Gold Cup: De la Torre has ushered in stability for Mexico

PASADENA, Calif. — Stability within the Mexican national team is akin to leaving a room full of 3-year-olds unattended: It’s just a matter of time before disaster happens.

And while El Tricolor have had a lot thrown at them recently, most notably a doping scandal that struck early in the Gold Cup, the team is indeed headed for a stable future. Credit coach José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre for that.

In six months on the job, de la Torre has taken a team loaded with potential yet facing uncertainty due to — what else? — coaching instability and has transformed them into a regional power. Mexico claimed the Gold Cup title with a come-from-behind 4-2 win over the United States at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, perhaps revealing a bit of the potential a stable Tricolor will develop over the next several years.

De la Torre quickly deflected any sort of praise heaped on him, though.

“When your dreams are put on a favorable path for you, it makes it easier, or perhaps less challenging, to get there,” he said in a press conference after Mexico’s triumph. “That’s where the group helps, having laid a strong foundation to get here.”

While de la Torre inherited some very talented players such as Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Giovani dos Santos, Andrés Guardado and Pablo Barrera, he also took some risks. He relied on untested internationals such as ‘keeper Alfredo Talavera and forward Aldo de Nigris, omitted Carlos Vela and even threw in an uncapped player — Héctor Reynoso — into the Gold Cup final.

Now, in just six months, Mexico seem to have more depth, have more competition for starting positions and roster spots and are a stronger team because of it.

“There is no position that worries us,” de la Torre said. “We have to keep looking at the resources we have to put together the best national team. With the young players we have, we just need to figure out how to best bring them along with the senior team.”

That he’s enjoyed success in a short amount of time should not necessarily be a surprise. After all, de la Torre led Chivas de Guadalajara to the Apertura 2006 title and claimed the Apertura 2008 and Bicentenario 2010 titles with Toluca.

“He’s a winner,” Mexico captain Gerardo Torrado said after Saturday's game. “He’s been champion several times before and now he’s a champion here.”

Aside from being a winner, de la Torre is the atypical Mexican manager. He’s not as skilled of an orator as Javier Aguirre, not a supposedly savvy European manager like Sven-Göran Eriksson, not a loudmouth like Hugo Sánchez and not a fiery polarizing figure like Ricardo La Volpe. In fact, de la Torre seems rather stoic, maybe even a little bland.

Even after Mexico’s Gold Cup triumph, he was somewhat reserved with his own celebration.

“It’s true, I look very serious in front of the cameras,” he said. “I’m not an actor. Yes, I am serious and don’t use too many gestures but that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying this. When you win, you have to celebrate but measured like everything else.”

Having won titles now at both club and country, de la Torre said the sweetest victory was the latest one for one reason: It’s the most recent accomplishment.

“You have to celebrate them all,” he said. “With respect to what I’ve been through as a manager, [the best] is the one I’m living through. You have to enjoy it. Others will come, but you have to enjoy this one.”