Match: Cruz Azul vs. FC Juárez
Date: Saturday, August 10th
Time: 6:00pm Eastern, 5:00pm Central, 3:00pm Pacific, 10:00pm UTC
Venue: Estadio Azteca (Ciudad de México)
Referees: Ref: Eduardo Galvan Basulto, AR1: Miguel Ángel Hernández Paredes, AR2: Jimmy Acosta Montesinos, 4th: Victor Alfonso Caceres Hernández
TV: United States - Univision, TUDN USA; Mexico - TUDN
With the start of each new season, fans are given the chance to dream of their team playing brilliant fútbol and bringing home their respective competition’s trophy. In the case of Cruz Azul fans, it has been 22 very difficult years since they have been able to witness la Maquina Celeste lift the Liga MX trophy. In the 22 years since Cruz Azul were crowned champions of the 1997 Invierno season, the Mexico City based club has faced their fare share of heartbreaks in domestic competition - most notably in 2013 when a stoppage time header from Club América goalkeeper Moises Muñoz inexplicably found its way into the back of the net to deny los Cementeros the title. Most recently, Cruz Azul fell 2-0 on aggregate against Club América in the finals of the 2018 Apertura Final. Heart break has become so synonymous with the club that fútbol fans in Mexico coined the term cruzazulear to describe the almost legendary ways in which Cruz Azul has failed to win matches.
The 2019 Apertura campaign kicked off for Cruz Azul with the SuperCopaMX against Necaxa. La Maquina Celeste cruised to a dominant 4-0 victory in the match. In every statistical category the Mexico City squad had the upper hand. It looked like this Cruz Azul squad was going to be one of the Liga MX title contenders. Against the same Necaxa squad just one week later, la Maquina Celeste were only able to grind out a 0-0 draw after being reduced to 10-men midway through the second half. The team looked dysfunctional as they struggled in attempt to break down the compact Necaxa defense. The dominant team that won the SuperCopaMX was nowhere to be found.
Cruz Azul appeared to find some of the swagger they had lost from the SuperCopaMX the following week when they took the lead against Toluca early in the second half on a goal from Jonathan Rodríguez. However in typical fashion, Los Cementeros managed to let three points escape. This time it was a 90+2 minute goal scored by Alan Medina to rescue a point for Toluca. Cruz Azul was statically superior throughout the match, but they were unable to make it count on the scoreboard.
In Jornada 3, la Maquina Celeste traveled to Querétaro to take on los Gallos Blancos. Despite having the lion’s share of the possession, Cruz Azul found themselves on the losing end of a very lopsided 3-0 scoreline. Attacking wise, nothing seemed to go right for los Cementeros - who only managed to get two of their thirteen shots on target. To add insult to injury, Jonathan Rodríguez was sent off in the 77th minute with the team already trailing by three goals. The result left Cruz Azul down in 15th place of the Liga MX table and looking anything but a serious title contender.
Liga MX newcomers FC Juárez will be making just their third ever visit to the historic Estadio Azecta for Saturday afternoon’s match. In their previous two visits to the Coloso de Santa Ursula, Los Bravos defeated Club América on penalties and fell 2-0 against Cruz Azul in Copa MX action.
The squad from the northern frontera have had a bit of a rocky start to life in the top flight of Mexican fútbol. In their first two matches, FC Juárez was outclassed by both Atlas and Santos Laguna on the road. Atlas and Santos Laguna utilized an aggressive high defensive pressure to prevent Los Bravos from ever getting comfortable in the match. The physicality of both Atlas and Santos seemed to catch the Liga MX newcomers off guard. Los Bravos seemed slow to react and never really looked like they were comfortable out on there pitch.
In Jornada 3 against Toluca however, FC Juárez looked like an entirely different team compared to their two matches. Los Bravos, who were hosting the first Liga MX match in Ciudad Juárez in 3,388 days, came out and played as if they had something to prove. Utilizing a high defensive press similar to that which Santos and Atlas had used against them, Los Bravos were able to make life difficult for the visitors. Toluca never looked like they were comfortable on the pitch. Los Diablos Rojos turned the ball over frequently, struggled to connect more than three consecutive passes together, and never really looked capable of scoring. After just 17 minutes, FC Juárez found themselves in front after Mauro Fernández cut his way through the midfield and defensive area before slotting the ball past the keeper. With the goal, FC Juárez’s first in the top flight, it felt like a weight had been lifted off the shoulders of the borderland club. Just moments into the second half, the high press paid dividends for FC Juárez as a turnover just below the halfway line turned into a left footed golazo by Ángelo Sagal in there blink of an eye.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the match was the manner in which FC Juárez dominated the midfield. Los Bravos were able to run wild through the middle of the pitch and on several occasions generated good scoring opportunities. Had it not been for a penalty call reversed by VAR and a few tough saves by the Toluca keeper the match could have easily been more lopsided than the final 2-0 scoreline showed.
For all intents and purposes, this is a must win match for both Cruz Azul and FC Juárez. La Maquina Celeste will be desperately looking to turn around what is quickly becoming a nightmare of a season. Pedro Caixinha will likely be on the hot seat following the way that his team have performed so far. It is simply unacceptable for one of Mexico’s biggest clubs to be struggling as Cruz Azul are. Los Bravos, on the other hand, will be looking to build off their victory against Toluca as they seek to preserve their place in the top flight of Mexican fútbol. A victory on the road against one of Mexico’s grandes would go a long way for the confidence of the newcomers from the northern frontera.