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Liga MX Apertura Final: Caixinha and Cruz Azul blow it as América are crowned champions

Cruz Azul v America - Final Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Here are your five conclusions from the Final of the 2018 Liga MX Apertura.

Club América finish as the very best

Make no mistake about it. Club América are deserved champions. To put things into perspective, Club América finished the season unbeaten in their last 17 Liga MX matches. Their last defeat actually came on August 22 against Club León in Week 11.

América also finished the regular season with the best offense and the second best defense. Their road to the title led them through two clasicos, and they outscored their opponents 14-6 in the Liguilla. Their record breaking 13th league title makes them the most winning team in Mexican soccer history, and there is no debating about it.

Caixinha’s decisions prove costly

Cruz Azul will face another anxious six months without a league title, and part of the blame has to go to coach Pedro Caixinha. The Portuguese manager was arguably the best tactician across the regular season, but his decision to start with two strikers in the Second Leg of the Liga MX final was baffling.

In essence, Cruz Azul’s game became a a barrage of long balls to their strikers, while playing to Club América’s strengths. In fact, when América looked brightest in this Apertura was when Guido Rodriguez and Edson Alvarez played together in the midfield and their wingers were able to attack the fullbacks. You’d think that with Roger Martinez out injured, there was an even bigger incentive for Cruz Azul to try and take control of the proceedings, but instead they opted to play a cautious brand of football, even when Las Águilas were without their tactical escape plan in Martinez.

It’s not that Miguel Herrera outcoached Caixinha, it is that he just took advantage of what was given. If you are a Cruz Azul fan right now, you have to be asking yourself why your coach pulled away from the one striker formation that brought this team so much success during the regular season.

Edson Alvarez will have a key role to play for Mexico in the future

The Estadio Azteca witnessed Edson Alvarez’s coming out party on Sunday. The Mexican youngster scored both of the goals that gave Club América their historic 13th league title.

Alvarez was superb, and from the start, it was evident he was going to be one of América’s most impactful players. Depending on what formation Cruz Azul came out with, his ability to slot in as a third center back or play in the midfield was always going to be key for coach Miguel Herrera.

While his tackling is often mistimed and his reading of the game still needs plenty of work, Alvarez possesses plenty of skill both in the air and on the ground. His ability to dictate the midfield along with Guido Rodriguez was ultimately one of the things that doomed La Máquina’s chances.

Looking towards the future, the era of Juan Carlos Osorio led to mostly a phasing out of three center-back lineups, but with a lack of talented Mexican defenders coming up, perhaps it’s time to start looking at a possibility of a return to a three at the back lineup and with Edson Alvarez acting in a Rafa Marquez-like position.

Marchesin made a big difference once again

Beyond the flaws that Cruz Azul basically exposed about themselves, it is worth mentioning that the goalkeeper position once again played an important role in this series. Like against Toluca and Pumas UNAM, Marchesin was massive for Las Águilas. In particular, Marchesin made a phenomenal save in the first half of the First Leg that alone was worth all of Marchesin’s paycheck.

On the other hand, it was a Jose de Jesus Corona error that gifted Club América their opener. His decision to rush a clearout was arguably the biggest moment of this Final, and it paved the way for what ended up being another disappointing Liga MX Final defeat at the hands of América.

History tends to repeat itself

As mentioned in the past, it’s said that some teams just find a way of winning, and Club América is one of those teams. On the other hand, as much as it hurts La Máquina, the running Liga MX joke of them being habitual losers will continue. This was their one shot at redemption and they found a way to blow it.

Consistency is a rarity in Liga MX, which is scary thought if you are a Cruz Azul fan. A repeat run to the final is highly unlikely, but also not impossible. For now, a lot of things will need to happen to see Cruz Azul finally end their 21-year drought without a league title.