The Tijuana Xolos formally announced yet another new head coach Thursday, and if you’re surprised that it’s Argentina’s Diego Cocca you shouldn’t be.
He was born in Buenos Aires, spent part of his playing career in Mexico and is in his mid-40s.
Cocca becomes, yes, the fourth Xolos coach in the last five years to fit that description. There was Antonio Mohamed, 41 at the time; Jorge Almiron, then 41; Eduardo Coudet, 43 when hired last June; and now Cocca, who is 45. All four were born in Buenos Aires, played in Mexico and coached in Argentina before coming to Tijuana.
(That doesn’t count Ruben Omar Romano, who also was born in Buenos Aires and played in Mexico but was hired by the Xolos in his mid-50s and never coached in Argentina.)
Cocca was at Racing Club, where he resigned last week despite a reasonably successful run. It was his second spell at the club, winning the Argentine championship there in 2014. He played for Atlas, Veracruz and Queretaro in Mexico, and he spent one season coaching Santos Laguna before returning to his native Argentina.
It is a formula that worked famously with Mohamed, who led the Xolos to their only Liga MX title (in just its second year after gaining promotion to Mexico’s premier division) followed by a deep run in the Copa Libertadores, the top international club tournament in the Americas.
It is a formula that hasn’t worked since. Almiron replaced Mohamed and lasted less than six months after the Xolos went from second to 10th place.
Last June, the Xolos hired Coudet. He lasted 4 months, 18 days after the Xolos went from first to 11th in one season. He technically wasn’t fired but left by “mutual agreement” amid reports of financial difficulties.
Now it’s Cocca’s turn, the club’s 10th head coach since joining Liga MX in 2011.
“We must take it slowly, goal by goal,” Cocca said. “We can’t think about a final when we haven’t qualified (for the playoffs). We know that Mexican soccer is very difficult … We need to understand that we are a team and we need to do things collectively, sacrifice for the team.”
He has been coaching for the past decade, most of it in Argentina except for six months in 2011 at Santos Laguna and four months in 2016 at Millonarios of Colombia.
At Santos Laguna, he took over in February for Ruben Omar Romano (also a future Xolos coach) with the team in 12th place and finished ninth in the Clausura – two points out of the playoffs. He lasted only seven games into the ensuing Apertura season, fired with Santos Laguna in 14th place at 2-3-2.
In some ways, though, Cocca makes perfect sense for the Xolos. After Miguel Herrera’s departure last June, many of the top players were sold and the roster remade through Coudet’s connections in South America. Coudet’s key acquisition was forward Gustavo Bou, who was signed at Racing Club in 2014 at Cocca’s request.
And if Cocca isn’t familiar with Tijuana, his lead assistant is. Mauro Gerk, a stout striker nicknamed “El Tanque,” played for the Xolos from 2010-12, appearing 70 times and scoring 20 goals.
“Mauro Gerk is well known here, he’s at home,” Cocca said. “He also knows how the daily grind goes within the club. That makes this so much easier for us that he knows everyone and that he played here.”