Nimble and thrilling when driving forward, Mexico‘s men’s national team moved like a LamborJimmy in their 4-0 opening win over Honduras in the Gold Cup on Sunday. Under the leadership of interim manager Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano, El Tri looked entirely rejuvenated after stumbling earlier this month to a concerning spot at third in the Concacaf Nations League. Playing cautious soccer under former coach Diego Cocca, Mexico struggled in a discouraging 3-0 semifinal loss to the United States and a narrow 1-0 victory over Panama in the third place match.

But on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston, things substantially changed in Lozano’s debut match. “This…seems like something magical,” said Lozano about his team’s immediate improvements. “It seems like everything can turn around in three days.”

So what exactly changed?

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Aside from likely wanting to win over the new leader on the sideline, Mexico’s players were more comfortable in an attack-minded approach from Lozano. In a 4-3-3 setup that focused on overlapping runs on the flanks and a freedom for midfielders to roam, Mexico were dynamic as they progressed the ball, regularly creating dangerous chances as they threw numbers forward into the final third.

It’s somewhat remarkable when you consider that the team only had four days to train after Lozano stepped in, but considering his past experience with a strong core of players, it’s perhaps not that shocking that Mexico were able to thrive from the get-go in the Gold Cup.

In the starting XI against Honduras, a total of six players (Henry Martin, Uriel Antuna, Luis Romo, Johan Vasquez, Jorge Sanchez and Guillermo Ochoa) were coached by Lozano in Mexico’s run to a noteworthy bronze medal at the 2020 Olympics. That number increases to nine when you include others like Roberto Alvarado, Cesar Montes and Carlos Rodriguez, who were also at the Olympics and on this current Gold Cup roster.

In a similar manner that Mexico cleverly counter-pressed, pushed players ahead and found constant passing connections in the last Olympic games, the same could be said of the senior team in the 4-0 victory over the weekend.

“It’s a style of play that everyone in this call-up can perform to perfection,” Lozano said after the result. If anything, Sunday’s game was more of a testament about how Cocca’s tactics, before he was fired last Monday, didn’t fall in line with what Mexican soccer should be striving for.

Making a name for himself at the club level with Atlas through Liga MX championships in the 2021 Apertura and 2022 Clausura, Cocca took a mid-table team from Guadalajara and made them a win-by-any-means squad. They were defensively solid. They didn’t take risks. They, as seen with Cocca through Mexico, prioritized placing numbers back.

Because of this, fans justifiably wondered if that was the right tactical approach for a group of Mexican players that were attempting to regain their status as giants in Concacaf. In a region filled less talented squads, hiring a defense-oriented coach was an odd decision by the Mexican Football Federation (FMF).

And even in that semifinal Nations League loss against their U.S. rivals, that defensive-led setup failed in spectacular fashion. After giving the U.S. men’s national team too much respect and space to run, Mexico were the worthy losers in a defeat that could have easily had more goals from the opposition.

“A game against the United States can be lost, there’s always that risk because this is football and the win can go one way or the other. What cannot be accepted was the way in which it happened,” said FMF commissioner Juan Carlos Rodriguez last Monday after Cocca’s firing.

As opposed to a more rigid approach from Cocca, Lozano lets his midfielders roam and be more involved in opportunities in the final third. Romo in particular, was a prime example of the benefits of the new system. Less than a minute into the game against Honduras, Romo sprinted ahead and found a chance to put Mexico up 1-0 after picking up a clearance and capitalizing on an opportunity near the outside of the 18-yard box.

Romo would then put his squad up 2-0 in the 23rd minute following a redirected header from Jesus Gallardo off a corner. Constantly dangerous in attack, El Tri would then find second half goals from Oberlin Pineda and midfielder Luis Chavez.

“[I’m] very happy, because the team deserved a performance like this,” said Romo to TUDN after the match. “Beginning with a fast start and advantage, I think it’s motivating.”

All that said, this was just one single game.

While it’s easy to get lost in the excitement of the result, the hyperbole of the LamborJimmy nickname, and the announced crowd of more than 66,000, Mexico’s opponents didn’t exactly do much to test them. Honduras lacked ideas going forward, often resorting to giving the ball to captain Alberth Elis and hoping something would emerge. In transition, they couldn’t keep pace with El Tri‘s attacking players who created a total of 13 shots in the box.

Although Lozano stated that he “fulfilled a dream of coaching Mexico’s senior team,” he remained level-headed about the current state of his roster. “Not everything has been fixed because we won 4-0 today, nor do I think that everything has been a disaster because things didn’t work out in the World Cup and they didn’t work out in the Nations League,” said the manager.

He can continue fixing things, though.

In what was more of a test drive on Sunday, Lozano will have an opportunity soon to highlight if he’s capable of taking the sharp turns and pacey straightaways of the Gold Cup circuit. Decent tests lie ahead with a game against Haiti on Thursday and tournament invitees Qatar on Sunday — although Mexico should be favored to win those and top the group.

If accomplished, we could then start talking about the mild-mannered Lozano as a true long-term option, but first, he’ll need to successfully maneuver his way through the group stage.

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Mexico’s Gold Cup under Jaime ‘Jimmy’ Lozano starts fast