During his postgame presser Thursday night following his team’s 0-3 whooping to the hands of USA, Cocca was nearly through without a reporter touching upon a delicate subject that occurred at midfield at game’s end. It was reported by some that the Mexican NT players had gathered without the head coach on the pitch moments after the final whistle, and Cocca himself had then walked out to midfield to wait for them to join him. They all allegedly turned around and left for the locker room, ignoring their head coach completely and just leaving him there.
It was the second to last reporter as a matter of fact, ESPN’s Rafael Ramos, who finally interrogated Cocca on the matter. With that being said though, Ramos made two critical mistakes in how he decided to ask his two-part question; first, the order in which he established the question topics (or simply having made it a two-part question to begin with); second, not following up on one of them upon Cocca’s non-response. Here is Ramos’s question:
“Diego, at the end of the game, a group of players get together near the goal. You’re at midfield. The players leave the pitch. You stay there. Can you explain to us what happened there?”
You can tell by Cocca’s body language he immediately became uncomfortable with the question at hand, taking a deep breath as he turned his head left toward the end of the question, something he hadn’t done for any other question during the presser. But he also gets saved by Ramos himself, who immediately poses a second question asking Cocca to define mentality and what he meant by that when he mentioned it in the previous question. Don’t know why he didn’t let him just answer that first one.
Cocca obviously immediately goes for the second question and even rambles on about it for nearly a minute and a half, when we all know what he meant. I mean, what else would he mean when he’s coming off a 3-0 pounding where his team generated nothing and appeared to have no interest in even trying? The more important question was the first. Once he’s finally done speaking, they move on to the final reporter without Ramos pressing for a response to his other question.
Now, why is that first question so key? And most importantly, why didn’t Cocca respond to it? It’s really this simple; if it had really meant nothing or wasn’t true, Cocca would’ve immediately dealt with it and simply said something like, “You’re wrong about this. What actually happened was...” or something along those lines as we’ve seen coaches do in the past. They waste no time putting false rumors to rest when they really are just that.
But no. He chose to attack the second question for nearly 90 seconds, and conveniently ignore the first which would really make him look bad, disrespected even. Now, apart from the revealing body language, this question goes way beyond a simple non-answer. If this alleged situation turns out to be true, where players purposely ignored their head coach who waited for them at midfield to speak to them, that means he’s lost complete control of his locker room just 6 games into his tenure.
And we all know what that means in sports. Once you’ve lost the locker room, there’s no turning back. We’ve seen so many coaches forced out once this occurs because players lose respect for them and their power to demand anything from them is mute from that point forward, making them ultimately useless. And judging by the way the Mexican NT played on Thursday, that would resonate as an extremely reasonable explanation, unfortunately for Cocca, of course.
In short, what this would mean for Cocca (if true) is the fact it’s a matter of time before he’s relieved from his duties, potentially following the Panama 3rd place game tomorrow, especially if the result isn’t favorable for Mexico. Or at the most, as soon as their participation in the Gold Cup ends, which won’t be far from now if they keep up their current form.
Let’s hope for his sake it isn’t true, but the fact he evaded the question and got as uncomfortable as he did when Ramos asked the question, speaks volumes about what’s going on in that locker room. Tomorrow will be key to see whether these players really do stand behind him or have abandoned him and are setting him up for failure.