Diego Cocca's first game in charge of Mexico sees slow start, scoring struggles against Suriname

How was Diego Cocca's first game in charge of Mexico? (2:15)

The Futbol Americas crew react to Mexico's 2-0 win over Suriname and debate who should start vs. Jamaica. (2:15)

Mexico walked away with a 2-0 win over Suriname on Thursday as Diego Cocca won his debut as El Tri manager in CONCACAF Nations League group stage action.

The result at Paramaribo's Franklin Essed Stadium, which also cemented qualification for Mexico in the 2023 Gold Cup, began as a tense one for the visitors that found themselves defending a number of early shots from Suriname.

In the second half, Mexico took back control with a goal from Johan Vasquez in the 64th minute and an own-goal from Damil Dankerlui in the 82nd.

With the win, Mexico only need a draw on Sunday against Jamaica to top Group A and earn a spot in the semifinals of the Nations League.

Rapid reaction

1. Cocca's tenure starts with a win after a slow start

Utilizing an alternate squad with an average age of 24, Diego Cocca's roster decision in his first game as manager initially looked like a gamble in the first 45 minutes. El Tri struggled with containing a Suriname side that kept Mexican goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo more busy than expected through a handful of interventions.

Defensively, names like Kevin Alvarez, Israel Reyes and Gerardo Arteaga failed to do much against a side that were consistently threatening with their direct runs. Although Mexico had a couple of dangerous chances of their own, they were static throughout the first half and lucky to enter the locker room at halftime without allowing a goal.

Things improved significantly in the second half. With Alvarez substituted out during halftime for Barcelona's Julian Araujo, Mexico were much more proactive in the attack. By the 64th minute, Cocca's squad then scored off a free-kick from Carlos Rodriguez that Vasquez was able to slightly deflect into the back of the net.

Forward Santiago Gimenez missed a penalty moments afterwards for Mexico, but was able to compensate with a clever pass in the 82nd minute to Uriel Antuna that forced Suriname's own-goal.

It wasn't the best start to a game for Mexico, but the positive news for El Tri is that Cocca and his players were able to correctly realign themselves and clinch a win.

2. Will Acevedo get another chance to unseat Ochoa?

Despite the win by two goals, it was Acevedo that was able to keep Mexico alive in the game. With a handful of stops, including one highlight-worthy stretch across his net in the first half, the Santos Laguna captain was easily one of the best players for El Tri.

Looking ahead, the result will significantly help the 26-year-old that will be hoping to steal more appearances from Guillermo Ochoa, who has been a long-time stalwart in net for Mexico. Even if Acevedo returns to his role as a backup to the veteran that has been impactful for Salernitana this Serie A season, the good news for the national team is that Acevedo will be able to soon replace a number of aging alternates.

On Sunday against Jamaica, it'll be interesting to see if Cocca rewards Acevedo for his shutout and impressive display, or if the manager will instead place the 37-year-old Ochoa back in net at the Estadio Azteca.

3. Scoring struggles for Mexico remain

With the recognition that this was the first match for Cocca as the team's manager and that an away win was earned, more was expected from Mexico's frontline.

Gimenez missed a penalty, right winger Uriel Antuna was inconsistent, left winger Roberto Alvarado was far too quiet, and in support, the midfield didn't really step up until the second half. Looking back at Gimenez as the No. 9, the 21-year-old should be given credit for helping setup the goal that would lead to a 2-0 lead, it remained disappointing to see him miss his penalty and have a lackluster presence in the 18-yard box.

It's far too early to assume these are immediate warning signs, especially when you consider that Cocca decided to leave a number of more experienced players back home for the game against Jamaica, but Wednesday showed that Mexico has plenty that needs to be fine-tuned and fixed before more difficult opposition against Jamaica and in this summer's Gold Cup.

Best and worst performers

Best: Carlos Acevedo, Mexico

Were it not for Acevedo, El Tri could have potentially earned a disastrous result on Wednesday. Whether he becomes a go-to starter for Cocca or a backup to Ochoa, Acevedo brings much-needed youthful energy to the goalkeeping depth chart.

Best: Erick Gutierrez, Mexico

It took some time for the PSV Eindhoven midfielder to find his rhythm, but by the second half, Gutierrez was vital with his distribution and a reliable figure in the heart of the XI.

Best: Diego Biseswar, Suriname

The attack-minded midfielder was influential with his involvement in much of Suriname's direct plays in the first half. Bisewar nearly scored on a couple of occasions as well.

Worst: Kevin Alvarez, Mexico

An atypically poor game from the Pachuca right-back that provided an avenue for Suriname's attacking plays. A highly visible weak link, it was no surprise to see Cocca substitute Alvarez out during halftime.

Worst: Damil Dankerlui, Suriname

Dankerlui should be included just for the own-goal, but also had a number of underwhelming moments in the second half when Mexico began to pressure the defender more often.

Worst: Israel Reyes, Mexico

In spite of his long list of passes, Reyes had too many individual errors in defense and seemed to consistently be a step behind Suriname's attacks in the first half. Didn't have the confidence needed to be a starter for Mexico.

Highlights and notable moments

The first goal under in the Diego Cocca tenure came off a set piece, with Johan Vasquez deflecting Carlos Rodriguez's indirect kick into the net.

Santiago Gimenez has lit up the Dutch league with Feyenoord this season, but he had an uncharacteristic flub here when he skied a penalty in the second half.

After the match: What the players/managers said

Mexico coach Diego Cocca on the result, to TUDN: "Today within the game, it improved. We found the paths and we knew how to solve, that's the ideal team."

Mexico defender Johan Vasquez on the win, to TUDN: "There was some nervousness among us, which was normal. We understood the coach, it was the first time with him, but we felt that we had a good second half. We never lost hope with the ball, we knew how to handle their counter-attacks well. I think with that, with our character, we were able to pull it off."

Suriname manager Aron Winter, on the loss: "We played a very good first half, we created a lot of opportunities and everything, but what we have not done is to make at least one goal."

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

- Each of Mexico's last three penatly kick attempts in competitive matches have been vs. Suriname. Two have now been missed.

- It is Santiago Gimenez's first missed penalty in seven attempts across all club and international competitive matches.

Up next

Suriname: Their Nations League Group A campaign is done, finishing in last place behind Mexico and Jamaica with one point. Next up will be the qualification rounds for the Gold Cup.

Mexico: Facing Jamaica on Sunday at Estadio Azteca to see who'll win Nations League Group A and reach the semifinals of the competition in June.