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 By Eric Gomez

The highs and lows of Juan Carlos Osorio's tenure as Mexico boss

LAFC and Mexico forward Carlos Vela sits down with ESPN's Max Bretos to describe his relationship with Juan Carlos Osorio.

The polarizing opinions in support or derision of Juan Carlos Osorio are a bit easier to understand when you consider both the apex and the nadir of his three years at the helm of the Mexican national team.

Hirving Lozano's strike past Manuel Neuer lead El Tri to one of its biggest victories ever -- a 1-0 win over Germany that set the Brazil 2014 champions on the road to shocking disappointment at this year's tournament in Russia. Mexico had never beaten Germany at the senior level, and of all their 16 victories at the World Cup, none had come against a more decorated rival.

The victory came almost two years to the day of Mexico's disastrous elimination at the Copa America Centenario, where Osorio's team endured a 7-0 hammering at the hands of Chile. Many have already mythologized what occurred next: the FMF bosses did not accept Osorio's resignation, and the Colombian coach retreated into solitude. After a while, he reached out to the legendary Marcelo Bielsa, who stoked Osorio's competitive fire toward redemption.

In the end those two anecdotes bookended the Osorio era. Amid the Mexican Federation's overt desire to keep him for another World Cup cycle, the mercurial coach decided whether to cement his tenure as El Tri boss. Whether it was the endless media criticism, the pressure or just the need for a new challenge, after three years Osorio has decided to step down.

A review of Osorio's time as Mexico's manager reveals enough data to assess that while El Tri's ultimate result at the World Cup was the same as it has been since 1994, there were reasons Mexico would have been happy to bring him back.

Here are Juan Carlos Osorio's biggest successes and mistakes during his time as Mexico manager:

A return to form in CONCACAF

Though critics will point to the 2017 Gold Cup (which Osorio did not coach and sent a "B team" to thanks to Mexico's participation in the Confederations Cup) as a stumble, the reality is Mexico regained its status as top dog within CONCACAF through the Osorio years.

Mexico defeated the United States in Columbus for the first time ever in World Cup qualification, and cruised to the top of the Hexagonal en route the World Cup. If that doesn't register as a big deal, consider this: El Tri had failed to finish first in qualifying since the 1998 cycle. Osorio's team essentially negated the headaches associated with making the World Cup for the first time in over a decade.

Faltering in elimination games

This is the final line on Osorio coaching Mexico in win-or-go-home games: no wins, three losses, one goal scored, and 13 goals against. Not great.

The above stat becomes a little less shocking when you realize the opponents were Chile, Germany and Brazil respectively, but it's still disheartening to think that of all of Osorio's talk of match preparation and a focus on mental training, his Mexico teams couldn't rise up when needed.

If we add in the pivotal third group stage match of the World Cup vs. Sweden (in which El Tri was bailed out by South Korea's win over Germany) and the third-place consolation match at the 2017 Confederations Cup against Portugal, Osorio's record looks even worse: no wins, five losses, two goals scored, and 18 goals against. Yikes.

Trusting the process

Few Mexican national team coaches have connected with players as much as Osorio has with his group. Despite the constant barrage of criticism levied his way in the past three years, his players have been steadfast in supporting him.

Juan Carlos Osorio's future with Mexico remains undecided.
Juan Carlos Osorio was heavily criticized by the media but his players always adamantly stood by him.

Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, Andres Guardado and Rafa Marquez have been effusive in their praise of Osorio, a message completely absorbed by the folks upstairs. The FMF's patient, consistent pursuit of their coach for a second term was, in large part, based on what the players has to say about the man. Still skeptical? Compare the emotive statements made by players as opposed to the canned responses made in regards to people like Miguel Herrera in the past.

You must be this tall to play

Osorio's insistence on establishing a physical requirement to play for El Tri is understandable given he wanted to be able to compete with teams that have bullied Mexico in the past. However, his desire to impose his will on the opposition at all times is somewhat shadowed by the fact he shunned talented players based fully on their stature.

The need for a true holding midfielder plagued Osorio and Mexico for years. The solution was apparently in front of him the whole time. Juan Jose "Gallito" Vazquez has been playing at a superb level for several seasons in Liga MX but Osorio never called him up, because he is five-foot-five.

In fact, Osorio was willing to let 39-year-old Rafa Marquez have a crack at the position before anyone who didn't fit the physical mold. The results (especially against Sweden and Brazil at the World Cup) were telling.

Rotation, rotation, rotation

Whether this is groundbreaking or an annoying foible is in the eye of the beholder. Really, the thought of not repeating a starting XI in world football should not be so controversial. Players convene once every few months, and a squad can change dramatically in that span due to injuries, form and other factors.

However, critics held on to Osorio's unwillingness to establish a base as a severe issue. The younger, analytics-driven crowd applauded him massively, stating he was merely stacking the deck in his favor by keeping players fresh and establishing favorable matchups against different teams.

In the end, Osorio did concede to repeating a lineup -- at the third match of the World Cup, earning him a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sweden.


While Osorio was ultimately unable to lead Mexico to the "quinto partido", his tenure should not be remembered as a failure. Osorio accomplished a lot during his three years in charge of El Tri and provided stability to a position that had been anything but stable ahead of his appointment.

The FMF showed great patience and restraint in regards to making a decision but now that Osorio has turned down their offer, the FMF must move on and identify his replacement. Whether that is Matias Almeyda, Miguel Herrera or someone else, Mexico need to be thorough in their process and make the right decision to take the national team forward.

Eric Gomez is an editor for ESPN's One NaciĆ³n. You can follow him on Twitter: @EricGomez86.


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