Match: FC Juárez vs. Querétaro
Date: Sunday, August 18th
Time: 8:00pm Eastern, 7:00pm Central, 6:00pm Local, 5:00pm Pacific, 12:00am UTC
Venue: Estadio Olímpico Benito Juárez (Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua)
Referees: Ref: Luis Enrique Santander Aguirre, AR1: José Alfredo López Cruz, AR2: Telly Salvador Saldivar Guzman, 4th: Jesús Bisguerra Mendiola
FC Juárez comes into their second ever home match in the top flight of Mexican fútbol on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Cruz Azul away from home. Los Bravos started the match brightly, but were ultimately unable to do enough to take anything from the match.
Much like their match against Toluca, the borderland team utilized a high defensive press to make life difficult for their opponents. For much of the first half, this high pressing strategy paid dividends. Cruz Azul were largely relegated to playing balls down the wings and whipping crosses into a very crowded box. FC Juárez was also able to utilize the press to generate turn overs and quickly go onto the attack.
The quick counterattacks forced a pair of saves out of Jesús Corona in the Cruz Azul net. FC Juárez came within inches of opening the scoring early in the match when Ángelo Sagal rifled a free kick towards the goal. At first glance, it appeared that the ball had pinged off of both posts and then out of the danger zone. However, upon closer review it was revealed that Corona had managed to make a spectacular leaping save to push the ball into the post and prevent what would have been the goal of the season.
As the match wore on, the class of Cruz Azul began to shine through. La Máquina Celeste managed to break down the defensive pressure of FC Juárez and began attacking in droves. However, it wasn't until Roberto ‘El Piojo’ Alvarado was moved to the right side of the pitch that Cruz Azul really started to look dangerous. in the 64th minute, the move to put Alvarado on the right side paid off as he opened the scoring. Pablo Aguilar added a second goal for good measure in the 73rd minute.
In the end, FC Juárez was forced to rue their missed chances early in the match. For a team of Los Bravos’ quality, there is very little room for error if they want to take points from matches in the top flight of Mexican fútbol. There just isn’t enough quality in the squad for them to be able to afford to waste the few scoring opportunities that they are likely to generate. Especially against teams that will likely be in the top half of the table come the end of the season.
To their credit, FC Juárez has been without both Joaquin Esquivel and Jefferson Intriago (two key summer signings) for the entirety of the season up to this point. Esquivel had been with the U-23 side that won bronze at the Pan-American games and was also recently called up to represent the senior national team for the CONCACAF League of Nations. Intriago is locked in a legal battle with LDU Quito (his former side) over his contract status and the legitimacy of his transfer to Tigres UANL and later FC Juárez. Los Bravos could really use players of Esquivel and Intriago’s quality in the midfield if they are hoping to compete in their upcoming matches.
Querétaro has been one of the surprise teams of the Liga MX through their first four matches. Los Gallos Blancos find themselves undefeated and sitting in third place on ten points with a +6 goal difference. Perhaps the most impressive statistic for Querétaro over their recent run of good form is that they have had six separate players score goals for the team. It’s not as if there has been a singular player propelling the team to victory after victory. Rather, it has been a whole team effort. Los Gallos Blancos have also shown great resiliency this season coming from behind to rescue points on two separate occasions. Most recently, Querétaro scored a 90+5 minute goal to take all three points against Pachuca.
In spite of their recent good form, there is still a lot of questions that need to be answered by Querétaro before they can be considered a title contender this season. All three of their victories have come against teams that were reduced to 10-men. In their loan match that didn’t have a red card, los Gallos Blancos came from behind to draw 1-1 against Xolos. It’s highly unusual for a team to have so many matches with a red card being shown, but Querétaro has managed to participate in three matches of the sort in the first four weeks of the season. It remains to be seen if Querétaro is capable of winning a match in which their opponents haven’t been shown a red card. By the same token however, it must be asked whether or not the high flying attacking style of los Gallos Blancos is what’s causing their opponents to constantly be getting sent off.
Querétaro will likely need two figure out a way to break down the high defensive pressure that FC Juárez has been employing against their last two opponents. If los Gallos Blancos can avoid turnovers in their own half of the field as a result of the press, they should have no real trouble breaking down the often feeble FC Juárez defense.
For FC Juárez, there are two keys to taking at least a point from Sunday afternoon’s match. The first of these two keys is to remain defensively disciplined. This is something that opponents of Querétaro have really struggled with and it has ended up costing them points. If Los Bravos can stay defensively disciplined and avoid getting a player sent off they should be able to keep the match interesting. The second key of the match is taking full advantage of scoring opportunities. Los Bravos cannot allow opportunities to go to waste - especially not against a team that has been scoring goals left and right like Querétaro. One opportunity could be the difference between defeat and taking something positive from the match.