At the beginning of the Liga MX season, both Xolos and Rayados were thought to be favorites to lift the cup. Rayados were (still) the reigning champions, have an incredibly deep roster, and finally got some time to rest players and recover from injuries that had made the 2020 Clausura a nightmare after a very successful 2019. Xolos on the other hand had acquired most of the good players at Querétaro before ownership group Grupo Caliente divested Gallos Blancos, forming something of a super-squad, supposedly the best of both worlds.
It didn’t quite work out.
Miller Bolaños and Ariel Nahuelpán both left and the club was adrift, a 2-0 loss to Pachuca finalizing an early offseason from Liga MX play for Tijuana. “I was surprised with Xolos and all the changes in the beginning of the season,” said analyst Mariano Trujillo of FOX Deportes, who will be broadcasting the game live in the United States. “I thought they were going to be one of the top teams because the roster, the depth, the quality. But a lot of things happened along the way, and the the team changed.”
“(There’s a) strange vibe around Xolos,” he added. “Last game, I didn’t see that team playing a final. I saw Rayados committed. I saw Rayados was playing a final, taking care of everything (in) detail, and I saw Xolos just playing another game. So I don’t I don’t think Wednesday will change much unless something spectacular happens.”
But Mexican soccer is known for moments of spectacularness, or at least the unexpected. Xolos is out of the playoffs, and Monterrey isn’t. Xolos have nothing else to play for at this point of the season. Couldn’t that give them an advantage?
“Xolos is out of the playoffs after the last result,” Trujillo says. “So now they know that this is it. And they have quality players. They have good players. One thing that I don’t understand honestly, is in the beginning of the season and in the cup (Copa MX) or during the cup, they did a lot of substitutions, formation (changes)… I think there there was a cloud of doubt and and question marks with the players being on the field.”
“But (Xolos) have nothing to lose. This is the last shot in the final. Pretty much a final game. They might have a chance.”
But reality sets back in. “Honestly, I see Rayados (as) a different team. A very mature team. They know when to press the gas, when to pump the brakes, slow it down. They’re managing the tempo of the games very well. (The last match against Cruz Azul) was a statement from from Monterrey and what they’re capable of. So if they play in the same way, they play the same tune, regardless of the of the players on the field, I think they should win the Cup, especially because of the roster they have, right? I mean, Aké Loba didn’t play, Vincent Janssen was on the bench, so the rest of the roster is It’s a huge advantage for Rayados.”
While this year’s Copa MX tournament will end, there’s always talk of what could be done to spur more interest in the tournament. Trujillo had some good ideas about what to do going forward for future iterations. “It’s a crazy idea, but I believe that something similar has happened with Open Cup here in in the (United) States. So, to me, the best solution would be to create one cup. (MLS and Liga MX have) been in creating tournaments, friendly tournaments or whatever. But if they can come together and create a Cup between the two leagues and that will give you one spot (in the) Concacaf Champions League or something like that, I think that will grow the competition. It will be more interest, and it would be a lot of possibilities for for both sides. So I hope, um, that can be the beginning of something bigger.”