A dark period of time has enveloped Mexican fútbol.
Within a span of 13 months, we’ve seen: The Mexico men’s senior national team fail to win the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup, four consecutive games without a victory against their U.S. rivals, the men’s U20 squad unable to earn invitations for the 2023 U20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics, and the women’s senior national team failing to qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.
Off the pitch, troubling news then emerged on Thursday when the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) announced that it had temporarily suspended the coaching staff for the women’s U20 team, due to an internal investigation. ESPN Mexico reported on Wednesday that coach Maribel Dominguez was being reviewed for a “serious” matter.
Amid the mess, firings — and plenty of questions — have surfaced.
Following a disappointing run without a single goal or point for manager Monica Vergara and El Tri Femenil in this month’s CONCACAF W Championship, FMF president Yon de Luisa announced sweeping changes last Wednesday. Gerardo Torrado and Ignacio Hierro were respectively fired as general sporting director and sporting director of national teams. In addition, Luis Perez was let go as the men’s U20 coach.
“The results obtained in recent weeks by the men’s U20 team and the senior women’s national team, which signified a heavy blow to Mexican soccer, and above all, for our fans, forces us to act,” said De Luisa, two days after Mexico’s elimination from CONCACAF W.
In a subsequent news conference on Thursday, De Luisa announced the hiring of Jaime Ordiales in a new role as the sporting director for the men’s national teams. Through a restructuring of the FMF, a sporting director for the women’s national teams, who will be tasked with evaluating whether Vergara should stay or be fired, will also be announced in the coming days.
Regarding the Dominguez situation, De Luisa remained tight-lipped during Thursday’s news conference.
“As we communicated a few hours ago, on [July 18] we received a request for an investigation. The moment that document reached us, we began with the protocols already established in the Mexican Football Federation for a case of this type. The investigation is being carried out and while it is in process, we obviously cannot make a comment,” De Luisa said.
Ordiales, among other hires to follow, will be tasked with stopping the regression that has impacted several levels of the FMF that are missing out on World Cups, Olympics and major regional trophies. Off the field, they must also seek to avoid the in-house and alleged problems that are currently being investigated at the women’s U20 level.
De Luisa praised the former national team player, who will now conclude his role as the sporting director at Cruz Azul, as someone with the “ability to analyze players at a time when the list with which we are going to go to a World Cup is going to be defined, his ability to work in a team, [and] his ability as a negotiator.”
That said, it’s a stretch to say that Ordiales is a unique hire in the Mexican soccer world. Along with Cruz Azul, he has worked in the front offices of Atlas, Club America, Necaxa, Chivas and Queretaro. Having someone ingrained in the domestic scene is vital when the World Cup is just a few months away, but going forward, he may not provide a fresh perspective leading up to 2026.
What about Martino’s future as the World Cup looms?
Ordiales’ relationship with senior coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino will also prove to be insightful. Although Martino was safe from the firings this month, it hasn’t stopped the rumors of the Argentine wanting to jump ship after November’s World Cup in Qatar. According to The Athletic, Martino will leave the national team once his contract is over this December.
Changes are coming and already happening for El Tri‘s setup, but time will tell if it will all be for the better. Like the latest crest and green kits that were revealed for the national team, the alterations are simply nothing more than just a switch in uniform on the pitch and suits at FMF headquarters.
Being the traditional men’s powerhouse in the region doesn’t necessarily provide a push to innovate or think outside of the box, and while other national teams are making significant progress in men’s, women’s and youth tournaments, Mexico feels stagnant with worrisome results that are becoming less of an anomaly and more of a surprising norm.
This extends to Liga MX as well. At the club level on the men’s side, the top division walked away without any silverware from the latest Campeones Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and MLS All-Star Game. Sadly, when it comes to Mexico’s top flight, the biggest story to emerge in 2022 so far was the distressing fan violence that broke out at a Queretaro vs. Atlas match in March.
Player development, significant minutes for domestic names in Liga MX, pushing for more players to go abroad; these are all well-known problems that need to be improved. Even in the women’s game where Liga MX Femenil is undoubtedly growing and developing promising stars, better salaries must be provided to help assist these players that need more financial support. As seen in the CONCACAF W Championship, other countries are also quickly developing their own stars, several of which shined while those from El Tri Femenil stumbled.
And if things are looking bleak now, they could get worse once November rolls around.
Heading into the men’s World Cup in Qatar, which will be the most significant test and measuring stick for the Mexican soccer since Russia 2018, Martino and his players have looked far from their best.
Despite finishing second in CONCACAF’s Octagonal table for World Cup qualifying, El Tri often grinded out tense and nervy results that are low-scoring and without much creativity in the final third. Matches have been frustrating to watch as Mexico run into constant complications with chemistry and decision-making in the attack. Chants of “Fuera Tata” (Tata Out) have become commonplace at games, whether they be home or away.
Of the World Cup-bound teams that Mexico have faced since 2021 (Canada, USMNT, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay), Martino and his players have stumbled their way to two wins in 11 matches (with four draws), scoring just seven times and allowing 13 goals. From the last four of those games, Mexico were unable to score a single goal.
Time is running out before November’s World Cup, and after looking at the events that have transpired across the FMF, it seems that Qatar could prove to be the bitter icing on a misery cake for Mexican soccer.