Matiás Almeyda to turn his back on Mexico
The Argentine manager who rose to stardom in Mexico is set to coach one of their rivals.
Matiás “ El Pelado” Almeyda, 47, is currently the manager of Major League Soccer side San Jose Earthquakes. He has been leading them since the 2019 season, but results have been mixed.
The Argentine coach failed to reach the playoffs in his first season and got knocked out in the first round of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup playoffs by Sporting Kansas City.
This made sports pundits question rumors that linked Almeyda to head the Chilean National Team, champions of two of the last three Copa America tournaments. The competition determines which South American country has the strongest national side.
His previous managerial record and playing career are more eye-catching and reinforce a better argument for him to coach a highly-ranked team in preparation for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Almeyda mainly played as a defensive midfielder throughout the 90s and 2000s for European powerhouses like Sevilla and Inter Milan. His performances at club level allowed him the opportunity to represent Argentina at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.
The first job he had in management was a difficult project.
River Plate, a team Almeyda played for and one that has the second-largest fan base in Argentina, fell to the second division in 2011. The young coach quickly got River Plate promoted in one season.
After that achievement, he went on to do the same for Club Atlético Banfield, who had spent one year in the second division before his arrival in 2013.
These feats attracted interest from Mexico’s most supported team, Chivas de Guadalajara. They are one of the country’s most successful teams, despite upholding a club tradition to only play with Mexican-born players.
When Almeyda was hired by Chivas in 2015, they had gone through a nine-year drought of trophies and were flirting with relegation for the first time in Liga MX history.
He re-energized the side and got them back to winning ways in impressive manners. Chivas won the domestic cup, Copa MX, within two months of the Argentine coach taking over.
A league title came in 2017 when they beat Club de Fútbol Tigres de la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León in the Liga MX Clausura final. At the time, Tigres had the most expensive and star-studded side in the league, but Chivas’ chemistry bested them over two matches.
Almeyda would go on to win his first international title as a manager with the Mexican club after they won the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League by overcoming Toronto FC on penalties.
This crowned Chivas as the best club in North America and allowed them to participate in the FIFA Club World Cup that same year, but under a different manager.
Chivas and Almeyda severed ties in June 2018 and the coach would later tell outlets that it was over differences he had with executives at the club.
Naturally, with Almeyda managing a fully-Mexican club he was tipped to replace Juan Carlos Osorio as the head coach of the Mexican National Team weeks before the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Colombian coach was heavily-criticized in the Mexican media for not playing a consistent starting 11 and receiving humiliating losses in major tournaments.
One of the memorable losses came against Chile at the 2016 Copa America, the centennial of the tournament was celebrated that year. Mexico came into the competition as one of the favorites, but they were knocked out by the South American side losing 7-0 in the quarter-finals.
The two countries have faced each other numerous times in the Copa America competitions, while Mexico was invited to the tournament between 1993 and 2016.
Mexico defeated Chile in the third place match of the 1999 Copa America in Paraguay.
News of Almeyda potentially managing Chile comes as a disappointment to Mexican soccer fans, who hoped that he would return in some way.
Although his form for San Jose has not been ideal, he was offered the main managerial position at two of the Liga MX’s biggest sides, Cruz Azul and Monterrey.
Both teams are a consistent presence in the league’s playoffs.
Almeyda rejected the opportunity to manage Cruz Azul and Monterrey signed experienced former Atletico Madrid manager Javier Aguirre.
Leaving Chivas for the MLS was already a controversial move, since the American league is the direct counter to the growing Mexican league. The Argentine coach tried to calm the contentions of fans over the border by committing to signing Mexican players when he coached in the U.S.
Former Chivas defender Oswaldo Alanis was his first big name signing. He would later bring young talents like Carlos Fierro and Eduardo Lopez to the Earthquakes Stadium.
The MLS side has recently been linked to veteran right-back Miguel Layun. He would be an influential addition to the league since his career consists of being a key player for Mexico in two World Cups and playing in four European leagues.
If Almeyda became the head coach of Argentina, Mexican fans would still be displeased, but there would be an understanding since it is his home country.
Argentina knocked Mexico out of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups in the round of 16.
Committing himself to guide Chile to the next World Cup is painful because the current San Jose coach would be rejecting a return to Mexico to work with a Latin American rival who delivered them a humbling loss in 2016.
Almeyda will walk into an uncomfortable dynamic since national team players like Arturo Vidal have voiced that they do not want another foreign manager.
Their last coach, Reinaldo Rueda, was Colombian, and recently left them to manage his country’s national team.
Chile’s next qualifying match for the 2022 Qatar World Cup is on March 25 and they will host Paraguay. After four games in qualifying they placed sixth with two losses, one win and one draw.