Mexico's Ricardo Ferretti proves he's not afraid to make changes in debut
SANDY, Utah -- On Friday, Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti expressed his delight after coaching his first match for Mexico, which ended in a 3-3 draw against Trinidad & Tobago.
"It is a great satisfaction [to have coached Mexico], [it is] very exciting, but one has to leave that to one side and look to guide the boys on the field,"
It completed an about-face for the manager, who once professed that he would rather sweep streets than manage El Tri.
The manager had already made his mark on the national team even before the first game. Giovani Dos Santos, Jonathan Dos Santos and Guillermo Ochoa were all mercilessly left off from his first squad list, even though it is difficult to understand why. And unlike former coach Miguel Herrera, Ferretti doesn't explain these types of things to the press.
Ferretti rules both by coaxing and convincing players of his ideas, but retains an iron fist when it is required, and the players know it.
"He asked for discipline and order and that we take these games very seriously because although they are preparation, they are very important because they allow us to go well into the game against the United States," explained Moises Munoz ahead of the game.
That could also be seen in his insistence that Europe-based players turning up late for camp in October will simply not be accepted.
As training wound down on Thursday, the manager was as excitable as a child unwrapping presents as Diego Reyes and Henry Martin took turns at shooting practice. And in the press-room ahead of his pregame conference, the Mexican federation press team was unsure of what the setup should be -- not because they don't know what they are doing, but because Ferretti does things as he wants and isn't easily coerced.
On the field, Ferretti was happy with what he saw against Trinidad & Tobago, or at least satisfied that he could draw some positives from the game.
"Naturally, there are things to improve," he said, "but in general the team coped well, had good possession and won back the ball [well] ... I take good conclusions, I'm satisfied. It would've been much better to have won the game, for confidence, but I have good conclusions right now."
Ferretti stressed that many of the players hadn't played together before, and it is easy to imagine that there will be changes for Tuesday's match against Argentina in Arlington, Texas, and the Confederations Cup playoff against the United States on Oct. 10. He knows in the back of his mind that he will likely only include up a maximum of five of Friday's starters for both matches: Carlos Vela, Carlos Esquivel, Jorge Torres Nilo, Javier Aquino and Alfredo Talavera.
For the Trinidad & Tobago game, Ferretti sprung a surprise in using a 4-1-4-1 system, with only one striker (Martin) and Vela out as an advanced right midfielder. It was noticeably different from the 4-4-2 tactic he plays with Tigres. It suggests that he has weighed up his options and likely feels it is the best formation to use against the United States.
It is radically at odds with Herrera's 5-3-2 and it'll be fascinating to see how it works against Argentina with Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez up front, possibly Vela on the right again and with Hector Herrera joining up to support them.
Even naming Vela captain was a significant statement and something that seemed unthinkable this time last year, when he was on his break from the national team. While the Brazilian manager has not been with the national team long and is only expected to stay until October, he's already switched things up quite radically on and off the field.
If there is one thing that is still missing for Mexico, it's a positive, feel-good sense about the national team for fans and observers. It is on the top of the wish list for Ferretti, and while Friday's draw didn't provide it, matches against arguably El Tri's biggest rivals in Argentina and the U.S. will hand him a perfect opportunity to accomplish just that.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.