DALLAS, TX. Mexico’s World Cup campaign got started on the right foot this past week in the Alamo City. The scoreline looked good: a 4-0 win over an experimental South Korea side would look good in the headlines. But this game was all about who was going to step up.
And who wasn't.
Miguel “Piojo” Herrera surprised some folks with a few of his call-ups: Tigres’ Alan Pulido, Toluca’s Isaac Brizuela & Miguel Ponce, and Pachuca’s 19 year old Rodolfo Pizarro were named to the senior side. Normally surprise call-ups, especially in a World Cup year, are given trash minutes, or none at all. At this point, coaches are fine tuning, not holding auditions.
But Piojo started all four of the youngsters. Two of them made key contributions: Pulido had a hat trick. Brizuela was a constant headache for the Korean defense, and served up Pulido's second. Both did more than enough to merit at the very least another call up. The coach gave them a shot, and they responded. As a fan of Mexico, it was refreshing to see a coach lean on the chamacos and to see them respond. There was a part of me, though, that couldn't help but notice that none of the youngsters (or any call up, for that matter) were from Pumas.
It’s no surprise, really. Pumas has been in shambles for the better part of two years. Back office mismanagement, couple with even worse front office decisions have decimated the club. The worst part of this story is that most of the damage has been self-inflicted. It is a sad affair, especially the fans who have a unique set of expectations. Of course, we want our team to win. Who doesn't? But with Pumas, there is a certain amount of pride that goes along with achieving success as a result of the team’s philosophy: win with your academy.
Lately the harvests have been less than spectacular. The academy graduates who have had the most impact as of late, Javier Cortes and David Cabrera, have been on the senior side for a while. The former has been plagued by inconsistency and the latter by bad knees.
Other than that, the well has run dry.
Without that bedrock, the front office was forced to bring in veteran players on a budget – in other words, burnouts with as much mileage as pride. How has it been working out? They haven’t won at home since April 26 of last year; they finished in dead last in the Apertura, which means that another bad season will put them squarely in the relegation fight next year (luckily for them, the relegation system will spare them this year).
There has not only been a revolving door in the coaches’ box, but the front office as well. It has gotten so bad at CU, that the fans were singing Hugo Sanchez’ name. The same Hugo Sanchez they booed off the pitch nearly 10 years ago… the last time Pumas spiraled out of control.
Pumas did manage to win last week at Tigres. They may want to play their home games at Monterrey since the only win they got last season was away to Rayados. The win is nice, but is nowhere near enough to mask the problems.
It is understandable that talent droughts are going to happen. If that is the case, then Pumas has been in a dust bowl. And from the looks of it, Piojo won’t be calling any Pumas for Brazil and beyond.