U.S. could push Eriksson out the door

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

The fires of controversy engulfing Sven-Goran Eriksson's troubled reign as Mexico head coach won't be extinguished by the arctic conditions awaiting him in Columbus, Ohio, for Wednesday's showdown with the United States.

Heading into the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, USA's fiercest rival is mired in a rut of uncertainty. The Mexican national team's troubles have left an entire nation gripped by concern with Eriksson bearing the brunt of the widespread public angst.

The appointment of Eriksson – the former England, Lazio and Manchester City boss and the successor to Hugo Sanchez – drew criticism before a game had even been played under the new regime.

Suggestions that a European coach would struggle to quickly learn the intricacies of the "Mexican way" have turned out to have foundation, but the early voices of discontent were nothing compared to the outpouring of fury in recent months.

Eriksson was fortunate to avoid a humiliating elimination in the third round of qualifying, escaping in second place in Group Two on goal difference ahead of Jamaica. Also, a persistent failure to perform on the road, internal and public spats over the use of naturalized players and a general sense of dissatisfaction with Eriksson have compounded Mexico's problems, making the U.S. heavy favorites for Wednesday's clash at Crew Stadium.

History is against Eriksson as he tries to fight the tides pushing him towards the exit door. Mexico has managed just two draws and eight defeats in the last 10 games between the two sides on U.S. soil and has not won away from home in the rivalry since 1999.

Despite a monstrous contract which takes him until after the 2010 World Cup, it is highly conceivable that the Mexican federation could terminate Eriksson's deal if a heavy defeat to the Americans ensues. The Swede has failed to instill confidence in anyone since his arrival, and his players are not performing like men who believe in the concepts placed before them.

The press and public remain defiantly skeptical. Already, there are calls for Javier Aguirre, freshly sacked by Atletico Madrid, to be brought in to replace Eriksson before the effort to reach South Africa next year is jeopardized.

Eriksson knows the pressure is on, but he is trying to deflect it for long enough to concentrate on this week's vital game.

"Of course we can win the first game of the qualifiers," he said. "It will be difficult. It will be a tough match and we know that. History is also on their side, but we'll work with optimism."

Making a poor start is an aberration for Eriksson, who normally begins his new projects with a blaze of glory.

During his time with England, he led the team to a dramatic 5-1 victory in Germany soon after taking over, and the result bought him an extended honeymoon period before things eventually turned sour. With Manchester City, he started brightly before a conflict with then-owner Thaksin Shinawatra brought an abrupt end to his stint.

Eriksson finds himself in turmoil once again. On Wednesday, a U.S. squad has the chance to push him closer to the brink.