When Ricardo Ferretti (nicknamed Tuca) was introduced this week as interim coach of the Mexican national team, he put on a display of a mild mannered man. This was not, by any means, the same man that many were accustomed to seeing, the one that berated journalists both on and off the pitch. The man that was being presented to lead El Tri was a man that seemed very reflective and grateful.
He came out to thank his adopted nation that opened its arms to him at the age of 23 when he arrived at Atlas. Although he quickly became a productive player on that 1977 side, it was not enough to prevent them from going down to the second division. It might have seemed like the end for this young midfielder, but it was a new beginning. He would then see success when he headed to Pumas and then would team up with Hugo Sánchez to win the league title in 1981. He also would repeat the feat a decade later.
It was confusing to see Tuca acting so low-key during the press conference. Could it be part of the job conditions that were placed on him to keep it toned down because of his extra-coaching responsibilities? Just a few short days before that, he was attacking the Mexican press during another butting of heads.
This was not distant from the Ricardo Ferretti who was one of Miguel Mejía Barón’s most trusted lieutenants while the latter was coach of the Mexican national team. One thing that Ferretti had over the Club América coach was that he could say he was undefeated as national team boss. Ferretti was given the chance to coach a match as El Tri began their road to the World Cup in the US back in 1993. On that occasion, his squad of alternate players was able to beat a Costa Rica side 2-0 at the Estadio Azul in an encounter that was rather forgettable for collective fans of their beloved Tri.
Approximately two years after his playing career came to an end, the Brazilian-born Ferretti was more Dunga than Sócrates. He was more demolition man than Picasso as a player; yet he was a cult figure of sorts when he made his move to Mexico.
A few years ago, Tuca was asked about the chance of becoming coach of the national team. “If there is a job that I am not interested in, it’s the Mexican national team. If you offer me a job as a street sweeper, I might consider it.”
Those are rather harsh words for a job that he “pseudo-accepted” under certain conditions.
On Monday when he was presented as national team coach, he talked about how his words were a bit too strong in the past.
If you’re not familiar with Ferretti, it’s possible you might confuse him with Miguel Herrera. To be honest, I wouldn’t blame you. He’s an effusive and even volatile coach that will not mince his words even if you might agree with him. He will often curse in press conferences and is unapologetic about it.
Importantly, he’s able to explain what he wants out of his players, and during his nearly three decades in Mexico, he understands the idiosyncrasy that has been synonymous with Mexican football.
From a tactical standpoint, he’s been extremely criticized for being conservative. No one is going to argue that his teams usually are tactically solid and have few liabilities especially from a defensive standpoint. There is nothing wrong with that. The criticism with his tactical layout is that he has usually fielded some of the most offensively talented sides in Mexican football the past few years, especially as coach of Tigres.
This was the greatest bit of criticism that he received after Tigres’ meek performance against River Plate in the return leg of the Copa Libertadores final.
Four matches will be a small time frame to really give a final verdict as far as to what he can do. Then again, that was pretty much the same thing that we all said then about Víctor Manuel Vucetich, Luis Fernando Tena and the other eight coaches that were national team coaches after Ricardo La Volpe stepped down after 2006.
From a personality standpoint, is he the best person out there? Probably not. Tuca will have to give the players that’ll be taking part in that playoff match in the the Rose Bowl a major sales pitch in order to make sure they’re listening and respecting a caretaker coach.
Ferretti’s usual style is one that will emerge during this time period. His volatile style mixed with the more entitled nucleus of this squad could mix like oil and water. If one were to look at this major clash in approaches, it could be either a great way to see opposites attract or a short-term plan that could flame out in spectacular fashion.
The nucleus of Mexico‘s squad is also one that offers some dynamic but the well dries up rather quick.
With Ferretti, MLS fans may remember the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup when his Tigres side came into Seattle and decided to drop back after scoring the first goal of the match. That strategy failed miserably as the Sounders stormed back to knock off that squad in a 3-1 scoreline.
This is why if you continue to watch this long-running soap opera, there are things that start to emerge that might not seem so far-fetched. At this stage of the game, you could give the United States a slight advantage over their eternal rivals.
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