Jaime Lozano proves he deserves to lead El Tri
Lozano guides El Tri to Gold Cup finals
Sometimes small sample sizes make big statements. Jaime Lozano has definitely made his mark on the Mexican national soccer team as the interim head coach. El Tri was in disarray and considered somewhat of an embarrassment when the Mexican Soccer Federation turned to Lozano three weeks ago.
After two failed Argentine coaches and a series of disappointments, the Mexican Soccer Federation turned to a Mexican coach for the Gold Cup.
El Tri’s Gold Cup results have been impressive so far, beginning with a thorough dismantling of Honduras in the first match of the group stage. Mexico dominated Jamaica 3-0 Wednesday night at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium to advance to the Gold Cup final against Panama.
Jaime Lozano is grateful
“I came for a Gold Cup,” Lozano told the media in Spanish after the victory. “That’s how it’s in my head. We’re going step by step. We’ll do everything possible to return the Cup home. Truly, I’m very grateful.”
The Jamaican squad that El Tri beat easily in the Gold Cup semifinals was the same team that pulled off a 1-1 tie against the U.S. national team on June 23 in the group stage.
The U.S. didn’t field its A team in the Gold Cup. Nonetheless, it was a good sign to see Mexico dominate a squad that tied the U.S. a few weeks ago. Considering that Mexico’s senior team hasn’t beaten the U.S. since 2019, El Tri has lots of work ahead.
Mexico is on a six-game winless streak against its bitter northern rival. Heck, even Canada appears to have surpassed El Tri in Concacaf. Mexico was a disappointment at the 2022 World Cup and then again in the Nation’s League semifinals last month against the U.S.
El Tri needs a boost, and Lozano has helped give Mexico some positive momentum. Lozano credits his players for the success, though.
“The great majority (of the players) are going through a good moment,” Lozano said. “They needed it, and the victories helped the spirit. We will do everything possible to bring the Gold Cup back home.”
In the group stage, Mexico beat Honduras 4-0, defeated Haiti 3-1 and lost to Qatar 1-0. The loss against Qatar was somewhat forgivable because El Tri dominated the entire match. That contest goes down as one of those unlucky results that aren’t rare throughout soccer.
Mexico outshot Qatar 25-1 and dominated 73 percent of the possession. They garnered eight corner kicks and conceded none. Yet, Qatar was lucky enough to score on its only shot of the match.
Impressive run to Gold Cup finals
El Tri rebounded by beating Costa Rica 2-0 in the quarterfinals before blitzing Jamaica 3-0. They have outscored opponents 12-2 in the Gold Cup.
“I don’t know if it was the best game we’ve had,” Lozano said Wednesday night. “But it’s been among the best. It was a complete game.”
The victory over Jamaica happened almost a month after their disastrous 3-0 loss to the U.S. at Allegiant Stadium in the Nations League semifinals. A sellout crowd of 65,000 – most of them green-clad El Tri fans – saw that loss on June 15.
They jeered Mexico loudly that night. Then they essentially boycotted Mexico’s third-place match in Las Vegas. Mexico had been a major draw throughout the Gold Cup. Fans in Las Vegas have clearly not forgiven El Tri for the disappointing showing against the U.S.
The Gold Cup semifinal drew only 29,886 on Wednesday, easily the smallest crowd of the tournament for Mexico. The fans who attended were rewarded early and often, though. Henry Martin gave Mexico a 1-0 lead in the second minute.
Luis Chavez made it 2-0 in the 30th minute with a golazo on a left-footed free kick he bent into the left corner. Roberto Alvarado capped the scoring in the waning seconds of stoppage time.
Romo credits Jaime Lozano
Veteran midfielder Luis Romo said he and his El Tri teammates had a debt to pay Mexican fans in Las Vegas. He was grateful to see smiles on the fans’ faces after disappointing them three weeks ago.
Romo credits Lozano with helping El Tri by giving them clear ideas and the freedom to rejoice on the field. It’s clear he would like the Mexican Federation to remove the interim tag off Lozano’s title.
“I think off the field we cannot speak much,” Romo told reporters in Spanish when asked if the players will lobby for Lozano. “I think that on the field it’s where we’re trying to show he’s the one, the one who gives us the necessary tools. He’s the one who returns that confidence and harmony. … The only way to speak for him is on the field.”
El Tri and Lozano have one more Gold Cup test Sunday at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. Panama beat the U.S. in penalty kicks, denying Mexico a chance to seek revenge against their American rivals.
Considering how badly El Tri struggled heading into the Gold Cup, a title will be welcomed even if it’s not against the U.S. Even if El Tri falls against Panama, though, Lozano has shown that he deserves the opportunity to lead the senior national team.
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