Miguel “El Piojo” Herrera, the eclectic Mexican coach best known for his wild sideline antics during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, was announced as the head coach of Liga MX giant Club America last May for the 2nd time in his coaching career.
The announcement of Herrera as the club’s new head coach didn’t come as much of a surprise. Throughout his tenure as head coach of Xolos de Tijuana, during which he posted a record of 33-18-23, rumors about El Piojo’s return to Club América were circulated by the prominent publications and figures in the Mexican media.
The news of Herrera’s return was met with great enthusiasm by all of those associated with Club América. Memories of the dramatic title win over Cruz Azul (Club América’s 11th) the last time El Piojo led Club América no doubt came to mind. However, this initial sense of joy and enthusiasm caused by Herrera’s return was short lived as las Águilas dropped two consecutive matches to Querétaro to open the season.
Herrera’s first two matches against Querétaro served to foreshadow the offensive struggles that Las Águilas would face over the course of the rest of the 2017 Apertura tournament. Over the course of the tournament, and liguilla, Club América managed to score a measly 23 goals. Never at any point during the regular season or the liguilla did the squad look like a cohesive unit when it came to the offensive side of the ball. Misplaced passes, a lack of off ball movement, and a plethora of off target shots from outside the box characterized Herrera’s squad. Oribe Peralta led the las Águilas with six goals.
The lone bright spot for El Piojo’s squad was the defensive play. Astonishingly, las Águilas only conceded 18 goals during the regular season and an additional four goals to Tigres UANL in the liguilla. This remarkable defensive display was the result of a mixture between veteran central defenders at the back and the conservative formations used by Herrera.
When all was said and done, Herrera had managed to lead his team to a 3rd place finish in the regular season before bowing out to Tigres UANL by an aggregate score of 4-0 in the liguilla semifinals.
Despite the 3rd place finish and semifinals appearance, one couldn't help but feel as though Herrera’s first season back at the helm of Club América was a bit underwhelming. Maybe it was the defensive style of play and the conservative formations. Or perhaps, it was the lack of truly dominant performances that big teams like Club América are supposed to deliver week in and week out. To make matters worse, it never looked like El Piojo’s squad were going to challenge for the title. Getting absolutely obliterated by Tigres UANL in the semifinals only served to make the disappointing season look much worse than it otherwise would have.
Miguel Herrera went straight to work in the offseason in an attempt to assemble a super squad to compete with the star powered teams from Monterrey. In the process, several of the clubs more recognizable faces in Paul Aguilar and Silvio Romero were sold. In their place came young Mexican striker Henry Martin, Colombian winger Andrés Inargüen, and big name French attacking midfielder Jérémy Ménez. These major signings seemed to create just as much, if not more buzz than Herrera’s official announcement as coach.
Through the first five weeks of the 2018 Clausura tournament, Herrera finds his squad sitting atop of the table on 11 points tied with Monterrey and Pachuca. Until last weekend’s match against Lobos BUAP, however, it looked like Club América would continue in the same manner as in Herrera’s first tournament. The offense was lagging and largely buoyed by the surprisingly high level of play by new boy Henry Martin. Which, prior to last weekend, meant that the offense was basically Martin’s two goals. Ménez and Ibargüen hadn’t made much of an impact either.
For the first time in Miguel Herrera’s second tenure as Club América’s coach, las Águilas actually looked like a dominant squad in Mexican fútbol. In fact, in their match against Lobos BUAP, las Águilas scored five goals (more than their first four matches combined). Henry Martin came alive and scored a hat trick! Even Jérémy Ménez got in on the scoresheet; notching his first goal as a member of Club América.
Despite the high level of play during last weekend’s match against Lobos BUAP there are still plenty of questions that need to be asked of Miguel Herrera. Most importantly, why can’t he get las Águilas to consistently score goals? A team with as much offensive firepower as Club América should have no problem scoring goals on a regular basis. Yet, El Piojo’s squad have mightily struggled to score. Is it the defensive style of play that Herrera employs or is there some other coaching deficiency being exhibited by El Piojo’s style?
Only time will truly tell if Miguel Herrera is really the right man to lead Club América. But, at the current moment there are far more questions than answers about his ability to lead one of Mexico’s historic giants back to greatness and glory.