El Tri: Cocca squad selection for U.S. match gets scrutinized

El Tri manager Diego Cocca knows he must perform well against Team USA or face a reckoning only three games into his tenure. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)
El Tri manager Diego Cocca knows he must perform well against Team USA or face a reckoning only three games into his tenure. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Cocca El tri USA
Diego Cocca will experience a real trial by fire next week when El Tri takes on Team USA in a friendly. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

El Tri will be playing yet another in a long-line of meaningless friendlies next week, but since the game is against Team USA a negative outcome could have significant consequences for coach Diego Cocca.

The contest in Arizona does not fall within a FIFA date so no teams are obligated to release players for the match which left the embattled manager (yes, already “embattled” just two games into the job) with limited options for the roster.

The El Tri line-up will not feature any players from Europe (except for right fullback Julián Araujo who plays for Barcelona B) – and the same is true for Team USA.

But Cocca was further limited by the Liga MX schedule as Tigres plays on April 20 while Monterrey has a game a day later. As such, seven potential selections (Jesús Angulo, Sebastián Córdova and Diego Lainez of Tigres and Rayados stars Héctor Moreno, Luis Romo, Rogelio Funes Mori and Arturo González) were unavailable.

Additional restrictions for El Tri coach

The rivalry game comes right in the middle of the Liga MX stretch run (Matchday 16 of 17 takes place from April 20-23) and clubs jostling for playoff position are afraid of seeing star players get injured.

A few teams (América and Chivas, to name two) sought to prevent their players from participating while all clubs made explicit requests asking that playing time be limited.

Cocca will be under a lot of pressure to handle the roster with kid gloves, because the outcome of the match is not a priority for Liga MX clubs and coaches, even though a loss to Mexico’s bitter rivals could do serious damage to the Argentine manager’s long-term prospects.

(And combining a loss next week with a loss in the June 15 Concacaf Nations League semifinals – a sequence that would extend El Tri’s recent record of futility against Uncle Sam’s Army to six losses in seven games – could result in dismissal for Cocca.)

Four first-timers get El Tri call

With these constraints, Mexico’s roster was bound to look unfamiliar which, naturally, would lead to considerable scrutiny and criticism.

And in that regard, Cocca did not disappoint.

Four players on the 23-man roster will be donning the green-white-and-red for the first time, and two of them come from the team Cocca led to two Liga MX titles – youngster Jonathan Herrera and veteran midfielder Aldo Rocha.

Here is the full list:

For the “There’s no pleasing some people” crowd, there were some notable absences. Among the “missing” names getting the most attention was “Chicharito” Hernández.

The all-time leading scorer for El Tri was controversially left off the World Cup roster (only controversial if you don’t know the back story, i.e., repeat violations of training camp rules), but was chatted up by Cocca a week ago, leaving many fans hopeful that he would get invited back to the team.

But “Chicharito” missed the first five LA Galaxy games with a hamstring injury, finally getting on the pitch Sunday for a 35-minute cameo.

Another “missing” name that got some heavy traction was Víctor Guzmán, the Chivas midfielder (the Víctor Guzmán who did get invited is a promising defender with Monterrey).

“El Pocho” joined Guadalajara this season after helping Pachuca win two Liga MX titles and he is off to a tremendous start with “El rebaño sagrado.” However, he is reportedly still being black-balled for failing a doping test three years ago.

Next. Liga MX Notebook: Matchday 14. dark

So, El Tri fans will just have to take a “wait-and-see” approach ahead of the summer calendar to see who gets invited to training camp then. But in the meantime, the clash with Team USA looms on the horizon.