Former USMNT head coach Bora Milutinovic was given his pink slip after Mexico played to a disappointing 0-0 draw with the USA at Azteca Stadium in 1997. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
A national team coach getting the boot after a loss to the U.S. men’s national team isn’t new.
Ronald Gonzalez was sacked as Costa Rica boss after the Ticos went down to a 4-0 defeat to the USA in an international friendly in Sandy, Utah in June.
It’s happened before, particularly when it comes to the Mexican national side.
As it turns out, six Mexican coaches have walked the plank after losing to the U.S.
After Mexico dropped a 1-0 decision to the USMNT in the Concacaf Gold Cup final Sunday, you have to wonder if head coach Tata Martino’s job is on the line, given the federation’s history of musical chairs with its coaches. And remember, it was the Mexicans’ second successive defeat to the USA in a Concacaf championship match, losing the Nations League final June 6.
A quick history:
Manuel Lapuente (1991)
Only two days after losing to the U.S., 2-0, in the 1991 Concacaf Gold Cup semifinals in Los Angeles, Lapuente was given his walking papers. Lapuente came back for more and guided the team from 1997-99.
Miguel Mejia Baron (1995)
After coaching Mexico to and in the 1994 World Cup, it all went to pieces in 1995. His Mexican team was demolished by the U.S., 4-0, in a U.S. Cup encounter in Washington, D.C. in June and was eliminated by those pesky Americans in Copa America in Uruguay on July 17 via penalty kicks are a scoreless draw in Uruguay. Baron, incidentally, was a qualified dentist.
Bora Milutinovic (1997)
Baron’s replacement turned out to be the old international traveling man, Milutinovic (who directed the MetroStars in that better-left-not-said of a disaster 1999 season). Bora guided the Mexicans into the World Cup, but was axed only three weeks after securing a berth at France ’98. Bora, who had been under fire for more than a year, got the axe on Nov.25, 1997, only three weeks after unbeaten Mexico (4-0-6) qualified. But Milutinovic had unwittingly was caught up in a political battle between rival television networks — Televisa, which supported him, and upstart Azteca, which wanted him out. Azteca, and many fans thought that Mexico had underachieved in its final four qualifiers, tying each one. “We never had a problem with the coach,” said Mexican captain Marcellino Bernal, who added that Milutinovic was axed “because we didn’t get favorable results, especially in the five home games. We didn’t win . . . we didn’t play convincing soccer.” He was replaced by Lapuente, who coached that team at France ’98 and guided the Mexicans to the FIFA Confederations Cup title a year later.
Enrique Meza (2001)
Enrique Meza wasn’t fired immediately after the U.S.’s stunning 2-0 qualifying victory, but it began a tail-spin that left the Mexicans’ World Cup aspirations in a shambles during the CONCACAF final round for Korea/Japan 2002. He was bounced in June 2001 and replaced by former Los Angeles Aztec Javier Aguirre, who guided Mexico into the World Cup. Meza, incidentally, directed Pachuca to its first SuperLiga title in 2007, when it defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Hugo Sanchez (2008)
Former Real Madrid and Mexican international scoring star Hugo Sanchez guided El Tri for 16 months before he was axed on March 31, 2008. Less than two months prior, Sanchez’s side had tied the U.S. in an international friendly in Houston on Feb. 6, 2-2. It wasn’t the U.S. match that did Sanchez in. The full national side went on to tie Australia and Finland, not exactly world powers, and tied the Ecuador Under-23 National Team in Queretaro, Mexico. Under Sanchez’s stewardship, the U-23 teams failed to qualify for the Olympics, getting eliminated in the opening CONCACAF round. Add his controversial decision to change the color of the home kit of the national team jersey from green to white, the Mexican First Division club owners voted 16-0 to oust Sanchez on March 31.
Sven-Goran Eriksson (2009)
The Mexicans, who had lost five consecutive away matches and were 1-2 in the hexagonal, lost their patience with Eriksson. “We told Mr. Eriksson that his term with the national team has finished,” Mexican Football Federation president Justino Compean said in a news conference. “We could not risk Mexico’s participation in the World Cup.” During Eriksson’s reign after he was hired in June 2008, Mexico won four of nine qualifying matches — all at home. Mexico’s overall record under the Swedish native was 6-6-1.
FYI (Cesar Menotti)
While it could not be determined whether he was fired after a U.S. match, Mexico lost Menotti, who directed Argentina to the 1978 World Cup championship, not once, but twice. Menotti quit over political problems in the Mexican Federation. The second time was permanent. Menotti left the team, and Miguel Mejia Baron, a qualified dentist, took over.