Twin El Tri failures lead to national teams leadership purge

This El Tri supporter perfectly represents the feelings Mexico fans who witnessed two national teams come up woefully short in qualifiers the past two weeks. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images)
This El Tri supporter perfectly represents the feelings Mexico fans who witnessed two national teams come up woefully short in qualifiers the past two weeks. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images) /
El Tri bloodletting
Members of Mexico’s Under-20 team sprawl on the ground after losing a penalty shootout to Guatemala. The result keeps El Tri out of the U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. (Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images) /

After two unforgivable national team disasters, heads rolled Tuesday night at the Mexican Soccer Federation.

National Teams director Gerardo Torrado and his top assistant Ignacio Hierro were fired as a result of the embarrassing failures of the men’s Under-20 team and El Tri Femenil, both of whom flopped badly in their respective Concacaf qualifying tournaments.

Also getting the axe were Luis Pérez, coach of the U-20 squad, while the status of Mónica Vergara, the women’s national team coach, will be determined by the new leadership team.

Mexican Soccer Federation president Yon de Luisa made the not-unexpected announcement from FMF headquarters on Wednesday, just two days after El Tri Femenil lost to the USWNT in Monterrey and two weeks after El Mini Tri was stunned by Guatemala in Honduras.

Long-term damage feared for El Tri

Mexico’s U-20 team was expected to compete with Team USA for Concacaf supremacy at the qualifying tournament in Honduras and the junior El Tri came out of the gates fast, winning their first two group-stage matches by a combined 13-0 score.

A scoreless draw against Haiti in the final group stage match might have raised an eyebrow or two, but the knockout stage figured to elicit renewed energy. A 6-0 win over Puerto Rico followed while critics who worried about the excessive individuality and wobbly teamwork on display were dismissed as naysayers.

A quarterfinal match-up against Guatemala figured to be no problem, but the “Chapines” played simply and executed an identifiable game plan. The Central Americans scored first then sat back and concentrated on defense.

The Guatemalan effort was made easier by an El Tri side that persisted in solo forays, fancy dribbling that produced nothing and sloppy technique. Mexico tied the game late and had the better chances to win in the rest of regulation and overtime, but too often El Tri’s players sought to play the hero instead of collaborating with teammates.

Throughout the second half, social media was ablaze with questions about coach Pérez’s rotation decisions, the most popular being why he didn’t use Necaxa’s teen sensation Heriberto Jurado. It also allowed second-guessers who had questioned Pérez’s roster selection – specifically those who wondered why Chivas wunderkind Sebastián Pérez Bouquet was not on the team – to say “I told you so.”

In the resulting shoot-out, Guatemala’s goalie stopped three shots and El Tri missed a fourth, bowing out in stunning fashion.

The loss at that stage meant Mexico will not participate in either the U-20 World Cup next year or the 2024 Olympics. As such, El Tri’s junior team will get zero top-notch international experience before co-hosting the 2026 World Cup when the FMF was counting on having a new generation of players to showcase.

As for the women, El Tri Femenil was expected to benefit from being the host of the Concacaf W Championship. Vergara had taken charge of the senior team last year with great fanfare after leading El Tri Femenil to the final of the 2018 U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Instead, the team fell flat on its face, losing in shocking fashion to Jamaica and Haiti in the first two group-stage matches. Entering the final group-stage match, the women needed a miracle – victory over the powerhouse US squad and a big Jamaica win over Haiti.

Although Jamaica delivered to the tune of a 4-0 triumph, El Tri Femenil came up short despite playing their best game of the tournament. The result means the women miss out on the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

The twin calamities were enough to convince De Luis and the FMF that Torrado – as the man in charge – and his sidekick Hierro had to go.

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In an unfortunate bit of irony, Torrado and Pérez were teammates on Mexico’s Under-20 team that missed out on the 2000 Olympics. On April 28, 2000, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Honduras upset El Tri in the semifinals of the Concacaf qualifiers, also in a penalty shoot-out.