Here are some of the main takeaways from the Semifinals of the 2019 Liga MX Apertura, as Club América and Monterrey are set to face off in another classic Liga MX holiday matchup.
Mohamed and Rayados through to the Final
It is arguable that no other club has played better fútbol in this Liguilla than los Rayados. On Saturday, Antonio “Turco” Mohamed’s team punched their ticket to the Liga MX Final after taking down Necaxa 3-1 on aggregate.
Have Monterrey been brilliant? Probably not. But then again, in the sea of randomness and chaos that has been this Liguilla, Monterrey have been one of the the cooler heads and they have prevailed all the way into the final.
Since Mohamed’s return, the team hasn’t lost a single game, and while they have still managed to look susceptible in different areas of the field, with the squad they have, it’s actually a surprise this is only their first final in the last nine years.
Obviously, things are going to get a little tricky now for Monterrey as they embark to Qatar to participate in the Club World Cup. This means the Liga MX Final won’t actually get to be played until December 26/29. Whether this turns out to be good or bad thing for Monterrey remains to be seen, but they have the possibility of making this December a month to remember.
Necaxa miss their chance
Money talks in modern fútbol, and after Necaxa’s Semifinal elimination at the hands of Monterrey, you get the feeling that this was the Rayos’ last big chance to win something big before their era of reconstruction begins.
For starters, credit has to go to Guillermo Vazquez Jr. for taking a severely under budgeted team all the way to a Semifinals stage and providing proper development to a number of Mexican youngsters. In the process, however, he has given Necaxa a chance to profit, with youngsters like Cristian “Chicote” Calderon, Alexis Peña, and Jesus Angulo all expected to be announced with their new club in the coming hours. Other players like Liga MX top scorer Mauro Quiroga are also expected to be sold for a considerable profit, basically leaving Necaxa a shell of the team that made it all the way to the Semifinals in this Apertura.
Expectedly, this prompted Vazquez to announce his end of the season departure well before the end of Semifinals stage, and while something could be said about the timing of his announcement, it also says a lot about the modern dealings of Mexican fútbol when half your team is being negotiated out of in the middle of arguably your club’s biggest game of the last five years.
Necaxa’s 2020 Clausura is now shaping up to be a battle for relevance, and a reminder why sometimes healthy profit margins are more important than titles.
Miguel Herrera’s stroke of genius leads América to another final
On Sunday, Club América fought back from a 2-0 deficit to advance past Monarcas Morelia and seal their place in the 2019 Liga MX Apertura Final.
Say what you want about Miguel Herrera, but he is unquestionably the best Mexican manager in current times. Needing two goals to go through to the final, América’s second leg performance was peak Miguel Herrera. Sure, one thing is having a squad as gifted as Club América’s, another is actually using it effectively. Well, Herrera used it effectively and masterminded another memorable comeback at the Estadio Azteca.
You could tell in the way he celebrated each one of América’s goals that this was a product of is own doing, and truth be told, at least tactically speaking, Morelia had no answer for América’s gameplan. Through more grit than anything else, América was able to beat Morelia’s pressing, giving América’s defenders enough time to establish themselves defensively against the always dangerous Fernando Aristeguieta. The play of América’s strikers was especially key, given how Henry Martin and Federico Viñas did most of their damage by connecting through direct passes and forcing their way through Monarcas Morelia’s center backs. Ultimately, Morelia were unable to get any fluidity going in the midfield, and that proved costly when they found themselves needing a goal to go through.
Listen, you can debate long and hard about it, but Herrera’s record with América speaks for itself. No matter what lens you see it with, that’s his fourth final in nine Liguillas, a number any other Liga MX manager would love to have.
Morelia’s Semifinals were all about wasted opportunities
That said, everything could have turned a lot differently for Monarcas Morelia if they simply took their chances. You can go all the way back to the First Leg where they failed to take advantage of an early Club América red card before eventually earning their own red card to key defender Sebastian Vega.
Then there was the unfortunate injury to Rodrigo Millar, who on paper was supposed to pull the strings in the midfield in the Second Leg, but had to leave the match early in the first half. In that same game, Monarcas Morelia had a glorious opportunity to score the all-important away goal early in the second half, but Aristeguieta failed to take advantage of in front of Guillermo Ochoa.
Monarcas Morelia’s season can best be defined by their ups and downs through the course of the Apertura. Unfortunately for them, it had to end on a down.
The Liga MX Final will have to wait two weeks
As fate would have it, Monterrey’s duties in the Club World Cup means we won’t have the Liga MX final until Christmas week. This gives Club América more than enough time to rest their players, while Monterrey will have to find a way to maneuver its way through a tough two-week schedule.
At the end, in a Liguilla where underdogs seemed to have been the theme, it is two teams that nobody would have been surprised about making the Final at the start of the season that will be fighting for the 2019 Liga MX Apertura title.