Juan Carlos Osorio's Gold Cup ban puts Mexico in a difficult spot
SAN DIEGO -- Mexico's Gold Cup campaign is off to a shaky start before it even begins on Sunday vs. El Salvador, with head coach Juan Carlos Osorio suspended for six matches because of his vociferous protests at the end of the Confederations Cup third-place loss to Portugal last Sunday.
There is a cyclical feel to the news. Mexico's last Gold Cup ended in somewhat farcical fashion: Miguel Herrera was fired as coach following an altercation with a journalist at a Philadelphia airport the morning after winning the tournament. As this tournament begins, Osorio won't be permitted on the bench throughout; the sixth game would be the final in Santa Clara, California.
Anyone who has watched Mexico under Osorio knows that the manager is a pent-up ball of energy on the sideline, fully engaged in every pass and tackle. His presence will be sorely missed in a competition, the principal goal of which is to develop a fresh crop of youngsters who can challenge established players.
On top of the touchline ban, Osorio also won't be allowed to give news conferences after matches, although CONCACAF confirmed to ESPN FC that the 56-year-old will be allowed to speak the day before games.
The usually calm and mild-mannered Osorio lost the plot in the Confederations Cup's group-stage match against New Zealand, using colorful language in English toward the opposition bench.
Against Portugal, he was riled by referee Fahad Al-Mirdasi deciding not to refer a penalty claim to the video assistant referee with seconds running down at the end of extra time.
While the frustration was understandable, the behavior was not. It's borderline Herrera, whose volatility basically cost him his job with El Tri. Perhaps Osorio's outbursts were brought on by the pressure he is under.
It comes at a time when former Mexico greats like Hugo Sanchez and Claudio Suarez have called for Osorio to be removed from his position after a less than convincing performance is Russia. This is more fodder for the critics and, within an hour of the suspension news, there was already talk of whether the ban could spell the end for the manager.
Such a scenario remains outlandish but will only make Osorio's pregame press conference on Saturday more interesting. Will he apologize, or instead criticize the lengthy ban, or ignore the issue completely? The former Atletico Nacional manager will certainly have something planned.
Osorio's silence since the extra-time loss to Portugal has become a talking point in Mexico, although the Colombian sent a message via his T-shirt in Thursday's training session.
"Winning is improbable if we don't assume the possibility of losing," it read, tuning into the mental aspects of sport that Osorio has tried to promote with his team. The statement, however, became the brunt of jokes in Mexico.
If there is something to soften the setback of Osorio's absence, it's that his assistant Pompilio Paez knows the players well. He trained the squad and took charge of friendlies against Ghana and Paraguay while Osorio was in Russia.
It seems the general rule -- that there is rarely a dull moment with the Mexican national team -- is set to extend itself into the Gold Cup.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.