I’ve been saying it since even before the season began, dating back to the Copa GNP por México to be more exact, when then head coach Michel González was still in charge of the Mexico City-based squad. Pumas ended up 3rd out of four in their group with only 2 points to show for their performances, with two lifeless draws and a loss to current Semi-Final rival Cruz Azul. Yes, it may have been a pre-season tournament, and yes, teams may not be at full strength yet. However, the more talented rosters do show some sign of life, such as Cruz Azul winning all three of its matches, Tigres reaching the tournament Final, etc.
Right from the inaugural match of their season, Pumas showed weakness vs. a brand-new, mostly Second Division-quality Querétaro squad, who they overcame thanks to amateur mistakes committed on defense by Gallos Blancos. From that point on, they unbelievably limped on to a 1-loss season. But, fooled be not. A 1-loss season paired with 8 draws (and 8 wins), like Pumas had, isn’t as impressive as a 1-loss season such as León’s, for instance, with 4 draws (and 12 wins). Far from impressive, it was more lucky and revealing than anything; their 1-1 draw vs. down to 9 men FC Juárez, their scoreless stinker vs. Mazatlán, their lucky equalizer in the final fourth of the match vs. lowly Necaxa, and of course, their revealing loss vs. league-leader León.
To be quite truthful, Pumas moving on to the semis means very little, considering the way they did, facing a very mediocre Pachuca in the QF, in a rather seemingly simple matchup which they were highly anticipated to win. Not even Pachuca scoring 5 goals in the first leg would’ve been enough to justify the unreal amount of opportunities they had in that match, including a botched penalty kick by Víctor Guzmán. And the second leg wasn’t far behind; the entire Pumas defense were simply overrun in every aspect, be it with through balls, crosses, long distance shots, speed, etc. They were no match for a medicore offense who created over 10 clear goal opportunities in the series, and weren’t able to score on a single one. You know how they say a team can win and another team can lose a game? This was definitely the case of Pachuca losing the series.
Focusing our attention to present-day, Pumas are now facing a rival who in contrast, don’t lack in offensive efficiency. This series was sentenced after the first 15 minutes of the match. And let’s be clear, nothing changed. Lillini sent the same flawed defense out, and as last week, many opportunities were created. The only difference was that Cruz Azul did convert.
What happened yesterday came as no surprise. This is an event that has been announced and foreshadowed for months. It simply hadn’t happened yet. They finally met a worthy rival to reveal their true selves and how far they actually are from being championship-worthy. Cruz Azul will be the second confirmed finalist come Sunday night, and the only thing left to see is whether it’ll be Ambriz or Vucetich on the other bench competing vs. Siboldi for the Guard1anes 2020 title.