In a matter of moments, Maribel Domínguez went from elation
WATCH: Maribel Dominguez scores on bicycle kick to keep Mexico in the match! Incredible goal! https://t.co/Z7aCSC4KRu
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 16, 2016
— MARCA Claro (@MarcaClaro) February 16, 2016
Domínguez and the rest of the Mexican women’s soccer team saw a dream end tonight. Their 2-1 loss to Costa Rica ended any hopes for the El Tri Femenil making it to Rio this summer. For Domínguez, it could mean the end of her international career.
The 37 year-old from Mexico City had it on her foot. A potential game-tying breakaway for the player nicknamed “Marigol” with moments left in regulation is all Mexico could ask for. Well, all they could ask with the players available. Sitting at home watching the proceedings this past week was perhaps Mexico’s best player: Charlyn Corral.
Corral was left off the team by longtime coach, Leonardo Cuellar, after Corral was critical of his tenure with Mexico. Cuellar has been at the helm of the Mexican team since 1998. During his time, Mexico has only made it past the group stage once in either the World Cup or Olympics. More often than not, the team has failed to qualify for the respective tournaments. Even in tournaments where his teams have had success (Gold Cup and Pan-Am Games), Mexico was never able to win any of them during his reign.
In the 2015 World Cup, Mexico could only manage a 1-1 draw with Colombia, a 2-1 loss to England and a 5-0 pasting from France. Corral was on that Mexican team that finished last in its group in Canada. Acknowledging Cuellar’s contribution to Mexican women’s soccer, Corral added afterward, “…we need new ideas”.
Corral was left off Mexico’s Pan-Am Games and Olympic qualifying rosters.
She has since retired from national team play…at age 24.
Exit Corral and enter Domínguez. Or, re-enter Marigol. A hat trick in the team’s 6-0 opening win against Puerto Rico notwithstanding, Domínguez’ return to El Tri highlights the problem with Cuellar’s tenure. Where are the young goal scorers? Where are the playmakers for Mexico? Where is the growth of the game compared to their neighbors to the north?
In a machismo culture like Mexico, it is a battle for women’s soccer. Promising young women grow their games in colleges and leagues across the United States and/or Europe. Or, they had to play like Domínguez did when she was young. As a boy.
“I tricked them for years,” Domínguez said in a 2005 interview with The Guardian. The youngest of ten, Domínguez, who learned the game from her brothers, would disguise herself with short hair to look like a boy. Eventually she was found out, but not before impressing her fellow players with her skills and estilo.
She helped propel Mexico to their first and only Olympic appearance in 2004. Although Mexico made it to the quarterfinals that year (a 5-0 loss to Brazil), Domínguez was the only Mexican to score in the entire tournament. Still, she was a star.
12 years later, Domínguez is still scoring goals for Mexico. And that is part of the problem says Pamela Del Olmo of Mexican website Talacheros. Del Olmo said on the Mexican Soccer Show, “If you have to rely on a 37 year-old to get you through a tournament, you’re doing something wrong.”
Once thought to be in the top three of the CONCACAF region, with today’s loss to Las Ticas, Mexico finds themselves dropping down in the pecking order. “Costa Rica has passed us,” said Del Olmo. Former Mexican team player, Pamela Tajonar concurred via Twitter,
The biggest concern is the noticeable stagnation that we're going through as a NT, while we watch women's football evolve worldwide 4/4
— Pamela Tajonar (@PamTajonar) February 4, 2016
Mexico’s women’s team is watching the rest of the region (and world) catch up, and in some cases, surpass them. In its current state, El Tri Femenil is failing. There is no progress forward. No action put into spoken words about growing the game. Cuellar seems to be out of answers. The demand for change or improvement falls on deaf, machismo ears.
What will it take besides cultural change? With no important competitions on the horizon now for El Tri Femenil, what now? Until Mexico places an importance on the women’s national team, they will continue to watch others like Costa Rica roll past them in the region.
Just like Domínguez’ last shot.