Reaching the century mark calls for celebration for the Aguilas of Club America, and after falling short of reaching the Clausura 2016 finals on a 4-3 aggregate result versus the Rayados, the Aguilas won't settle for anything else than a championship.
Although it fell short of reaching the finals, the upcoming season bodes well for America and its manager, Nacho Ambriz. The signing of Ambriz to lead the team met criticism at the start of the previous season after America parted ways from Gustavo Matosas after just one season at the close of Apertura 2015. Last season, Ambriz responded to the criticism by delivering a CONCACAF Champions League title, beating out bitter rival Chivas on two occasions, and reaching the Liga MX semifinals.
Now with the team familiarized with Ambriz's strong defensive focus and reliance on counterattacks to put on the offensive figures, the Aguilas could see significant improvements. During the offseason, America made two significant moves to address vacancies left by Andres Andrade and Dario Benedetto.
Coming in from Vitesse, Renato Ibarra replaces Andrade in the midfield and Silvio Romero, former forward for Chiapas, takes Benedetto's spot. America bolstered its defense as well by signing Paraguay international Bruno Valdez from Cerro Porteno. The moves America made don't bring in a splash addition like Tigres bringing Andre-Pierre Gignac two seasons ago, but instead heighten the potential quality of the team. The possibility of a big surprise signing remains a possibility, but as it stands, Club America has its squad complete.
Silvio Romero looks poised to turn into the goal scoring leader America expected Benedetto to undertake. Last season, Benedetto, who made a move to Argentina's Boca Juniors, scored just one goal in 16 appearances. Romero, in 36 games expanding two seasons, has scored a total of 18 goals for Chiapas.
Having another presence on the club of another known goal scorer to back Oribe Peralta adds another threat for the Aguilas. This could certainly help America gain ground as Peralta plans to join the Mexican Olympic squad for competition scheduled throughout the month of August.
America's season opens July 16 at home versus Chiapas, a club the Aguilas haven't lost to since 2009. Heading into its opening match Ambriz has yet to disclose who owns the starting role at goalkeeper. Moises Munoz held the starting role at the start of Clausura 2016, but injury and rough performances in his eight starts earned Hugo Gonzalez the opportunity to make a case for himself.
A replenished Munoz and a blooming Gonzalez could make for one of the most interesting storylines to follow in the upcoming season. Essentially, the tussle for the starting role plays out as the classic weathered veteran versus rising youngster trope. Both Munoz and Gonzalez can expect to have their play under closer scrutiny, and if compelled, Ambriz could switch the depth chart in more than one occasion.
Overall, based on the retention of players from last season and the offseason signings, America fans can expect themselves to see their team in a top-eight regular season finish.
Where the Aguilas end up depends on how Ambriz's counter offense meshes and the discipline of players. 34 goals placed the Augilas second in Clausura 2016 goal scoring and with the expectation and consistency of Romero, America seems capable of surpassing itself from the previous season. In terms of how many points America ends up with in the league table, goals scored against didn't hurt the Aguilas the most. Discipline did.
In a season where it received a whopping 10 red cards and 54 yellows, according to ESPN, many matches tilted unfavorably towards America, the semifinal matchup against Rayados more than any other. Ambriz made a clear and massive point of how much he doesn't tolerate sloppy play by benching Rubens Sambueza, the captain of the team, in the first leg of America's semifinal match against Rayados. Sambueza, prior to his benching, earned a pair of yellows to send him off in America's quarterfinal 0-0 stalemate versus Chivas.
If America can collectively play cleaner and reduce the amount of disciplinary action against the team, the Aguilas could battle for a spot above the top-five.