US Soccer Can Learn From Sven
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Sven Goran Eriksson’s appointment as manager of Mexico was criticized by many including myself as a desperate move by the FMF which was eager to regain its footing as the superpower in CONCACAF which Mexico’s fans are entitled to for their years of loyal support. Mexico has not defeated the United States, a fellow CONCACAF nation on American soil in its last ten tries even though the vast majority of these matches have been played in front of large pro Mexican crowds.
The footballing nation in Mexico had clearly suffered a crisis of confidence under its last several national team managers. All of the managers either were Mexican or in the case of Ricardo LaVolpe, the lone foreigner familiar with Mexican football. The hiring of Sven Goran Eriksson whose entire coaching career from 2000 on has been spent in England was a curious choice, especially given the performance of the Three Lions relative to expectations in every tournament.
Without playing a match Eriksson quickly turned the tables on the established order in Mexico. He dropped Jared Borgetti from the team, and named youngsters Gio Dos Santos and Carlos Vela starters. The recall of Guille Franco and Cuauhtémoc Blanco to the national team after being frozen out of the setup for years also showed Eriksson’s willingness to mix the old with the new and essentially mix to disparate generations of players who hadn’t been vital to Hugo Sanchez’s plans.
After falling behind to Honduras at Azteca last month, the insertion of Blanco and Franco in the match turned the tables and Mexico won 2-1. This past Saturday evening, the kids made all the impact as El Tri crushed Jamaica 3-0. The lesson of Sven’s early success Mexico should not be lost on US Soccer. Despite having a perceived edge in talent over the United States and players at bigger clubs than anyone in CONCACAF, the integration of two young starlets in the setup is impressive. By contrast, questions remain about the commitment of Bob Bradley to integrate Jozy Altiodre and Freddy Adu, both roughly the same age as the Mexican youngsters in the US setup.
The success of Sven Goran Eriksson is ironic coming so quickly after the sale of Manchester City FC by Thaskin Shinawatra. Sven’s move to Mexico seems to have paid initial dividends for a passionate but underachieving footballing nation while vindicating Eriksson’s reputation after mixed reviews for his work with England and Manchester City.