Odds and Ends: Two-time champ Cocca takes Tigres job

Diego Cocca was presented as the new Tigres coach less than three months ago. Now it appears that he will be in charge of Team Mexico. (Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Diego Cocca was presented as the new Tigres coach less than three months ago. Now it appears that he will be in charge of Team Mexico. (Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Odds/ends Nov
Israel Reyes scored against América in Puebla’s Liga MX regular-season finale on Sept. 30. Next season, he will be working to defend the América net. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

It’s official! Tigres have hired former Atlas coach Diego Cocca to replace Miguel Herrera.

After the surprise sacking of “Piojo,” club president Mauricio Culebro convinced the man who ended Atlas’ 70-year trophy drought to take the reins in San Nicolás.

Herrera was canned weeks after a post-game rant in which he blamed the players for their playoff elimination, calling the roster “too old.” That did not sit well with the veterans in the locker room nor with the front office who were growing increasingly irritated at the manager’s perpetual refusal to be held accountable.

After three disappointing seasons in which the combustible Herrera failed to reach even one Liga MX Finals – “los felinos” were eliminated in the quarterfinals in October – the outburst was the final straw. That sent Culebro on a coaching search, one that turned out to be rather brief.

Cocca opts to remain in Liga MX

After three years in charge of “los Rojinegros,” Cocca declined a contract renewal offer from Atlas, suggesting he was looking for a new challenge outside Mexico.

The 50-year-old Argentine guided Atlas – a club for whom he played as a defender from 1999-2001 – to the Apertura 2021 and Clausura 2022 titles, restoring pride in the long-suffering Zorros franchise that had not won a Liga MX championship since the 1950-51 season.

Herrera was fired on Nov. 9 and just days later the Cocca-to-Tigres rumors began. Club officials confirmed that an announcement was forthcoming but it would wait until after the Liga MX Femenil Final in which the Lady Tigres were playing (and eventually defeating) América.

Hours before the big reveal, Cocca’s wife spilled the beans (annoying Tigres front office personnel) taking the surprise out of the Nov. 16 presentation.

Tigres will be the fourth Liga MX franchise on Cocca’s coaching résumé, a list that includes Santos Laguna (2011), Tijuana (2017-2018) and Atlas (2020-2022).

América rejuvenates its back line

The Aguilas finished as the top seed in the Apertura 2022 but crashed out in the Liga MX semifinals. They enter the winter break looking to get younger on defense.

The club found a gem in right back Emanuel Lara, 20, and he looks set to be a stalwart in the back line for years to come. Left back Luis Fuentes is 36 and there doesn’t appear to be a suitable replacement for him in the farm system.

Central defender Sebastián Cáceres, 23, was left off the Uruguay World Cup roster so América management hopes his disappointment won’t linger and he’ll be ready to anchor the Aguilas defense in the upcoming Clausura 2023.

And now “los AzulCremas” are are set to haul in Israel Reyes, 22, who should be able to fill the shoes of veteran hardman Bruno Valdez, 30, who has battled injury the past three seasons.

Reyes, an Atlas product, has developed into a fine defenseman since going out on loan to Puebla in 2020, even earning a summons to El Tri in 2021. The Jalisco native has three caps with Team Mexico, scoring in a Concacaf Nations League match on June 11, 2022.

América is expected to try to trade Valdez and open up a foreigners roster spot as they look to strengthen their roster in pursuit of the club’s 14th Liga MX crown.

Chivas trade efforts coming up empty

Fan favorite Guadalajara has already revamped its front office but the cash-strapped club is struggling to improve the locker room.

The Chivas finished 9th before being bounced in the Wildcard round this past season and “El Rebaño Sagrado” is desperate to end a trophy drought that stretches to the summer of 2017.

Top target Víctor Guzmán is available from Liga MX champs Pachuca but the Tuzos refuse to accept a trade, insisting on a cash sale. That’s a problem for the Chivas who have been in financial straits since just before the pandemic.

New GM Fernando Hierro is also trying to rebuild Guadalajara’s front line, identifying Olympic bronze-medalist Eduardo Aguirre. The Chivas reportedly offered coltish midfielder “Chicote” Calderón to Santos Laguna for the 24-year-old striker but that was rejected.

Former golden boy J.J. Macías is expected back from knee surgery in a couple months and underachieving Ronaldo Cisneros is back in camp after his loan to Atlanta United expired. But as Guadalajara scored just 19 goals in 17 Liga MX contests, it’s understandable that Hierro would seek to reinforce his front line and “El Mudo” Aguirre would be a tremendous get.

Around the Liga MX

Brian Lozano is back in Mexico after a season on loan back home in Uruguay. The playmaking wizard known as “Huevo” starred at Santos Laguna for nearly five years, helping the Guerreros win a Liga MX title in 2018 and earning league MVP consideration in 2019.

A broken leg in 2020 and a rehab setback have prevented Lozano from recapturing the All-Star form that made him a Santos fan favorite and his frustration grew. He asked to be allowed to return home last season to get his head on straight and he played 13 games with Peñarol.

Next. How Mexico might fare in Group C in Qatar. dark

Last week, Santos traded Lozano’s rights to Atlas and the 28-year-old midfielder is already in Guadalajara preparing for the upcoming season with the Zorros. Lozano will get a chance to renew his relationship with former teammate Julio Furch. The two were part of a formidable attacking trident – along with Jonathan Rodríguez – on the Santos team that won the Clausura 2018 title.