Is El Tri’s coach Diego Cocca being placed in a no-win situation?

Diego Cocca has only been on the job a few months and after two games he is already facing a must-win game. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Diego Cocca has only been on the job a few months and after two games he is already facing a must-win game. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /
El Tri USA 1
El Tri coach Diego Cocca will get plenty of heat if Mexico fails to defeat Team USA in an exhibition match. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

Mexico’s new manager Diego Cocca faces a critical challenge in just his third game in charge.

The expectations and demands being placed on the El Tri coach are such that a negative result could even lead to an early dismissal.

Mexico – No. 15 in the latest FIFA World Rankings – is in Phoenix to take on Team USA (No. 13 in the rankings) and a loss to El Tri’s bitterest rivals would not sit well with fans nor with the pundits already circling in anticipation of bloodletting, a bloodletting that is largely being driven by the fickle Mexican sporting media.

Granted a loss to the U.S. would be very hard to swallow – El Tri is 0-1-3 in their part four against their main Concacaf rivals – but the circumstances of this match ought to make the outcome irrelevant.

El Tri roster comprised exclusively of Liga MX players

As this is not a FIFA date, no clubs are required to release players for “international duty.” That means Cocca could not select stars such as Guillermo Ochoa, César Montes, Hiring Lozano, Edson Álvarez, Orbelín Pineda or Gerardo Arteaga.

The same is true for Team USA – we won’t see Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Matt Turner, Ricardo Pepi or Sergiño Dest, among quite a few others.

This in itself ought to reduce the pressure for a positive result and shift the focus to the process of helping players become more comfortable with the new system and allowing coach Cocca to identify those who will function well.

But no … that is not the case. The sports pages are setting the stage for tough consequences if El Tri does not win tonight.

Significant attention has been paid to players not invited to the current training camp, suggesting that Cocca is the wrong man for the job because he is selecting a poor team.

In Wednesday’s sports daily Record, columnist David Medrano criticizes Cocca for overlooking Toluca’s Brian García (second-most goals/assists by Mexican in Liga MX this season), Atlético de San Luis’ Ricardo Chávez (second-best in steals/recoveries) and Toluca’s Marcel Ruiz (most completed passes this season).

Others omissions that have been criticized include Guadalajara’s Víctor Guzmán (still paying the price for failing a doping test three years ago) and LA Galaxy striker “Chicharito” Hernández (only recently returned to fitness).

These attacks are being combined with the coach’s decision to give El Tri debuts to two former midfielders from his Atlas days – veteran Aldo Rocha and youngster Jonathan Herrera. Both are described as questionable choices (Rocha past his prime and Herrera unproven go the arguments).

Two forced roster changes

The embattled coach was already partly hamstrung by restrictions placed on some players – Monterrey has a Liga MX game on Thursday so the four El Tri regulars from the Rayados were off-limits and the same is true for three Tigres stars (a Friday game).

Then this past weekend, América’s Henry Martín and Guadalajara’s Roberto Alvarado were ruled out after picking up knocks in league play. Both forwards were members of El Tri’s Qatar roster and Martín is a top choice to lead Mexico’s attack in 2026.

Cocca replaced the injured players with Efraín Álvarez (LA Galaxy) and Edgar López (Toluca).

With all the distractions and negativity surrounding the El Tri camp, it might be difficult for Cocca to get positive press from tonight’s friendly. If El Tri wins, they were playing against sub-par competition and if El Tri loses (or settles for a draw), the coach must go.

Real Mexico fans ought to just enjoy the game for what it is – an exhibition – and leave aside ultimatums of any kind.

dark. Next. Cocca squad selection for US friendly

Such demands can await the Concacaf Nations League semifinal in June when El Tri squares off against Team USA in an official contest in which we can expect both teams to be at full strength.