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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

Gold Cup
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 By Tom Marshall

Mexico's Miguel Herrera falls on his own sword

Miguel Herrera can have no complaints.

The bizarre alleged attack by the now former Mexico coach on a TV commentator at Philadelphia International Airport on Monday, just hours after lifting the Gold Cup, was indefensible; a moment of madness from a personality who has flirted with controversy over the years and missed out on a World Cup as a player because of his hot-headedness.

"He can't stay, what he did isn't OK," one Liga MX club director told ESPN Mexico. "How stupid, because he'd got through the worst."

That quote sums it up. It was a moment of stupidity that a prominent figure, or anyone else for that matter, should not be getting involved in.

While Herrera may well have been defending the perception that Christian Martinoli sighted his daughter, as has been widely reported, going after him in a major international airport obviously isn't the way to resolve the issue.

It left the Liga MX owners and the Mexican football federation (FMF) -- who hire and fire the national team manager -- with a choice to make. And considering Martinoli works for TV Azteca, which owns Liga MX teams Atlas and Morelia and holds considerable sway, the writing was on the wall.

It also wasn't an isolated incident.

Herrera called Panama coach Hernan "Bolillo" Gomez out for a fight during Mexico's friendly last October against Los Canaleros; was filmed arguing with officials after the team's 2-0 loss in April against the United States; went back and forth with Martinoli after the Copa America and had a spat with Honduras' bench in the July 1 friendly.

It was only a matter of time before Herrera did something that was severe enough for his bosses to fire him.

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Herrera had looked tired of late after a busy summer, and it is worth remembering that he came to the job really as a back-up option in October 2013. Mexico had struggled in World Cup qualifying and following stints by Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre, Luis Fernando Tena and Victor Manuel Vucetich, the charismatic and enthusiastic Herrera stepped in. On paper, he wasn't qualified to do the job, certainly not in the same way Vucetich was.

"He won the lottery," said Mexico legend Hugo Sanchez on Tuesday. "But you already knew how he is, with his character, personality and way of speaking."

But "Piojo" took on the challenge and drove Mexico to a respectable performance at Brazil 2014, instilling confidence into the players and employing a 5-3-2 formation that turned the team around.

The really fascinating aspect of the fall out will be the reaction from those players, who have gone above and beyond paying the usual lip-service in defending Herrera during the Gold Cup.

There is a united core group including captain Andres Guardado, Giovani dos Santos, Miguel Layun and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez who have more than a little sway as some of Mexico's most prominent players. Already, Giovani dos Santos and brother Jonathan have backed Herrera.

After 20 combustible months, Miguel Herrera's time as Mexico coach has reached its end.
After 20 combustible months, Miguel Herrera's time as Mexico coach has reached its end.

But the bottom line is that the former El Tri coach has a flaw in his personality and instead of being able to control it, his aggressive streak was intensified under the pressure. Feeling vindicated after seeing his team give its best perform of the summer and lift the Gold Cup on Sunday, he reacted upon seeing Martinoli, arguably his biggest critic.

The saga is another stain on Mexican soccer, whose storylines twist, turn and double back on themselves like the most exaggerated telenovelas.

There is no obvious option to take over. Names like Atlas' Gustavo Matosas, Santos Laguna's Pedro Caixinha, Tigres' Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti will be floated, and they all have their merits. The most worthy candidate remains Vucetich, while the possibility of attracting a big foreign name like Marseille's Marcelo Bielsa or Chile's Jorge Sampaoli is more distant, but shouldn't be completely ruled out given the money the FMF has at its disposal.

The Mexican federation now needs to take a serious look at itself and its process of selecting national team managers, with Decio de Maria officially taking over from Justino Compean as FMF president on Aug. 1.

The next coach's first job is to prepare for the Confederations Cup playoff against the United States on Oct. 9 and then the beginning of World Cup qualifying starting in November.

But there can no longer be room for short-termism. Mexico's youth development continues to improve and the goal has to be to develop a team that can rise to prominence in world soccer and then stay there. That requires a head coach who has the ability to see the bigger picture and a federation that is willing to stick by someone through thick-and-thin in the knowledge that it will be for the greater good in the long run.

However, the resounding feeling on hearing about Herrera leaving his post is one of disappointment. It's not about the decision to get rid of him, but that a Mexican coach attempting to play good football couldn't maintain the self-control to deal with the responsibilities his job demanded off the field.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.

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