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New manager Diego Cocca's pragmatic approach has Tijuana looking up again

New manager Diego Cocca's pragmatic approach has Tijuana looking up again
From ESPN - January 18, 2018

A little less than three months ago, Tijuana made plenty of headlines across the Mexican media landscape, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Amidst the unexpected news on Oct. 30th that then-manager Eduardo Coudet would no longer be working with Tijuana, reports began to emerge that the team was struggling with payment problems. To make matters worse, suspected locker room issues were also reported to have played a role in Coudet's exit from the club.

Xolos were in shambles off the field, and despite the fact that the squad boasted plenty of exciting attacking talents on it, the bordertown team in crisis lumbered to a final league position of 11th. For a side that finished first in the two previous regular season standings, missing out on an invitation to the playoffs was seen as a massive disappointment from all involved.

Very little time has passed since these infamous and recent events, so why should Tijuana fans now suddenly be hopeful? What has changed?

Although it's difficult to forget the negativity that has stubbornly lingered, there is reason to believe that Xolos will drastically change their fortunes in the current 2018 Clausura.

"We needed this win for the fans, because we owe them a couple," said Tijuana midfielder Alejandro Guido to ESPN FC after last Friday's 1-0 win over Necaxa. "We are happy, we are happy that the team is doing much better. There is more cohesion on the field, I do not know if you noticed, it felt better," the San Diego native later added.

If there's one person to trust about the progress of Tijuana, it's Guido. Not counting a couple of short stints with Dorados in 2013 and 2014, the 23-year-old Mexican-American midfielder has been with Xolos since 2012. Injury problems have hurt his playing time in recent years, but since the summer, he has taken part in 17 games in all competitions for Tijuana.

In the first two matches of this season --- a 0-0 away draw against Cruz Azul and the aforementioned 1-0 win over Necaxa --- it was easy to see the cohesion Guido was describing. Boosted by good individual performances from Gibran Lajud, Luis Chavez and Pablo Aguilar, Xolos were able to absorb pressure and frustrate the opposition. What followed were two clean sheets and four valuable points in hand.

The Clausura is very far from over, but thanks to the tactics of new manager Diego Cocca, Xolos have been able to push away many worries and excel during the current transitionary period. In fact, Tijuana is the only Liga MX team left that has yet to allow a goal in the tournament.

Most coaches understandably need a bit of time to adjust, but Cocca's practical approach has already helped Xolos hit the ground running in 2018.

"We must take it slowly, goal by goal," said Cocca last month in one of his first preseason statements as Tijuana manager. "We ca not think about a final when we have not qualified. We know that Mexican soccer is very difficult that in we need to demonstrate in every game what we work on every week. We need to understand that we are a team and we need to do things collectively, sacrifice for the team."

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