Our CONCACAF expert gives his view on Chepo de la Torre staying on as head coach of the national team, updates you on the latest transfer gossip, and recaps the progress of Americans in the midweek Liga MX matches.
August 01, 2013
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A confusing Monday had two different scoops from the same media outlet. Ladies and gentleman, Mexican soccer! When the dust settled, once again El Tri manager Chepo de la Torre stood tall and stepped out unharmed, his sharp suit and well-groomed goatee looking the same as they had last week when Panama knocked Mexico out of the Gold Cup.
While the press corps and the fans want Chepo removed after one win in six Hexagonal matches and a poor Confederations Cup showing, their opinions don’t matter. Well, they do, but ultimately federation officials have the decision. The course of action they decided to take was not to take any course of action. In the madness, ESPN’s John Sutcliffe had Chepo being replaced by Tomas Boy, a former El Tri midfielder with a long list of managerial stops. Bringing in Boy, most recently the Atlas manager for the second time after being the Morelia manager for the third time, would’ve been a risk. His surname may obscure his age, but the 61-year-old has no managerial experience on the international level.
If Boy was really the best option for a Chepo replacement, it might’ve been a reasonable decision by FMF to leave things be. Quite frankly, there might not be a better manager available. What was the federation to do? Take a gamble on a mildly successful domestic coach such as Boy? Get Sven-Goran Eriksson on the line in China to see if he’d be interested in another go at the job? Throw money at Guus Hiddink and hope he learns fast? None of those options are safe. Chepo is. He should still be able to haul Mexico to World Cup qualification, and then the damage control can begin. Whatever the case, the man in charge and the team on the pitch in September will comprise the most desperate Mexico side to roll into Columbus, Ohio in recent memory.
Gold Cup Spurs Transfers
Panama didn’t lift the Gold Cup, but La Marea Roja, currently sitting fifth of six teams in The Hex, could stand to benefit more than any team in the tournament. For one, it should be riding more momentum than it has at any point in qualification when last-place Jamaica pays a visit September 6. Secondly, the deep run showcased several players who will be making summer moves to bigger clubs.
The Seattle Sounders had defender Roberto Chen in training before the tournament, but it doesn’t look like a permanent deal will come through for the speedy 19-year-old. The back page of El Siglo, a Panamanian newspaper, links Chen with Malaga
. If the three-year deal actually comes to pass it would be a huge step up for Chen, but he’s cautioned that nothing is official yet. Update: He left for Spain on Thursday.
Speaking of Panamanian players who nearly played in MLS but now are considering playing in Europe after successful Gold Cup campaigns, Gabriel Torres was reportedly set to become the Colorado Rapids property but might head to France. In addition to the reported offer from the Rapids and interest from a Mexican team (supposedly Cruz Azul
), the 24-year-old forward has an offer from Auxerre in Ligue 2.
What’s that? You want even more rumors and conjecture about Panamanian players to MLS? We can do that. Jaime Penedo, the 31-year-old who took home honors as the Gold Cup’s best keeper for the second time in his career, is said to be a LA Galaxy target. He addressed the rumors by reminding media members that it’s all speculation now, but also confirming he would love the opportunity to play in MLS.
Another of Julio Dely Valdes’ players, Alberto Quintero, made a huge impression during the tournament. A report from Belize had the winger headed to a team in the top division there. His current club, Chorrillo, quickly moved to confirm that there had been an offer from Sport Boys but that both the club and player had turned it down. The club then tweeted Wednesday that Quintero, along with Rolando Blackburn, would stay with Chorrillo during the LPF Apertura.
Tired of speculation? Costa Rican forward Kenny Cunningham heads for New Zealand
, where he has signed a two-year deal with the Wellington Phoenix.
Another confirmed move sees Honduran JC Garcia join countryman Roger Espinoza
at Wigan. He should be familiar to American soccer fans for the goal he scored in a 2-1 Hex win against the United States and to ASN readers with a good memory
Back to absolute speculation? Okay. Sporting Kansas City expressed interest in Honduran central midfielder Jorge Claros on July 23rd. Since then, I’ve seen only a follow up the next day that his club, Montagua, was negotiating with the MLS team on a deal. Nothing since other than Hibernian fans tweeting they hope he returns.
We were treated with a rare midweek matchday in Liga MX. The half-dozen Americans returned from Gold Cup duty, mostly on the bench. Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona watched as Texan Greg Garza got the start for Tijuana in its first win of the season. Castillo and Corona both came on in the second half—Garza and Castillo were booked—and Paul Arriola was an unused substitute.
In Puebla, DaMarcus Beasley came on at the half for the home team, which drew 1-1 with Santos. Michael Orozco was on the Puebla bench.
The Monterrey Yanks were both unused substitutes, with Alonso Hernandez watching his club draw 3-3 at Queretaro and Jose Torres returning to see his Tigres team drop a home result to Morelia in a 2-1 loss. Hernandez made his Apertura debut late in the second half of the Rayados’ 1-1 draw against Puebla.
In other Liga MX news, Veracruz is staking an early claim for the title of spoiler with a 2-0 win over Chivas in Estadio Omnilife to put them top of the table. Angel Reyna scored his fifth goal of the season for the insurance after setting up the first. He also had a hat trick this weekend in a 4-2 defeat of Atlante.
Adrian Ruelas, a former Santos youth and U.S. U-20 player, was on loan with Veracruz last season, but it doesn’t appear he’s there any more. He popped up as an Atlanta Silverbacks trailist
And check out the pitch at Estadio Azul after a storm blew in during the middle of the match. The match was suspended as water poured onto the field, but it resumed after a few minutes.
After winning a championship with Club América during the Liga MX Clausura, Christian Benítez elected to spurn other offers and head to Qatar. He died suddenly just hours after playing his first friendly for new club, El Jaish, because of heart failure. Chucho also played with Santos and his death has led to many tributes from teams across Mexico and the entire region. Chucho was a talented forward, the type of player who made you leave the channel on a match even if the result was no longer in question because you never knew when he’d produce a moment of joy. Benítez is survived by his wife and his three-year-old twins. He was 27.
Jerry Bengston could return to the Honduran national team for the September qualifiers.
More August 14 Friendlies are being confirmed. As you know, the U.S. will play Bosnia and Herzegovina (that’s one team, for the geographically-impaired) in Sarajevo. Costa Rica will tune up for the United States’ September 6 visit by taking on CONCACAF foes Dominican Republic.
Mexico will host the Ivory Coast at MetLife Stadium outside New York. Panama has decided not to play a match on the FIFA date in part because most of their top team was at the Gold Cup. Honduras will play Bolivia at altitude in an attempt to emulate the conditions it’ll encounter at the Azteca. Update: No they won't. They announced Thursday that they'll play El Salvador in San Pedro Sula and train in Miami ahead of the September qualifiers.
Hiring a new coach hasn’t made Jamaica any more organized, it seems. At the 3:15 mark of this report there is a mention of a potential match in London. Later, the Jamaica Observer reported an attempted match with a South American opponent. Right now, there doesn’t appear to be anything scheduled.
Whether there’s a friendly or not, Winifried Schafer is going to try to get Marlon King back in a Reggae Boyz shirt.
One non-Hex team has a few matches slated for the fall. Trinidad and Tobago will use the September FIFA window to play in a four-team tournament with the UAE, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia in the latter country.
Video of the Week
Arnold Peralta of Honduras was one of the worst players on the pitch in a 1-0 U.S. qualifying win in Salt Lake City this summer. There was plenty of disbelief that Rangers had picked up the ex-Vida man. Part of the problem was no one thinks he's any good. So, here’s some vertical iPhone video of Scottish fans singing and Peralta bending in a great free kick in a friendly draw against Dundee.
Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.