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

Gold Cup
 By Tom Marshall

Juan Carlos Osorio on shaky ground with Mexico fans after Honduras draw

MEXICO CITY -- Cries of "Osorio out!" accompanied the Mexico national team off the Estadio Azteca pitch on Tuesday night as the players and coach headed back down the tunnel to El Tri's locker room after the 0-0 draw against Honduras.

Once there, the players and manager Juan Carlos Osorio would have quickly found out, if news hadn't already filtered through, that the United States' 4-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago earlier Tuesday evening had set up a showdown with Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 11 in the opening round of matches in the Hexagonal phase of World Cup qualifying.

After a difficult few months, including a 7-0 loss against Chile in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinal, and now a goalless tie against Honduras, the last place you'd expect El Tri to want to visit is a city in which it has lost 2-0 on four consecutive occasions since 2001. But captain Andres Guardado is looking on the bright side and is pinpointing the match as one that could instantly change the plummeting perception of Osorio and his side.

"It could be very positive to take on a team like the United States away in the [CONCACAF] region's Clasico," PSV midfielder Guardado told journalists after Tuesday's game.

"If we can get a good result the mood of the team would change a lot and the confidence in what we are doing would grow."

In that statement was an implicit admission from Guardado that confidence in camp is low. That sentiment was certainly visible on the pitch against Honduras, as Mexico once again struggled to play with any real swagger, as if they had the weight of the world on their shoulders.

So what now for Osorio? Sources inside the Mexican federation suggest the Colombian's position is secure and after the match, Guardado went beyond the usual cliches when a player backs a manager.

"[I'm] totally [convinced he should stay]," said Guardado. "The playing idea has been lodged inside us, with the opportunities that he gives [through rotation].

"We are convinced [by his methods] and we believe in his work and that he is a great coach. With more time and wins in good games, things will turn around."

It was a strong statement from Guardado but he was the only one of the regular starters who stopped to talk to the press. By the time Osorio faced journalists, it was after midnight -- he was bidding farewell to each player individually -- and was asked, not for the first time, whether he'd continue in the job. The Colombian avoided the question but stated he is looking forward to the future.

"I feel better prepared than before, I feel strong and enthusiastic about continuing this process," he said.

Of the Honduras game, Guardado said "only one team wanted to play" and while Osorio didn't mention Jorge Luis Pinto by name, he suggested that Honduras' ultra-defensive, counter-attacking style was much easier to carry out than Mexico's bold, attacking posture.

Guardado woe vs Honduras 160906
Mexico were held to a frustrating goalless draw against Honduras in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

"For those that consider the important thing to be defensive work, without doubt Honduras won the match," said Osorio. "For those that seek to playing offensively, we made the effort and we achieved the objective. I'm happy with the team, although we wasted two clear opportunities at goal in the second half."

It is true that Mexico dominated and the philosophical differences between the two Colombian coaches were stark. Not many teams have 77 percent possession in a match as Mexico did, but it wasn't like El Tri looked particularly comfortable when Honduras did counter, especially in the first half.

The worrying thing for Mexico ahead of the Hexagonal is that the rhetoric from Osorio is similar to that of Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre in the last qualifying cycle, before he lost 2-1 to Honduras in September 2013 and left the job.

There also must be a growing concern about El Tri's recent home record. Mexico won 28 of 29 home World Cup qualifiers from the turn of the century until the past eight games, in which it has won just three, drawn four and lost once. Almost all were at the Azteca.

The booing of a manager who has been in the job less than 12 months and whose record reads played 13, won 10, drawn two and lost one can't help the players or the team's chances next time it plays in the stadium.

A lot of focus will be put on Mexico obtaining some kind of result against the United States, or at least putting in a performance to show Osorio deserves more time. That is certainly the case in terms of public perception in Mexico. However, a wider issue is that the Azteca is losing some of its fear factor. The two-time World Cup final stadium just doesn't seem to be a friendly place for El Tri any more.

"In a democracy, whoever pays for a ticket has the right to express an opinion," added Osorio, talking about his reception.

"Fortunately, the booing was for me, not for [the players]. And the players feel frustrated for not having the support of the crowd."

It's perhaps not too much of a push to suggest trips to the United States and Panama to start the Hexagonal in November might actually be preferable for Mexico to home games in an increasingly restless and angry Azteca.

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


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