Speculation is running rampant again today regarding the possibility of former Mexico National Team coach Miguel Herrera joining the Fire this offseason. In an interview with Vivelo Hoy, Herrera fanned the flames by saying that he wouldn’t discount a move to MLS if the opportunity were to arise. Contrary to previous reports however, Herrera said that there has been no contact or offer from Chicago or MLS regarding a coaching position.
While most headlines will attempt to grab attention by spouting that “Herrera is interested in the Fire”, those words may result in clicks but the reality is that he said exactly what you would expect a coach who is currently unemployed to say. He’s not discounting a move in the same manner that he’s not discounting a move to Saudi Arabia, where according to the article he has an offer pending.
“In reality, no one has contacted me yet,” he told Vivelo Hoy. “It’s news that’s expanded from a rumor. I’ve received no calls from anyone, but it would be very good because MLS is a league that has grown enormously. The teams are very good, that’s not even mentioning the City of Chicago, where there are many (Mexican) countrymen and I’ve faced the Fire when I coached Club America and I saw how people are invested in their team. I know there have been changes and they’re looking to move up and reverse the situation. As of right now, I’m happy in Mexico.”
While the mere mention of his potential interest may excite those who are looking to the possibility of Herrera providing a spark for a club and a fan base that needs it, look no further than the rest of his quotes and proceed with caution. He’s always been respectful and complimentary of MLS and this is no different. The remainder of the interview appears to be indicative of a man who is open to offers from any place that might need a strong personality behind the bench. Would he like to coach in MLS?
“Sure, I’m not going to discount the possibility of working there and demonstrating that I have the capacity to do it. I’ve gotten results wherever I’ve gone and I won’t discount the possibility. Reiterating, MLS is a very good league that’s growing every day and very quickly. Furthermore, Chicago, where I’ve been with Club America and the National Team, is a very beautiful city.”
Herrera also expanded on his 2016 coaching possibilities while addressing any other rumors involving MLS. “The only rumor (to MLS) is about the Chicago Fire. Here in Mexico, I’ve already been approached by a few teams. In Mexico I can’t coach until December, and I also have offers to coach in Saudi Arabia. I’m happy in Mexico, thinking over what the next move is with my family and waiting for any offers that might come in.”
In true politically correct fashion, also indicative of a guy who is wisely wading for the best offer, Herrera was a little evasive when asked if he preferred coaching in Mexico or the US next season.
“Both leagues are very attractive. In Mexico, there are important clubs where I can continue my career and keep getting the results I’ve gotten. But MLS is also very attractive. I won’t discount any of the possibilities. In reality, when I have an actual offer from a club in Mexico or MLS and I have to make a decision, then I’ll look at the best option. But again, both options are very good.”
Herrera also told Vivelo Hoy that he is familiar with new Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez, further fanning the flames of speculation. “Yes I know him. He was at Chivas USA, he’s been involved with MLS for a long time and also with SUM while I was with the National Team. But again, I haven’t been approached by anyone.”
Rodriguez doesn’t officially join the Fire until October 19 and word is that the coaching search has yet to begin in earnest although it’s certainly possible that approaches have been made by both the club and hopeful candidates. Herrera claims that he’s not in either category yet. It would be foolish for him to close any doors at this point in his career, clearly sensing that there may be a demand for his services. He says various factors make MLS viable for him.
“The league’s growth and ability to attract people has been strong. It’s gaining on other sports in the United States and I believe people are more interested in American football every day, that’s vital. Americans are great fans, they want to see their team win, and Mexicans, of which there are many in Chicago, also want their team to respond to the affection.”
Even the Fire’s poor form wouldn’t scare him off from staying on course. “Whenever a new coach comes in to a team it’s because there’s been a crisis. Changes are made in times of crisis. It can happen, like it did to me, after winning a championship. But normally changes are made when there’s a crisis on the team and obviously in Chicago they’ve been turned upside down with the arrival of Nelson and the coach that was let go and they’re looking to reverse all of that. The most important thing is the club and on the contrary, it motivates me to go to a team like that to demonstrate that I have the ability to turn things around, get out of last place, get back into the playoffs and fight for a title.”
Not worried about the Fire’s run of bad results? How about the Fire’s willingness to shell out big money for a coach of his stature? Herrera’s got that covered too. “The economic issue is very important for someone coming in to work, but it’s not an obstacle. First you have to hear the offer, if it comes, because as of this day I have not been approached.”
The Mexican population in Chicago seemed to be something that would add to his interest as well, but again – one wouldn’t expect him to say anything to the contrary.
“Of course. Along with the city being beautiful, there are many countrymen there and knowing that you’ll be supported one hundred percent helps. If results start to come, the entire community will go to the stadium to watch a team that plays well, wins, and gets the results that the team owner wants.”
Herrera would provide a strong and charismatic presence if by some chance he were to end up on the sidelines in Chicago next season. He would also move the needle in terms of national attention and revive local interest that has been missing since Cuauhtemoc Blanco’s departure following the 2009 season. That doesn’t solve all of the problems the Fire are facing this winter however. He would also present other questions to ponder beyond the initial public relations bump.
How would Herrera adapt to the byzantine MLS economic structure, which has stymied many a foreign coach in the past? The hope that he would be able to drag along Liga MX or National Team stars by his mere presence could be put on hold pending the Fire’s ability to clear budget space this winter. It appears that there will be opportunity for that but is ownership looking to splurge on someone like Giovani Dos Santos? What will his reaction be if he can’t produce those players and he’s forced to deal with plugging holes with budget-value veterans?
One of the main reasons for Carlos De Los Cobos’ failure during the 2010 season was the communication gap created by a Spanish speaking coach and a mostly English speaking squad. De Los Cobos put time into learning the language during the season and the winter following his hire but the gap remained. The Fire currently don’t have one single player whose native language is Spanish. If Herrera is hired, that inability to speak directly to his squad shouldn’t be downplayed. It may seem secondary but professional athletes look for open lines of communication with their technical staff. That’s difficult to do when the lead man doesn’t speak the same language. It’s particularly important in MLS, where rosters aren’t talent laden from top to bottom and rolling the ball out while relying on assistants and squad quality won’t get you by.
Personality is also a consideration in this case. Herrera has plenty of it and he isn’t averse to speaking his mind. By most accounts Rodriguez knows his way around MLS, is bright, organized, and respected but he’s a company guy through and through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but opposing views are needed to pull the Fire out of the rut they’ve mired themselves in.
The Fire’s revolving door of coaches needs to stop soon. Stability is needed within the organization on the technical side and Andrew Hauptman can’t afford to have Rodriguez get this hire wrong either. Odds are that they’ll be cautious with any selection and may not be looking to gamble with another foreign coach unfamiliar with the inner workings of MLS, no matter how much PR hype will come of it.
About that PR hype. The Fire are bordering on irrelevance in the third largest market in the country and Herrera would certainly garner some attention from the national soccer types and the local soccer die-hards in Chicago, but will a move of this nature resonate with the general sporting public outside of the Spanish speaking community? There is only one thing that will bring attention back to mass media outlets on television and the local papers and that’s winning. Herrera’s presence doesn’t guarantee much outside of additional ticket sales and some much needed optimism but eventually that shine wears off and coaches need to win.
He’s shown he can do that in stints with Atlante (twice), Monterrey, Veracruz, Estudiantes, Club America, and the MNT but those stays have never been very long. Herrera’s longest continuous run with one club was with Monterrey from 2004 to 2007. Clubs in Mexico change managers at a pace more ridiculously than the Fire but another short tenure here will continue to set the club back.
Herrera is a quality coach but the question remains whether or not this would be the right move for him or the Fire. It would be fun and entertaining for a while, but would it work?
The offer isn’t even on the table yet.