The Liga MX coaching carousel could start spinning again as pressure mounts on three managers.
Matchday 8 could conceivably produce three coaching changes if results go against the coaches who are under the gun. It is virtually certain that more heads will roll before the regular season ends.
Cruz Azul’s Pedro Caixinha, Toluca’s Hernán Cristante and Morelia’s Roberto Hernández could be looking for new jobs before the weekend is done. The Mexican soccer media already has potential replacements for two of the jobs.
Recently fired Rafa Puente, Jr., has been linked to the Cruz Azul job. The young manager did a solid job in leading Querétaro to the playoffs last season, but could do little with the club after the roster was trimmed during the winter break. Former Team Mexico coach Ricardo La Volpe has also been mentioned as a candidate.
Meanwhile, in Michoacán, long-time Liga MX coach José Guadalupe Cruz appears to have the inside track on the Monarcas job if Hernández is sacked. “El Profe” served as manager for Morelia for 10 games during the Apertura 2014 season. There are nine other coaching stops on his résumé.
Caixinha’s fate will be determined first as Cruz Azul visits lowly Veracruz tonight. After leading the Cementeros to the Copa MX title last season before losing to América in the Apertura 2018 Final, Caixinha seemed to be set in his position, a job he took in December 2017.
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Instead, Cruz Azul has lost its way and the Portuguese coach is on the hook. The Cementeros lost the anchor of their midfield Iván Marcone early in the season (he forced a trade to a club back home in Argentina) and seem to be dealing with a serious malaise as a result of their loss to América.
The Blue Machine has had trouble scoring as their strike team of Martín Cauteruccio and Milton Caraglio has been woefully inept in front of goal. Adding to their problems, the stout defense that was on display last season has shown cracks. Finally, after the Cementeros were eliminated from the Copa MX with a home loss to second division Oaxaca, the fans in the stadium began calling for Caixinha to be fired. No doubt, ownership heard the unrest.
That being said, if Veracruz wins on Friday night, Caixinha deserves to be fired. The Tiburones have not scored a goal this season, relying on conservative tactics and goalie Sebastián Jurado to keep the game close.
The suggestion is that a tie against Veracruz might not be enough to preserve his job (and it would also seriously reduce the club’s chances of reaching the playoffs), so Caixinha will be playing to win.
Morelia’s quiet man
Coach Hernández maintains a calm demeanor on the sidelines and can often be seen in a thoughtful pose as he watches his team play. The Monarcas have shown tactical discipline under Hernández’s direction, and when they are playing well, their pressing defense regularly leads to scoring chances.
Last season, Morelia lost two of its last three games to miss out on the playoffs by one point. This season, the Monarcas have just 1 win in 7 games and game plans have seemingly fallen apart, either due to mental errors or miscommunication.
Morelia visits last place Querétaro on Saturday and a win is an absolute must. The Gallos Blancos have lost all 7 of their matches and have been outscored by 15 goals.
Matching wits with Hernández will be new Querétaro coach Víctor Manuel Vucetich who will be managing his first Liga MX game in two years.
Better keeper than a coach
The legend of Hernán Cristante with Toluca is secure. He backstopped the Diablos Rojos to six Liga MX championships and still holds the league record for going 772 minutes without allowing a goal (seven shut outs in a row!).
After coaching for one season in second division, Toluca hired Cristante ahead of the Apertura 2017 season. In his second season in charge, Cristante had the Red Devils in the Final, but Toluca came up short against Santos.
Last season, Toluca finished in 7th place, but were bounced from the Liguila in the first round by eventual champion América. This season, the Diablos are an absolute mess. Management overhauled the roster, bringing in veterans in hope of keeping the championship chase alive, but there seems to be a disconnect. It’s still early, but the early return on the signings suggests bad investments were made.
Thursday’s 3-0 rout by Sporting Kansas City in a Champions League match certainly has ownership seeing red. The Diablos play at Santos on Sunday and Cristante won’t even be on the bench since he was ejected last week during the 3-0 loss to León. The ejection was a team record-tying 11th for Cristante.
Friday and beyond
Atlas hosts the Tigres to kick off the weekend and the Zorros are in desperate need of a win. The “rojinegros” were embarrassed by the Chivas last week in the Clásico Tapatío and the week before that they lost at home to Puebla.
Their 3-1-1 start will be a distant memory if they fail to get points against the second-place Tigres. Meanwhile, the Monterrey-based club is coming off a sloppy 1-0 loss at Costa Rica’s Saprissa in a Champions League match.
The Tigres will certainly have an eye on the Saprissa rematch set for Tuesday, but they will want to take care of business first at Estadio Jalisco. Coach Tuca Ferretti prioritizes the league, so he won’t allow his club to look ahead to the CCL match.
Elsewhere this weekend, América hosts Lobos BUAP, Necaxa gets a visit from Tijuana, league-leading Monterrey welcomes Puebla and Pachuca hosts the Chivas. The best match of the weekend might very well be Sunday’s León at UNAM contest. The visitors have posted four consecutive shut-outs (including a 3-0 win over América at Estadio Azteca), while the Pumas finally defeated Miguel Herrera who had gone 10-3-0 against UNAM as coach of the Aguilas.