Jaime Lozano became the coach of the Mexican National Team on an interim basis after Mexico fired Coach Diego Cocca on Monday. Lozano gave Mexican football its last major achievement when he coached Mexico’s U23 team to a Bronze Medal in the 2020 Olympic Games held in Tokyo in 2021. Lozano had a spell at Necaxa after that, and will coach the team in the 2023 Gold Cup, where he hopes to guide Mexico to their first senior title since the 2019 Gold Cup.
After a disastrous loss against rival United States and an incredibly lackluster win in the third place match against Panama in the Nation League, Diego Cocca lost his job in a move the send shock wave throughout Mexican football. New president Juan Carlos “La Bomba” Rodriguez made the decision, a move that many people were expecting but many weren’t. After only five matches, Cocca was fired although his short tenure was incredibly mediocre from a coach that came into the job with little fanfare. Incredibly, the FMF had hired the national team coach before replacing lame duck president Yon de Luisa. There were strong rumors that Rodriguez, who asked for total independence in order to accept the position, never liked the decision to hire Cocca, or that it was brought by pressure from Grupo Orlegi, owners of Atlas and Santos led by Alejandro Irarragorri. A lot of backroom moves and rumors surround the decision, but even the most strident Cocca defender would have to accept that his tenure during the CONCACAF Nations League was a disaster.
While the decision should and will be talked a lot for a while, the reality is that Jaime Lozano took the job as interim NT manager. Lozano had a great career in Liga MX with teams like Pumas, Tigres, Morelia, and Cruz Azul. He made the National Team, where he scored some key goals and should have made the 2006 World Cup but lost out on the final cut. As a coach, he went on to win the 2017 Supercopa in his first Liga MX job at Queretaro. He later coached the U23 team, where he won three bronze medals by ending third in the 2019 Maurice Revello Tournament and in third in the 2019 Pan American Games in Chile. By far his biggest achievement was winning the bronze medal in the 2020 Olympic Games (that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, took place in 2021), only the second Olympic medal in Mexican football history. With a team lead by overage players Guillermo Ochoa, Luis Romo, and Henry Martin (all of which are currently in the Mexican National Team that will play in the Gold Cup), he led a great team that had some great moments, and only lost the semifinal match against eventual winners Brazil in a penalty kick shootout. They later avenged their only loss in the tournament in the group stage (2-1) against Japan by defeating the hosts in the bronze medal match by a 3-1 score. Lozano then coached in Necaxa before bowing out and taking of the Mexican National Team for the Gold Cup.
Lozano has a big task ahead of him in the Gold Cup. Mexican football is in shambles, especially with regards to the national team. While Cocca’s firing got rid of some of the pressure, fans are livid about the recent play and the fact that for the first time in decades, it’s clear that Mexico is not the top team in CONCACAF and the United States has taken the crown. With both the United States and Canada sending a B squad to the Gold Cup in order to rest players, Mexico is expected now to win the competition even after all their trouble. That being said, Lozano has the plus factor that he’s just the interim coach and unless the team plays terrible, the result could be somewhat excused because of the little amount of time he has had on the job. However, the fact that the team is filled with players from the 2021 Olympics (10 players), which should help Lozano gel with the team. Lozano also coached what may be the last great match Mexico played with the senior team against Panama.
In 2021, Mexico was preparing for the Olympics and they “took” a senior team friendly set up against Panama. Since it was a senior national team match, Lozano could only be the “assistant” while national team coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino was considered the coach and they also called up senior NT defender Hector Moreno, who sat on the bench. Still Lozano did the job while Martino sat back, and not only did Mexico beat the Panama’s senior national team’s A team, but did so convincingly. After that Mexico had some bigger success, like defeating Nigeria by a 4-0 score and having a home win in World Cup qualification against Honduras by a 3-0 score, but the Nigeria match came against a D squad and Honduras went down to 10 players in the second half when the match was only 1-0. Mexico never really had a performance as good as they did against Lozano that day. It will be a very tough thing to replicate, especially with the incredible negative cloud hanging over the National team and the incredible pressure the team faces to win the Gold Cup with their A team (something that Mexico lived through in the 2021 Gold Cup and they failed to obtain after losing the final to the United States by a 1-0 score) but at least it might be small ray of hope for the Mexican National team that if they at least can’t go back to being at their old level, at least they can’t stop their precipitous drop.