know that in games like this, you'll take a goal from whoever, whenever, however.
It wouldn't a Chepo press conference without the obligatory Carlos Vela statement. Chepo left the decision squarely on Vela.
He (Vela) is thinking about other things. He has let us know he wants to consolidate himself on his team. We have spoken to him several times, watched his games where he has played well. There is not much more we can do. When he is ready to make the commitment, we'll make the decision if he gets the call or not. We need everyone to be committed to win, but only one who isn't to lose.
It comes down to this. Mexico needs at least 3 points from their next two games. A win in Honduras would erase the two points they lost at home to the Reggae Boyz, and it would make their game against the US a lot more palatable. Anything less than 3 points, though, and that pressure that Chepo says the team always feels will be compounded exponentially.