El Tri: Has the ‘Tata’ Era run its course already? Not yet

Gerardo "Tata" Martino gestures during a Concacaf Gold Cup match. His tenure is hanging by a thread after yet another loss to Team USA. (Photo by ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images)
Gerardo "Tata" Martino gestures during a Concacaf Gold Cup match. His tenure is hanging by a thread after yet another loss to Team USA. (Photo by ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images) /
El Tri Tata
Gerardo Martino had a lot of explaining to do after his heavily favored El Tri side came up short against an inexperienced Team USA squad in the Gold Cup final. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /

When Team Mexico phenom “Chucky” Lozano went down with a nasty head injury a mere 10 minutes into the Concacaf Gold Cup, it was an omen of things to come. El Tri appeared shaken by the loss of their young star, and the clear-cut tournament favorites went into a funk that they never managed to overcome.

A mediocre showing in the group stage was followed by inconsistent performances in the knockout rounds, culminating in a stunning overtime loss to Team USA in the final. Suddenly, a team that had climbed to No. 11 in the FIFA World Rankings under Gerardo “Tata” Martino appears to be a train wreck.

Naturally, the ruthless Mexican soccer media got the knives out and prepared for a blood-letting – “Monumental failure” and “National disgrace” were among the kinder headlines the following day.

Would a campaign to have “Tata” fired begin? Would it gather momentum?

Losing to Team USA always a no-no

Back in 1991, Manuel Lapuente was fired immediately after El Tri lost to the U.S. in a Gold Cup semifinal match, and Luis Fernando Tena was tapped to coach Mexico in the third-place match.

With this as precedent, it was clear that “Tata” was in big trouble.

Even the international sporting media took note. Here’s Felipe Cardenas writing for “The Athletic”:

“Mexico had never lost consecutive finals to the U.S., but on Sunday, that milestone became the basis for criticism from the country’s highly critical press.”

"“El Tri have experienced bitter disappointment twice this summer, and there will be little patience for more slip-ups.”                                     – Dan Bernstein"

And it’s not just “Tata” that is feeling the heat. From Dan Bernstein for “Goal.com”:

“… entering World Cup qualifiers this fall, it’s assured that almost everyone not axed from the program in the aftermath of the latest result will be on a short leash.”

El Tri coaching carousel

No doubt, “Tata” is sitting on a very hot seat right now, but with World Cup qualifiers less than a month away, there is little chance he will be fired this summer. There is simply not enough time to identify, recruit and hire a new coach before El Tri is due to host Jamaica on Sept. 2.

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A road trip to Central America follows quickly – at Costa Rica on Sept. 5 and at Panama on Sept. 8.

If results are less than desirable, the Mexican Federation (FMF) would likely act, scurrying to install a new coach before Canada’s Oct. 7 visit to Estadio Azteca. Still, it would be no surprise if the FMF were frantically sifting through its Rolodex in search of potential successors for “Tata” even now.

Some might say that such a reaction smacks of panic, and it does. But that is par for the course for the FMF. Since the turn of the century, El Tri has had 16 managers (the USA has had five since 1998, including Bruce Arena twice).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves (especially since leagues around the world are under way or nearing kick-off and ideal El Tri managers are likely otherwise occupied).

The hope among die-hard Mexico fans is that “Tata” trims the fat and moves on from the underachievers and the undeserving he relied on at the Gold Cup.

The question is: Can “Tata” make the hard decisions necessary to revitalize his team and prepare the players for the gauntlet that is World Cup qualifying in the Concacaf region?

Next. El Tri's Gold medal dreams dashed. dark

We’ll next examine some of the decisions – both tactical and as regards personnel – that ought to be made ahead of the opener against Jamaica.