Mexico on course for record Hex points haul amid Juan Carlos Osorio criticism
SAN LUIS POTOSI, Mexico -- "#FueraOsorio" (Osorio out) was trending in Mexico on social media networks in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the Mexico national team will know it isn't the first time Juan Carlos Osorio's named has been used with that particular hashtag. But on this occasion it came following a 3-1 victory just a couple of hours earlier.
Mexico may not have played particularly well, and went behind in the second half against Trinidad and Tobago, but the response was positive and El Tri took the three points to extend its lead at the top of the Hexagonal qualifying table in CONCACAF.
At least the irony of Mexico cruising to Russia 2018 and while some were still asking for the coach to be fired was picked up on by many online. The "#FueraOsorio" hashtag ended up being a little bit of a joke.
Gauging a team's progress is about finding the positive and negatives and coming to a rational conclusion. On Friday, we got another demonstration of where Mexico is strong and where improvements are required. Osorio himself knows the issues. That message came through loud and clear in the Colombian's postmatch news conference.
The first is finishing and effectiveness up front. Osorio is happy about how his team -- which usually dominates possession -- moves the ball into the final third, but laments the lack the cutting edge once there.
"It's becoming an issue," admitted Osorio. "We've discussed it and mentioned it in previous press conferences."
Osorio went on describe the chances Mexico had to go ahead in the first half and lamented his team's inability to do so, although he and the players were happy with the way the group rallied to eventually take a 3-1 win.
"We're happy to get the three points, happy to remain undefeated in qualifying and not so happy because we could've won the game earlier, but sometimes games can be deceiving," said captain Andres Guardado. "Sometimes you relax without wanting to and you need a shock to react. That's what happened today. Looking at the positive, it was the reaction of the team."
Osorio mentioned that one or two of Mexico's Europe-based players didn't play particularly well because they aren't getting minutes for club sides. It doesn't take a psychic to work out that the manager was talking about Porto's Diego Reyes and Eintracht Frankfurt's Carlos Salcedo.
The national team coaching staff, however, are putting together a "plan of action" for a group of around 35 players that are being considered for Russia 2018. It will include individualized training programs, especially for those players not featuring regularly for club sides.
Next up for El Tri is the trip to San Pedro Sula to face a Honduras side in need of a result with the final round of matches of the Hexagonal vital for them, the United States and Panama.
Osorio talked about "nullifying" the opposition and it is unlikely to be a pretty game, but there is plenty at stake in what will be Mexico's final truly competitive game before the World Cup kicks off in Russia.
"The World Cup starts now because although we may already be qualified, this serves us as preparation and we hope to play a historic World Cup for Mexico," said Guardado.
Midfielder Hector Herrera may have avoided a question about records ahead of the game, but Mexico can make history on Tuesday. If El Tri wins, it'll set a new record points total for any team in the Hex -- surpassing Costa Rica's 23 points in 2001. Even with a draw, Mexico would become the first side from CONCACAF to remain unbeaten in qualifying since the 1998 World Cup cycle, in which El Tri was undefeated in the Hex.
So while "#FueraOsorio" may still be a thing, so was the general secretary of the Mexican federation, Guillermo Cantu, telling ESPN this week that extending the Colombian's contract beyond next summer is very much on his mind.
With Mexico sitting where it is in qualify and basking in another victory, one of those two scenarios above appears much closer to reality than the other.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.