Liga MX: Chivas ahead of schedule in rebuild; Mexico coach Cocca starts scouting mission

Week 8 of the 2023 Clausura is now officially wrapped up, and in our latest Liga MX recap, we're going through the biggest talking points from Mexico's top flight. Along with some additional observations and more, here are the highlights.

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Mexico's Cocca dives into scouting talent

Who doesn't like to make a good first impression at work?

Newly appointed Mexico men's team manager Diego Cocca, has so far been dedicated to his latest gig with constant in-game observations at Liga MX matches. Looking like a new hire that's eager to charm his bosses at the Mexican Football Federation, the Argentine coach took in three games over the weekend (Puebla vs. Cruz Azul on Friday, Pumas vs. Chivas on Saturday and then Pachuca vs. Toluca on Sunday).

Following an era in which former Mexico coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino was criticized for not going to enough Liga MX games, Cocca's strategy is part of a bigger initiative that the FMF is attempting to make with a new manager now at the helm.

"One of the more important points is the daily work that Diego proposed with the technical teams [of Mexican clubs]," said executive director of national teams Rodrigo Ares de Parga during Cocca's presentation on Feb. 10. "As the national team, we can't be isolated from Liga MX clubs and we need to work with them day by day."

Through that process, Cocca must not only look for the right pieces that could revive a national team that flopped out of the group stage in the 2022 World Cup, but also identify youthful energy in Liga MX that would strengthen Mexico's aging roster. In those three games alone, a total of 19 Mexico-eligible players that are 23 and younger were in action.

It's going to take an immense amount of work to scout these players and others from Liga MX and abroad, but at the very least, Cocca is taking the correct first steps by focusing intensely on Mexico's top flight.

Are Chivas turning into title contenders?

On paper, Chivas shouldn't be doing this well.

With lengthy injuries for forwards Jose Juan Macias and Alexis Vega (who is arguably their best attacking player), it would have been easy to assume that new manager Veljko Paunovic was going to stagger as he adjusted to his first season in Mexico.

Instead, the Serbian coach and his Rojiblancos have been coordinated and decisive in 2023. It isn't high-flying soccer with one-sided victories, but as seen in Saturday's 2-1 away win over Pumas, Chivas can consistently pick up points with narrow results that have pushed them to fifth in the table and with a 4W-3D-1L record.

Against Pumas and throughout 2023, they've done a great job with recovering balls, winning their tackles and quickly moving passes into the final third. Within their squad, they've also had some individual game-changers such as Victor Guzman, Carlos Cisneros and goalkeeper Miguel "Wacho" Jimenez. Over the weekend, Wacho was vital in the second half and has added to his growing list of clever saves for Chivas this season.

There's a strong foundation being built by Chivas and Paunovic over the last couple of months, and even without the influence of someone like Vega in the frontline, they've shown that they can keep pace with some of the best clubs in the league. It's probably too early to say the Rojiblancos are title-contenders just yet, but that said, expect many to suddenly make that claim if they can get the job done away from home against second-placed Tigres in Week 9.

Good grief! 'Charly' golazo lifts Cruz Azul to first win

It took six games and the firing of a manager, but Liga MX giants Cruz Azul have finally claimed their first victory of the season. Less than a week after coach Raul "Potro" Gutierrez was dropped due to a 0W-1D-4L start to the Clausura, interim manager Joaquin Moreno helped lift them to a 3-1 away win last Friday over Puebla.

Likely given extra inspiration by the aforementioned Cocca analyzing the game in the stands, Mexican players such as midfielder Carlos "Charly" Rodriguez, defender Julio "Cata" Dominguez and goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado were imposing during the match.

Rodriguez was especially outstanding. Recently unable to earn a starting spot for Mexico in the World Cup and often an odd piece in the national team's midfield puzzle, the 26-year-old played as if he had a point to prove with an assist and golazo from outside of the box for Cruz Azul.

An uphill battle remains for the midfielder that has regularly struggled with connecting to his El Tri teammates on the international level, but with two goals and three assists in his first six Liga MX appearances, he's doing his best this season to stay in the conversation.

As for Cruz Azul, although there's much that is left to resolve for the team that was outshot and out-possessed by Puebla, Los Cementeros can still breathe a sigh of relief that their winless streak is officially over.

Additional observations

- Elsewhere in Week 8: FC Juarez and Leon earned a 0-0 draw, Santos Laguna scored a second half equalizer in a 1-1 away result against Atletico San Luis, Monterrey have held onto first in the table thanks to a 2-1 win over Necaxa, a lone goal from Nico Ibañez pushed Tigres to a 1-0 away victory against Atlas, the winless streak continues for Queretaro and Mazatlan after securing a 1-1 draw, Club America defeated Club Tijuana 2-1, and over in Pachuca, Toluca earned a dramatic victory through a 92nd minute game-winner in their 2-1 result against Los Tuzos.

- Former Queretaro forward Jesus Hernandez signed with Spain's Elche last Thursday. Three days later, the 19-year-old Mexican immediately made an impact and scored in his debut appearance for the club's youth team.

- To wrap things up, some paw-sitive news regarding Atletico San Luis. In the last few years, the Liga MX club has promoted campaigns for dog adoptions, while also taking in three dogs themselves that currently live in the team's headquarters. On Saturday, they took this effort to another level after announcing their newest mascot: A terrier named "Lucho."

Why a terrier? As they highlighted online, the state of San Luis Potosi just so happens to look like the breed of dog.