And just like that, Antonio Mohamed’s second tenure with Rayados came to a bittersweet end. Just a tad over a year into said tenure, he faced Puebla in the Wild-Card round last Sunday, in an attempt to punch their ticket to the Guard1anes 2020 playoffs. And despite taking a 2-0 lead into the final third of the match, his squad was unable to hold off a gritty Puebla team who just kept on coming. In the end, Puebla drew even 2-2 and ended up taking the match in the penalty shoot-out, leaving Rayados, with their enormous payroll and all, eliminated from playoff contention.
Since his arrival to the club last year for Round 14 of the Apertura 2019 season, Mohamed led Rayados to a 10W, 13D, 9L regular season record. His accolades in that span with the team include a legue title, a 3rd place Club World Cup finish, as well as the cup title over Tijuana at the start of the month. While the achievements are nothing to frown upon, the overall feeling around the club is one of dismay and confusion over the inability to perform on a consistent basis.
Talent has certainly not been an issue with the squad as they are filled with NT players throughout their lines, and have proven they can win on individual performances. The head coach certainly didn’t seem to be the issue, as Mohamed proved he could win with the exact same squad Diego Alonso was performing so poorly with at the moment of his dismissal, So, if their players have the talent and their head coach led them to their first league title in nearly a decade, what is the problem with this team? The answer isn’t difficult; the players’ attitude.
César Montes, Jesús Gallardo, Charly Rodríguez, Maxi Meza, Avilés Hurtado, Dorlan Pabón, and yes, Rogelio Funes Mori. And they’re just the headline. Unfortunately, this squad is in its most part dominated by lazy, lackluster and attitude-less players. Now, I must clarify, this isn’t the same as saying they’re bad players or lack talent in any way. What I’m saying is despite all of their talent, they still looked like a ‘bottom-of-the-table’ club during many spells of the season. And while these players did enough during the regular season tu put Rayados into the playoffs, it’s worlds away from their full potential (thinking back to the Liverpool Club WC match, for instance).
Defenders’ inability to stay with their man, conceding childish and inopportune goals (21 goals conceded - 2nd worst in the league table’s top 10), players standing around on the pitch at times, just chasing the ball with no apparent strategy or intention, the offense’s inability to get it going and put pressure on certain teams, especially in road games, is just all-around unacceptable for what is the most expensive team in all of Liga MX, according to Transfermarkt. I’m sorry, but their home draws with Necaxa and Atlas, along with their road losses to Tijuana and especially Chivas in the last regular season match, are simply not tolerable. This team was expected and forced to win at least three of those games, which would have earned them 2nd place overall, and of course, a first round bye.
While Mohamed could take part of the blame, most of it has to go to the players because they looked just as bad under Alonso as well. Upon Mohamed’s arrival, they actually had a desire to win, and they did. Once the Clausura 2020 rolled around, they went back to their old ways and went winless for 10 games. And despite them winning 8 games this season, their style of play was unrecognizable and many complaints surfaced throughout. Proof of this inconsistency showed up on Sunday, when they were unable to see through a 2-0 lead at home vs. the league’s 12th overall team.
It’s time the club moves on from this lackluster, desireless base of players. A revolution must take place inside that locker room and they must bring in new, hungry, and talented players who actually have a desire to win. If it was up to me, Nico Sánchez and Sebastián Vegas down low, Celso Ortiz in midfield, and Vincent Janssen and Aké Loba up front are my building blocks. Those are the players that look like they want to win. You build around those players who want to be on this team, and that, coupled with this club’s economic potential, can once again field a team like the one we witnessed back in 2010 under Victor Manuel Vucetich. While I don’t see this happening in any alternate reality, it’s the kind of shake up Rayados need after years of their up-and-down play, despite their “good” results.