By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Dec 2, 2015) US Soccer Players – During his tenure as Mexican National Team coach, Miguel Herrera won hearts over by jumping and contorting his face after goals. Now, he hopes to jump and contort some more on a new front.
Xoloitzcuintles of Tijuana introduced Herrera as their new manager with a clear goal in mind. Return the Liga MX club to its winning ways and soon. The move is a bold one as Herrera brings both unmatched strengths and nagging issues with him. Regardless, though, Club Tijuana will certainly be a must-see club each and every weekend.
Club Tijuana did not exist a decade ago. Founded in 2007, Tijuana gained promotion to the top flight after just four years and won a championship a year later, claiming the Apertura 2012 championship. Since then, however, things took a turn for the worse.
Then-coach Antonio Mohamed parted ways soon after though and the club has had a revolving managerial door since then, with four managers plus one interim taking the reins in the process. Not surprisingly, results have fallen way off. Tijuana finished this season in 17th place, with a meager 16 points from a 5-11-1 record.
Xolos officials turned to the right person for the job. Herrera has done nothing in his career if not taking a team from a bad spot to a much better spot. Herrera made his managerial debut with Atlante in 2003 and quickly turned around a struggling club, helping the club reach the semifinals in the Clausura 2003 season and guiding los Potros to two more playoff appearances before leaving for Monterrey. Herrera led Monterrey to the Apertura 2004 final but was unable to taste glory.
Afterward, though, he bounced around to some struggling clubs – Veracruz, Tecos, Atlante – before landing his highest-profile position. Herrera took over at Club America in 2012 and led the club to the Apertura 2013 final. America overcame a deficit to Cruz Azul late in the second leg and won their league-record 12th championship via an agonizing series of penalty kicks in a torrential downpour, all the while Herrera celebrated by jumping in flailing about, all the while his face seemed to spasm.
Herrera took the Mexico job as the team struggled to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Herrera led Mexico to the World Cup after beating New Zealand in a two-leg playoff for a spot in Brazil. However, he wasn’t able to break the curse that has plagued Mexico since 1994. El Tri exited after their first knockout-round match. Still, Mexico had the Netherlands on the ropes and nearly finished the job.
Tijuana is a far cry from all that. With Tijuana, he will not have a massive stadium to call home. He won’t find himself in newspapers or on TV across the nation as he was when he was with America and the national team. That may be a good thing, though. Herrera would likely still be managing El Tri had he not decked a television reporter the day after Mexico’s Gold Cup final win in July, an action which cost him his job.
A fiery attitude has helped him along the way to be certain but Herrera must prove that he learned from that sacking. Tijuana will be a difficult reclamation project. With Tecos and Veracruz he did not get great results but ownership was not the same then as it is now. Tijuana’s owners want the club to improve and to be battling in the playoffs season after season. The club is proud of what it has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time and will not want attention of the negative kind brought upon it by the manager.
The results must come quickly for Herrera or else he may be contorting his way out of the city.
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
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