El Tri: Coach Lozano likely fighting for his job when Mexico faces Ecuador

After the team's stunning loss to Venezuela, Los Aztecas face do-or-die game on Sunday
El Tri is on the verge of being knocked out of the Copa América at the group stage after two stale performances against Jamaica and Venezuela. Mexico might have to defeat Ecuador or see coach Jaime Lozano fired.
El Tri is on the verge of being knocked out of the Copa América at the group stage after two stale performances against Jamaica and Venezuela. Mexico might have to defeat Ecuador or see coach Jaime Lozano fired. / PATRICK T. FALLON/GettyImages

Maybe David Faitelson was right after all.

Two weeks ago, the brash Televisa commentator declared in no uncertain terms that this El Tri is the worst national team in 35 years. And that was before the glum displays against Jamaica and the stunning loss to Venezuela.

It wasn't too long ago that the Mexican Soccer Federation virtually guaranteed that Jaime Lozano would be Mexico's manager through to the 2026 World Cup, but now a search for a new coach could begin as early as Sunday night.

Lozano was raked over the coals after El Tri lost to Venezuela for the first time ever. It wasn't so much that Mexico lost as it was the woeful performance of the team and Lozano's poor decision-making.

El Tri shows little tactical versatility

Although few of Mexico's players earned positive grades following Wednesday's loss, a popular talking point after the match was that Lozano was outcoached.

El Tri started out on the front foot and created a great scoring chance just 19 minutes in when Luis Chávez sent a long ball over the Venezuelan defense. Santiago Giménez trapped the ball neatly and was in alone on goal but he whiffed on his shot attempt.

The game turned a little chippy after that as Brazilian ref Raphael Claus allowed play to get physical. Mexico seemed to lose its cool a bit (Giménez picked up a silly yellow card in minute 39, which might have prompted Lozano to replace him at half time) and Venezuela got more comfortable moving forward.

Venezuela coach Fernando Batista changed his tactics to open the second half, inserting Toulouse midfielder Cristian Cásseres, a move which allowed the South Americans to win control in the middle of the pitch.

"Los Vinotintos" began to exert more and more pressure on the El Tri defense and, in minute 57, it resulted in a penalty when Mexico's back line got bent out of shape and winger Julián Quiñones was left to chase Jon Aramburu into the box, unwisely cutting him down from behind.

Shortly thereafter, Lozano began to make changes but failed to address the tactical shift that had given Venezuela control of the match. His substitutions did not change El Tri's shape, as he seemingly adopted the simplistic rationale that "maybe the substitute will perform better than the starter."

By the end of the match, the four new forwards had done little to offer solutions to the defensive puzzle thrown up by the South Americans. This begs the question, why not insert a midfield playmaker to try and break down the Venezuelan wall.

In minute 87, Mexico was awarded a penalty and as Lozano apparently screamed from the sideline for Johan Vásquez to take the penalty, the players on the pitch decided sub Orbelín Pineda would try the spot kick. That went badly for El Tri as Pineda's soft shot was parried aside by Rafael Romo.

Several mad scrambles occurred in the Venezuela goal mouth in the closing minutes but Mexico could not find a goal.

Fitness an issue

In addition to the poor play and the lack of tactics, El Tri has been hurt by fitness issues at this Copa América, bringing into question the team's preparation and its training staff.

First-choice goalie Luis Malagón went down with a muscular injury before the tournament started and was sent home. Captain Edson Álvarez pulled up lame just 30 minutes into Mexico's opener against Jamaica and will miss the rest of the Copa América with a thigh tear, and stalwart defender César Montes was subbed out at halftime of the Venezuela match with a leg complaint.

The injuries also shone a light on Lozano's poor roster selection. With Montes possibly out –his availability for the final group-stage match against Ecuador is in doubt – that leaves El Tri with a patchwork line-up.

Lozano only named two central defenders to the roster with Álvarez, a midfielder, considered to be the third central defender. Israel Reyes – who played right fullback with league champions América – replaced Montes for the second half on Wednesday and he'll get the start on Sunday if Montes is ruled out.

As it is, Mexico which has lost four of its last six matches must now defeat Ecuador to avoid elimination at the group stage. If El Tri crashes out early, it is guaranteed that the Federation will consider replacing Lozano.

After 12 months in charge and with only two years until Mexico plays co-host to the 2026 World Cup, Lozano has posted a dismal 5-3-6 record while showing reluctance to rejuvenate the roster.

Several established veterans – midfielders Luis Romo and Carlos Rodríguez, winger Uriel Antuna and right back Jorge Sánchez – have failed to demonstrate they deserve to be on the team (let alone be in the starting line-up), but that hearkens back to Lozano's roster selection.

Others like midfielder Luis Chávez, wingers Orbelín Pineda and Julián Quiñones, as well as forward Santi Giménez have not played up to their capability. Meanwhile, midfielder Erick Sánchez – star of Concacaf Champions Cup winners Pachuca – and winger Roberto Alvarado – the best player on the Chivas roster – and playmaking midfielder Jordi Cortizo have a combined 12 minutes between them through two matches.


So while Lozano continues to see the glass half full, El Tri continues to sink such that it is no stretch to compare the current club to the Mexico squad that finished last at the 1978 World Cup by losing all three matches by a combined 2-12 scoreline.