The ingenious Luis Fernando Tena? 

March, 26, 2012

Carson, Calif. -- What I'm about to suggest to you will either be interpreted as an eye-opening revelation, a complete absurdity or the beginning of my journey into madness.

Bear with me -- this is going to sound a bit crazy, so you might want to sit down -- but maybe, just maybe, Mexico U-23 coach Luis Fernando Tena, in a nutty professor kind of way, knew what he was doing all along. Perhaps he wasn't the clueless, can't-coach-his-way-out-of-a-paper-bag guy we all made him out to be.

It's quite possible that in leading Mexico to a 3-0 win on Sunday against Honduras, which clinched at least a berth into the semis of the Olympic qualifying tournament, Tena was really a good coach all along. In two games, Tena's squad has outscored its competition 10-1, and shown itself, regardless of the United States' loss to Canada, as the prominent team in the region.

"I think this team has finally found the way to play the way our coach wants us to play," midfielder Hector Herrera said.

OK, so Tena didn't plan all along for a chunk of his best players to be suspended days before the Copa America last summer for partying with prostitutes. But he was part of the planning party that mapped out the strategy on how the U-23 team would cope with those suspensions.

The task was massive. The squad was set to participate in two major tournaments in less than a year, one being the Pan Am games that were taking place in Guadalajara, which meant the Mexican team was almost forced to win a gold medal or risk embarrassment at home. The other was the Olympic qualification tournament, a torment for Mexican teams in the past.