Slumping Pumas running out of patience with Puente

Pumas manager Rafael Puente is on a very hot seat right now. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Pumas manager Rafael Puente is on a very hot seat right now. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /
Pumas Puente hot seat
Former Pumas coach Andrés Lillini (left) greets his successor Rafa Puente Jr before the Necaxa-UNAM preseason match on Dec. 20. Puente could be fired if UNAM fails to defeat last-place Mazatlán FC on Friday. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

While debate about Cruz Azul’s ongoing coaching search rages in the headlines, just 10 miles northwest of the La Noria training ground another vacancy appears imminent.

The Cementeros fired Raúl Gutiérrez after the club’s 0-1-4 start and names of renowned managers are being bandied about while team legends are publicly sniping about candidates who might burn the entire organization to the ground.

Meanwhile, interim coach Joaquin Moreno guided “La Máquina” to its first triumph of the season and will be on the sideline again on Wednesday when Cruz Azul hosts Atlas.

None of that means a whit to fans of crosstown rivals UNAM where coach Rafa Puente’s tenure might be coming to an abrupt end.

Pumas in the market for a new coach?

Just eight games into his first season as head coach, Puente is already hearing it from angry fans who booed the manager as he trudged off the CU pitch following the team’s 2-1 home loss to Guadalajara on Saturday.

The Pumas won two of their first three games but are mired in a 5-game winless streak that has seen “los felinos” sink into 11th place.

There are reports of locker room disharmony (Puente reportedly urged veteran striker Juan Ignacio Dinenno and skipper Nicolás Freire to sign contract extensions to eliminate the uncertainty).

Three consecutive setbacks have further exacerbated the situation, made more troublesome by the fact the Pumas have given up early goals in each of those losses. Tigres was up 2-1 after 24 minutes before winning 4-2; Necaxa was up 2-0 after 6 minutes in their 3-1 win and Guadalajara scored just 6 minutes in on Saturday.

A lack of discipline in between the lines (four Pumas have seen red cards this season) also reflects poorly on the beleaguered coach.

Further roiling the situation for the Pumas, Dani Alvés was axed from the roster before the season after allegations of sexual assault emerged. Then last week, the team’s reputation took a further hit when defender Arturo Ortiz was accused of sexual abuse (although team officials cleared Ortiz to play against the Chivas).

Puente was not a popular choice to replace Andrés Lillini this season even though he came up through the Pumas academy as a player.

With a visit to last-place Mazatlán FC up next, Puente must know that anything but a win could virtually end his term.

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In fact, reports are already circulating that the Pumas front office has begun to compile a list of candidates. Former Pachuca and Monterrey coach Diego Alonso (last seen coaching Uruguay at the World Cup) is reportedly on UNAM’s wish list.