Match: FC Juárez vs. Toluca
Date: Sunday, August 4th
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: Fernando Hernandez Gomez, AR1: Miguel Angel Chua Ortiz, AR2: Jose de Jesus Baños Caballero, 4th: Guillermo Pacheco Larios
3,387 days have passed since the last match of Liga MX Fútbol was played on April 25th, 2010 in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua - a 2-0 victory for the now defunct CF Indios over Pumas UNAM. In the little over nine years that have passed since April 25th, 2010, the northern border city nestled along the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo in Mexico) has seen just about everything when it comes to professional fútbol in Mexico. There was a short lived Segunda División (third tier of Mexican fútbol) side known as Indios UACJ that failed to really make an impact on the local community in spite of relative on the field success. There was the instant success of FC Juárez winning a title in their first season in existence, the agony of a promotion playoff loss just a few months later, two more finals losses, a penultimate finish in the Ascenso MX, and finally an unorthodox “promotion” that saw Los Bravos replace Lobos BUAP in the top flight of Mexican fútbol.
FC Juárez comes into Sunday’s historic home match on the backs of road losses to Atlas and Santos Laguna in the first two jornadas of Liga MX action. Los Bravos were clearly the inferior team in both matches struggling to maintain possession against the physicality of their opponents. Both Atlas and Santos utilized a high defensive press to prevent FC Juárez from getting into a passing rhythm and gaining confidence. The defensive pressure from Atlas and Santos was extremely effective in creating turnovers and allowing for both teams to create counter attacking opportunities. Had Atlas been more effective in front of goal, they could have easily scored more than just a single goal. Santos was much less forgiving; putting three goals into the back of the net in a thoroughly dominant performance that left FC Juárez battered and bruised.
Los Bravos will have to do a much better job breaking down defensive pressure if they are hoping to stand much of a chance against Toluca on Sunday. Failure to break down defensive pressure will leave strikers Ángelo Sagal and Dario Lezcano without much of a chance to make an impact on the proceedings. In last week’s match against Santos, Sagal and Lezcano hardly touched the ball. Considering that the two are easily some of the most talented in the squad, they need sufficient service from the rest of team. However, it’s difficult to provide service to a pair of talented strikers up top when the rest of the team struggles to string together more than three passes consecutively when faced with defensive pressure.
Toluca come into Sunday’s match in far from their best form. Los Diablos Rojos have struggled mightily in their first two matches of the season - losing 2-0 to Querétaro at home and coming from behind to rescue a point against Cruz Azul off of a 90+2 minute goal. In both matches, Toluca had less position and fewer shots than their opposition. These are signs of a team that is still struggling to find its identity; something very uncharacteristic of teams coached by Ricardo La Volpe.
Despite their struggles to start the new Liga MX season, Toluca looks to be a much stringer side than FC Juárez. According to TransferMarkt, los Diablos Rojos have a squad evaluation nearly twice that of los Bravos. While matches aren’t won on paper or based upon squad valuations, all signs would point to a Toluca victory. Especially when you take into consideration that Atlas and Santos have proven FC Juárez incapable of breaking down high defensive pressure and provided the rest of the league with a clear roadmap of how to handle Los Bravos.
In the end, it will come down to whether or not Toluca is up to the task of coming into a match that will be historic for the hosts and acting as though it’s business as usual. If los Diablos Rojos can handle the occasion and electric atmosphere that comes with it, they should have no problem walking away with all three points.
For fútbol fans in Ciudad Juárez, the last couple of months have been a surreal whirlwind of rumors, excitement, and eventually two matches of Liga MX action featuring FC Juárez getting battered by their top flight opposition. But none of that compares to the antagonizing 3,387 day long wait for the return of top flight fútbol to the northern frontera. Come 6:00pm local time tomorrow evening, the only thing that will matter for people in Ciudad Juárez is the pure joy of watching Liga MX fútbol along the US-Mexico border. Maybe, just maybe, their team will be able to rise to the occasion and make it a match to remember for years to come.