Game: Cruz Azul Fútbol Club, A.C. vs. Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V.
Date: Saturday, February 16th
Time: 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Central, 3:00 p.m. Pacific, 10:00 p.m. UTC
Venue: Estadio Azteca (Mexico City, CDMX)
Referees: REF: Eduardo Galvan Basulto, AR1: Miguel Angel Chua Ortiz, AR2: Jimmy Acosta Montesinos, 4TH: Mario Humberto Vargas Mata
Santos Laguna (2W 2D 2L) look to get their first win on the road in 2019 as they head to Mexico City to take on Cruz Azul (2W 2D 2L), who have only won once at home in Liga MX play this season in a 1-0 win over Tijuana (2W 1D 3L) in Week 4. Santos are coming off of a 1-1 draw against Xolos in Torreón.
In that draw against Tijuana Santos were outplayed for a good portion of the match, often finding themselves rushing to get back on defense. Julio Furch was largely neutralized by Xolos’ defense, managing just one shot. The good news for Santos is that Javier Correa was able to step up, getting a goal on two shots and securing the point.
The defense also looked good, bending more often than they broke and making critical adjustments at halftime to ensure they didn’t concede a second goal. Santos has only conceded six goals on the season, which is good enough to tie them for fifth in the league.
One of the few teams to concede fewer goals than Santos is Cruz Azul. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, with manager Pedro Caixinha’s focus on keeping players back and playing pragmatic, defensive soccer. Thus far Cruz Azul has conceded two goals only once, in a Week 5 loss to León at the Nou Camp in Guanajuato.
With all of that focus on defense, Cruz Azul’s offense has sputtered. In the six games so far this season they’ve scored only four goals. Midfielder Eliás Hernández has three of the four goals, while forwards Martín Cauteruccio, Milton Caraglio, and former Guerrero Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez have scored no goals in 2019.
In order for Cruz Azul to get back to the Liguilla, they will have to get goals from somewhere. The forward corps needs to contribute, but that may constitute Caixinha loosening the reins a little on the defense and allowing them to push forward. Santos too will need to figure out how to get Furch into positions to score, be it from better play along the wings, getting Javier Correa to draw some of the pressure from the defense, or a combination of the two.