Success in 2017? Here are 5 things Juan Carlos Osorio must do with Mexico
Taking charge of El Tri is not an enviable task.
Despite the high-profile nature of the job, and the opportunity to work with many talented Mexican names, the position is infamous for short tenures and lofty expectations.
Osorio, who was appointed as the national team manager in October 2015, has trudged his way through heavy criticism and doubt from many who are unsure of the coach. Whether it for the embarrassing 7-0 loss to Chile in June’s Copa America or his affinity for player rotation, the Colombian has had a difficult time winning over skeptics.
That said, with only one defeat in his 17 matches as manager, Osorio has been able to maintain his job. The recent accumulation of four points in the Hexagonal, which includes a historic 2-1 win in Columbus over the United States, has also done plenty to help a coach who is seeking to move past the loss to Chile.
With 2016 almost behind him, Osorio will now look to push away the ghosts of the 7-0 disappointment and lead El Tri to a successful 2017. In order to do that, he will need to accomplish these five goals:
1. Secure a semifinal spot in the Confederations Cup
Mexico was drawn into a group with Portugal, New Zealand and Russia in the 2017 Confederations Cup. The group is a kind one for El Tri - one in which the team should be able to finish in the top two and earn a spot in the semifinals.
If Mexico and Osorio truly see themselves as being capable of a decent finish at the 2018 World Cup, they must prove it on a world stage in next year’s Russian warm-up.
Although El Tri might run into some trouble in its group opener against Portugal, the team will be expected to take at least four points in the following games against New Zealand and Russia.
Missing the semifinal round would be seen as a failure on Osorio’s part, and depending on results in World Cup Qualifying, it could even mean the end of his tenure with El Tri.
2. Finish in the top two of CONCACAF qualifying
Before Mexico dreams about the World Cup, it will need to avoid the problems it has encountered in the previous qualifying cycle. With just two wins in 10 matches, El Tri’s prior Hexagonal appearance was a disaster.
Now, Osorio must prove that he can prevent the issues El Tri saw then. Luckily for the coach, he has already had a fantastic start thanks to four points in two difficult away games against the United States and Panama.
With arguably the best roster in CONCACAF, Osorio will be expected to secure a place in the World Cup while claiming a respectable place in the table. A spot in the top two would also help erase worries of El Tri losing its grasp as one of the giants in the region.
With five of Mexico’s last eight qualifiers at home, Osorio has no excuse for an underwhelming Hexagonal.
3. Replace aging veterans with new talent
One way Osorio could help in 2017 is by incorporating fresh faces.
Up-and-coming talents like Erick Gutierrez, Cesar Montes, Jesus Gallardo, Raul Gudiño and Rodolfo Pizarro are ideal options that should be given more opportunities. These youngsters could also potentially replace aging veterans like Jose de Jesus Corona, Oribe Peralta and Rafael Marquez.
It’s important for Osorio to begin giving minutes to those that will likely take part in the 2018 World Cup, and, considering the age of a few seasoned players in the current squad, it would be best for him to look toward younger options.
There is currently a long list of budding Mexican names who could continue gaining minutes with El Tri while sustaining the national team’s depth. Speaking of depth, that is something that could come in handy next summer...
4. Win the Gold Cup
Assuming Osorio utilizes his best players in June’s Confederations Cup, this leaves a back-up roster for the Gold Cup in July. Regardless of which squad Mexico sends to the CONCACAF competition, clinching another trophy will undoubtedly remain the goal.
As mentioned earlier, this shouldn’t be a problem when you consider the depth that Mexico has. For example, take a look at some of the substitutes for El Tri in last month’s game against the United States: Carlos Salcedo, Jonathan dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Raul Jimenez, Hirving Lozano and Orbelin Pineda.
Mix in new talent with some of these names and you get an impressive roster that could fight for another Gold Cup title. With the massive home field advantage that Mexico has whenever it ventures into the U.S., Osorio will have little excuse for missing out on another title.
5. Gain the trust of an uncertain fan base, a fickle FMF
This is perhaps the most challenging goal.
Even when Osorio has won in the past, many have questioned his player rotation and formations. Recognizing the impatience of the Mexican federation, the coach is also just a couple of mistakes away from losing his job after the dilemma from the Chile defeat.
In order to appease the two groups, Osorio will have to accomplish the first four goals while also providing entertaining and dominating soccer. Previous managers have been fired for much less and have only had a fraction of the amount of time that the Colombian has been given.
With recent positive results under his belt, Osorio is currently on the right path for Mexico. However, he will need to be near-perfect, if not immaculate, in order to keep his job and help El Tri thrive in 2017.