Matosas departure shines light on national team coaches

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Veteran Uruguayan coach Gustavo Matosas shocked both the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL communities alike with his announcement on Wednesday evening that he was resigning as Costa Rica Men’s National Team manager after this month’s friendlies.

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In a press conference alongside Costa Rica Football Federation officials, Matosas made an honest, yet stunning statement that shines a light on the differences between club soccer and international soccer.

“I live day to day. I didn’t realize being a national team coach was so boring,” Matosas said. “…Above all, (I’m leaving because of) how difficult it is to lead a team when you don’t have time day-to-day with the players. I don’t feel productive. Sometimes, I feel like I’m on vacation.

“I get the players for one week every two months. I thought it was not going to be so costly, however, I feel the lack of everyday work on the field with the players. With the National Team, I feel unproductive, I don’t have that day-to-day (action), no matter how much I kill myself watching film and games, it’s not what I like. I tried it, and I don’t like it.”

It 2019, it does take a special breed to be a national team manager. While Matosas exaggerates a little, it’s true that it’s much more difficult for national team coaches to work with players and imprint an identity with their team.

Every World Cup cycle it seems, national teams are getting fewer and fewer days with their players, as the club game has truly become the biggest competition in global soccer. It’s why teams at World Cups or other continental tournaments are struggling, with many stars on paper, but a lack of cohesion or time to develop the muscle-memory or chemistry with teammates needed to succeed in a game of inches.

In Matosas’ case, he discovered that – aside from performing pretty badly as Costa Rica manager in his one year plus on the job – he just wasn’t made for the international game.

U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter has talked about how he’s been in constant contact with USMNT players while they’re with their clubs, and he and his staff have done everything they can so that the players can arrive at training camp and hit the ground running. Most teams only get a week with the players, a Wednesday through the next Wednesday perhaps, so getting 2-3 days in training before and between games is crucial.

If as a manager, you can’t explain your tactics and ideas to players in a short period, perhaps it’s a sign that international coaching isn’t made for you.

Ultimately, it’s not a good thing for the game. Even before now, international soccer wasn’t for everyone. However, Matosas is clearly proven as a solid coach, and his return to Liga MX, even with Atletico San Luis, shows that he’s still desired in one of the top leagues in the region. However, his inability to adapt to the international game – or that the game has moved past him too quickly, is a shame.