El Tri in Big D to face Socceroos at Jerry World

Jaime Lozano is preparing for his first test as permanent El Tri manager and he's had to deal with off-field distractions. (Photo by Shaun Clark/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Jaime Lozano is preparing for his first test as permanent El Tri manager and he's had to deal with off-field distractions. (Photo by Shaun Clark/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /
El Tri Aussie sidelines
Julian Quiñones has started off his América tenure with significant contributions. His pending naturalization has prompted some controversy. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

El Tri takes on Australia Saturday night in Jaime Lozano’s debut as permanent coach of the Green-White-and-Red.

Though just a friendly, the match at Dallas Cowboys Stadium will be a welcome break from the chatter on social media among pundits and Team Mexico fans.

The presence of not-yet-naturalized Julián Quiñones during El Tri practice sessions this week prompted yet another xenophobic outburst.

Quiñones, a Colombian, expects to get his paperwork completed in the coming weeks and is likely to be back at Mexico camp as a full-fledged member of the team for the October FIFA break.

Bigotry rears ugly head (again) over El Tri eligibility

There has always been a section of Mexico fans that adamantly opposes the inclusion of non-Mexicans on the national team.

Some are accused of knee-jerk opposition to foreigners who are “stealing jobs from Mexicans” while others are labeled xenophobic, racist and bigoted. The debate inevitably deteriorates quickly from there.

With regard to Quiñones who is black, the tone of the discussion has also veered into racist territory.

It didn’t help that upon taking the full-time job in June, coach Lozano pronounced his opposition to selecting naturalized Mexicans for El Tri.

However, during the week of practice just completed, “Jimmy” and his Team Mexico players – to a man – have had nothing but positive things to say about Quiñones and his prospects of earning eligibility. The coach described Quiñones’ attitude at practice as a kid with a new toy:

Interviewed Thursday, El Tri midfielder Erick Sánchez of Pachuca praised the Club América winger and insisted he was eager for the chance to play with Quiñones, reciting a crude but popular Mexican dicho: “el mexicano nace donde se le da la chingada gana.”

Did ‘Jimmy’ pick the right squad?

Another vexatious question making the rounds of social media has to do with the roster that coach Lozano selected.

Many fans – I among them – hoped to see a younger team, with promising fresh legs mixing it up with a few veterans in their prime with an eye on a much-needed rebuilding ahead of the World Cup.

Instead, the new coach has gotten skewered for inviting at least three players who are unlikely to be on the squad in 2026 (or so we hope), wasting an opportunity to work with up-and-coming stars and prime-time players and molding them into a legitimate quarterfinalist.

One argument for omitting players such as midfielders Fidel Ambriz and Marcel Ruiz was that the Mexican Soccer Federation preferred they train with the Under-23 squad as part of the developmental process of that generation of players.

Most fans see that as bunk.

The U-23 team has no official tournaments upcoming (Mexico failed to qualify for the 2023 U-20 World Cup and so will not be going to the 2024 Olympics either) and the counterargument is that Lozano ought to be molding a youthful team beginning right now.

A corollary to that argument is that the October window features contests against Germany and Ghana, so the September matches – Australia and Uzbekistan – could have been used to introduce the youngsters to the tactics and style favored by coach Lozano and prepare them for the stiffer competition next month.

The alternative, say the naysayers, is that now El Tri is more likely to be staffed with veterans and 2022 holdovers in October so as to avoid tossing a Kiddie Corps to the wolves. That then pushes the roster makeover further down the road.

Then again, coach Lozano has experience with the current crop of young hopefuls. He coached El Mini Tri (a U-22 squad) to a bronze medal at the 2019 Toulon Tournament and guided Mexico’s U-23 side to bronze at the 2020 Olympics (which actually took place in 2021).

As such, he is familiar with a broad selection of the younger set and they with him.

So we’re going to put all this noise aside and just sit back and watch how Lozano works with the men he convened. All reports indicate the team continues to respond enthusiastically to Jimmy’s coaching style and the cameraderie is evident (not always the case under Gerardo Martino).

We’ll take a look at how this all plays out on the field and report back.

Injury-prone Córdova to miss out again

After playing an instrumental role in leading Tigres to a Liga MX title late May, midfielder Sebastián Córdova was too banged up to play for Mexico in the Nations League or the Gold Cup.

With Jimmy Lozano finally getting the full-time job, Córdova was looking forward to reuniting with Mexico’s Olympic coach as the Tigres man was a key contributor to El Tri’s run to the bronze medal in Tokyo.

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Alas, it is not to be. Córdova tweaked his knee last weekend in his team’s 5-0 win over Querétaro and was forced to bow out. Here’s hoping it is a minor setback and the Tigres playmaker can get back to full fitness ahead of the October friendlies.