FOX Soccer Exclusive
America may finally end title drought
Every new campaign provides some reason for Club América supporters to believe the upcoming season might finally end their eight-year drought without a title.
Most of the time, those hopes are frittered away. Talent isn't usually America’s problem, it’s figuring out how to harness it that proves the insurmountable obstacle.
Consider the 2-1 victory over Monterrey on Saturday night as an indication that this group may possess the necessary tools to break that pattern. In this particular instance, the result – welcome as it may be over the Rayados – matters far less than the characteristics displayed within it.
América offered a glimpse of its potential strength in possession during the opening stanza. Monterrey spent much of the first half pinned back in its own half as América patiently kept the ball and waited for an opening. The efforts lacked a touch of incisiveness – Osvaldo Martinez offered little incisiveness on his debut and departed after 70 minutes – yet the dominant spell showed that this group boasts the necessary ability and cohesiveness to dictate terms against a good side. The halftime scoreline of 1-1 reflected more on Aquivaldo Mosquera's rash decision to concede a penalty by wrestling José Maria Basanta to the ground than the balance of play.
Even as the game stretched a bit in the second half and Monterrey contributed more to the affair, América looked the more likely side to snatch the winner. The service from the wide areas presented plenty of opportunities for Christian Benítez to open his Clausura account, but the prolific Ecuadorian squandered a handful of opportunities. Monterrey threatened on the counter as América left spaces exposed with its three-man backline, but Basanta's late handball provided a platform for Rubens Sambueza to collect the points from the spot with the final kick.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign from the victory was in the improvement to come. Sambueza played a part in both goals (his cross prompted Jesús Molina's equalizer before the break after some shoddy Monterrey defending), but he can and will contribute more from the run of play. Benitez likely won't continue to waste so many opportunities in front of goal, either. When Francisco Rodríguez (an unused substitute after sealing a move from VfB Stuttgart this week) steps into the back three (if it remains Miguel Herrera's tactical preference), the momentary spells of defensive uncertainty should dissipate for a side with a rather stout shape anyways.
Then again, similar assumptions and proclamations have yielded to rather harsh realities since América last lifted the title in the 2005 Clausura. Even with those cautionary tales in mind, América can harbor reasonable expectations to suggest this particular campaign may finally result in a different conclusion.
Around Liga MX: Jornada One
Club Tijuana started its title defense in the proper manner with a 2-1 victory at Puebla. Duvier Riascos and Cristian Pellerano staked the Xolos to a two-goal lead. Roberto Juarez poked home the remnants of a corner kick shortly before the interval to reduce the deficit, but the champions held firm in the second half to collect maximum points.
New CD Guadalajara boss Benjamin Galindo settled for a point in his debut after a 1-1 home draw with Toluca. Most of the talking points arrived in the final ten minutes as Miguel Sabah canceled out Lucas Silva's apparent match winner four minutes from time and then procured a red card for lashing out shortly before the final whistle.
Club León once again reinforced its reputation as the great entertainers in Liga MX by moving artfully and swiftly from back to front in the buildup to Edwin Hernández's opener in the 2-2 home draw with Querétaro. Most of the locals may prefer to harp on more fundamental concerns after the relegation candidates somehow escaped with a point thanks to a stellar goalkeeping performance from Sergio García and León's generous defending in Rafa Márquez's debut. Pragmatism isn't prevalent in León's expansive approach, but the rearguard will require greater strength in numbers when the tasks increase in difficulty over the next few months.
Pachuca fans paid tribute to former goalkeeper Miguel Calero in the club's first match since the 41-year-old Colombian died from cerebral thrombosis in December. The players did their part to honor his memory by securing a 2-0 victory over Atlante.
Former Pumas striker Emanuel Villa provided Tigres with an immediate return on the outlay for his services by notching a second-half hat trick in a 3-0 victory over Jaguares. One could only help but wonder what Pumas boss Antonio Torres Servín thought after Villa matched his modest output from the Apertura in such short order.
Cruz Azul and Morelia opened the Clausura with an entertaining 3-3 draw on Friday night. Although Rodrigo Salinas claimed a draw for Morelia with his equalizer from the spot after 73 minutes, Cruz Azul will likely take the away point and the production in front of goal without suspended top scorer Mariano Pavone.
US international striker Herculez Gómez collected his first goal of the Clausura with a perfectly timed header after 26 minutes in Santos Laguna's 1-1 draw at San Luis. Gómez's presence in the lineup and on the scoresheet offers encouragement about his place in the pecking order under new boss Pedro Caixinha.