Here are some of the main takeaways from the Final of the 2019 Liga MX Apertura, as Monterrey were crowned Liga MX winners for the fifth time in their history.
Mohamed gives Rayados long-awaited league title
You can’t help but feel happy for Antonio Mohamed. After initially spending three years with los Rayados and never winning the league title, you can tell this one meant a lot to him. In a way, this was a vindication of sorts. Let’s not forget that just a few months ago when Diego Alonso was fired, Mohamed wasn’t even Monterrey’s first choice manager. It wasn’t until Matias Almeyda decided to stay put in MLS that Monterrey were forced to go with the safe option of bringing back their former coach.
Mohamed’s return wasn’t radical by any means, but it helped set the tempo for what was to come, including a ten game undefeated streak and a heroic performance in the Club World Cup against Liverpool. To put it simply, Mohamed was the catalyst that Monterrey needed.
Above all, perhaps from an emotional standpoint this one was even more special considering it was dedicated to Mohamed’s late son Farid, who tragically lost his life in a car accident during the 2006 World Cup. Farid grew up a Monterrey supporter, and Momahed vowed to one day win the league title in his honor. There is no doubt Farid would be really happy right now and immensely proud of what his dad has accomplished in the last few years.
Miguel Herrera and Club América fall just short
Let’s be honest. penalty shootouts can be a complete lottery, and you get the feeling this was especially the case in this Final. Club América certainly had the tactical arguments to deserve the win through the course of the first 180 minutes, but ultimately, a pair of missed penalties proved costly for Miguel Herrera and his side.
Look, Miguel Herrera’s work in this Apertura cannot be discounted. While wildly inconsistent at times during the regular season and Liguilla, when Herrera’s decision making was on point, Club América were by far one of the best teams of the tournament.
Obviously, winning the league title is always the outmost goal for a team like América, but odds are that despite the defeat, Miguel Herrera will be back as América manager next season. With that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both Herrera and América back in a Liga MX final as soon as next year.
A final told by fullbacks
Sure, this final had some special moments (think Rogelio Funes Mori’s last-minute bicycle kick in the first leg), but if you want the real story of this final, you just have to look at the fullbacks.
During the first leg, it was Stefan Medina’s great play down the right-hand side and his association with Dorlan Pabon that helped Monterrey come out of the Estadio BBVA Bancomer with the win. Meanwhile, in the second leg, Mohamed’s reluctance to start Cesar Montes from the get-go by moving Medina as a center back and starting Miguel Layun at right back proved costly for Rayados. It wasn’t until Mohamed reverted back to a line of four defenders and playing Medina at right back to neutralize Roger Martinez that Monterrey really grew into the match, eventually leading to the series-equalizing goal.
On the other hand, Jorge Sanchez showed glimpses throughout the Final, but his second half error in the second leg was what in the end doomed las Águilas. Sanchez is only 22 and these sort of things can either make or break a young player. Consistency is still one of the hardest things to achieve in Mexican football, and while nobody is denying Sanchez has all the talent to be one of Mexico’s fullbacks of the future, it is in these precise moments where he will need to show he has the mental fortitude to continue to grow as a player.
Finally, Leonel Vangioni can count himself lucky Renato Ibarra was injured for most of this Liga MX Final. In theory, a healthy Ibarra would have been an important part of Miguel Herrera’s tactical scheme throughout both legs, but instead, Vangioni was able to work well in tandem with Jesus Gallardo to more or less keep things quiet down América’s right-hand side. In particular, Vangioni did well to cover for Maxi Meza down the stretch, where the former Independiente man was huge for Rayados.
Vangioni was also in middle of things for an alleged penalty and a second yellow card offense, which to América’s defense were one of many controversial refereeing decisions in this Liga MX Final. For what it was worth, Vangioni went on to score the title-winning penalty.
A sad goodbye to Guido Rodriguez?
If this is in fact Guido Rodriguez’s last game with Club América, this couldn’t have been a sadder ending to his Águilas career. Guido Rodriguez has been without question one of the best players in all of a Liga MX, and for him to miss one of América’s decisive penalties on what could be potentially his last game in Mexico was tremendously harsh. Put it this way, to say Guido Rodriguez has been América’s best player in recent seasons would be a massive understatement. In fact, there is no reason a player of Guido Rodriguez’s calibre should even be playing in Mexico.
With rumors of his impending transfer to Real Betis, the real question now is how will América replace him? He has been the heart and soul of this team for the last two years, and finding the right guy to fill his shoes will be practically impossible for Miguel Herrera and his staff.
The north continues to dominate
It is a Northern Mexican league and we are all living in it. As our colleague Tom Marshall pointed out, seven of the last 10 Liga MX titles have gone to teams from the north of Mexico.
For a while now, Northern Mexican teams have been the standard in Mexican football. In some respect, the 2010s were for the teams in Northern Mexico, and it is somewhat fitting that Monterrey were the first league winners of the decade and now the last. Whether it is through extended processes like Santos Laguna or deep pockets like the teams from Monterrey, the status quo in Mexico has changed. This might have been Monterrey’s first league title in ten years, but like their crosstown rivals Tigres, they have been a constant fixture in this league and they are definitely here to stay.