Some might say that it’s a bit early to call a Liga MX match in Jornada 3 a must win match. After the way that FC Juárez had faired in their first two matches of the Liga MX season, however, there was no way that Sunday evening’s historic home debut would be anything other than a must win for the team from the northern border - and win they did.
A 17th minute goal from Mauro “El Rayo” Fernández sent the 20,000 fans that had crammed themselves into the Estadio Olímpico Benito Juárez nestled along the banks of the Rio Grade on a sweltering Sunday afternoon into a frenzy. Fernández masterfully weaved his way from just below the halfway line, through the midfield, and into the box before chipping the Toluca keeper to score FC Juárez’s first goal in the top flight of Mexican fútbol.
The early goal reflected the rhythm and flow of the match. Los Bravos came out of the gates with an energy and passion that had been lacking in their first two Liga MX matches. It felt as though the players were feeding off of the electric atmosphere inside of the stadium. Tactically, the team used a high defensive pressure to disrupt the passing rhythm of Toluca and create scoring opportunities off of turnovers. The high press allowed Los Bravos to be in position to fight for every loose ball and wreck havoc in and around the Toluca area.
The match stayed 1-0 throughout the first half with neither team really looking likely to score. In spite of this, it was obvious that FC Juárez was the team in control of the match. Los Bravos dictated the midfield and were much more effective with passing than their opponents. For their part, Toluca couldn't seem to figure out how to break down FC Juárez’s high press. Los Diablos Rojos struggled to string together a series of passes and instead settled for long balls looking for speedy wing players. On the off chance that a wide player actually got onto the end of one of the long balls they almost immediately sent a cross into the FC Juárez area. The vast majority of the crosses lacked accuracy and were easily cleared by a defender.
Just three minutes into the second half, Ángelo Sagal doubled Los Bravos lead with a stunning strike from just outside the area that found its way past the outstretched arms of the Toluca keeper and into the top corner. The goal was a glimpse of just how good FC Juárez’s new strike partnership could be. Dario Lezcano was credited with an assist on the goal after winning the ball in the midfield and laying it off perfectly to Sagal.
Following the second goal there was never a doubt that FC Juárez was going to win the match. As time wore on, Toluca looked less and less likely to score. Everything from the body language to the speed at which Toluca players reacted on the field was negative. At several points throughout the remainder of the half, an FC Juárez player was allowed to run straight through the midfield untouched and get off a shot. Had it not been for a penalty call reversed by VAR and a heroic save from Talavera late in the half, this match could have easily ended three to four to nothing for the hosts.
In his post match comments, Ricardo La Volpe ripped into his players for their horrendous all around performance. La Volpe even went as far as to say that his players looked like sea sick sailors stumbling about on the field. Toluca is going to have to turn things around quickly if they are going to salvage anything from this season.
For FC Juárez, the night could not have gone any better. Los Bravos bounced back from two consecutive defeats with a dominant performance against one of the better teams in Liga MX historically. Not only that, but they showed the rest of the league that road trips to Ciudad Juárez are not going to be a walk in the park. 3,388 days after Ciudad Juárez sawan already relegated CF Indios defeat Pumas UNAM by a score of 2-0, they were able to witness the dawn of a new era - which coincidentally started almost exactly the way the last one ended. A 2-0 home victory.