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Cruz Azul Their Own Worst Enemy

Although La Máquina were too much for Juárez, they must tighten up for stiffer tests down the line.

Cruz Azul v FC Juarez - Torneo Guard1anes 2020 Liga MX Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

There is never a good time to lose, much less when that defeat breaks an eighteen-match unbeaten streak. However, Cruz Azul showed in flashes against Bravos that their shock submission at Querétaro will benefit them in the long run. This week has exposed frailties in Robert Dante Siboldi’s team, but there is still plenty of time for the Uruguayan to fix them.

If the title were awarded to the best regular season side, La Máquina would have broken their interminable 23-year wait for la novena long ago. They have become accustomed to starting strong before stumbling at the final hurdle. Those repeated failures have left indelible psychological scars, which have begun to heal under Siboldi’s astute leadership.

Yet, those wounds could still reopen in the liguilla. Their tortured past does not help matters, while the legal troubles facing embattled general director Guillermo “Billy” Álvarez are a further distraction. As a result, every match for Cruz Azul is a fight not only against their opponents on the field, but also with their own history.

Given the complicated circumstances, Siboldi needs his charges to be in optimal form heading into the playoffs. Their display against Bravos was far from perfect, but still represented a major improvement on their dismal performance at the Corregidora. Santiago Gímenez was a constant threat in behind and set up two goals for strike partner Jonathan Rodríguez. Luis Romo looked more comfortable in an unfamiliar advanced midfield role than he had against Gallos or León. Until his injury, Peruvian international Yoshimar Yotún spread play elegantly with his educated left foot.

Yotún’s equalizer culminated a strong first half response to Darío Lezcano’s early opener. La Máquina’s impressive attacking variety was on full display, with Juárez opened up on the ground, with balls into space, or through rapid counterattacks. Nevertheless, the home team took their foot off the gas after Rodríguez tapped into an empty net to establish a 3-1 advantage in the 62nd minute.

That seemingly insurmountable lead was nearly erased as a limited Bravos outfit bombarded the Cruz Azul box with crosses. The visitors got their heads to no less than five aerial deliveries as the second stanza wore on, with a stooping Gustavo Velázquez header just reward for their persistence. Siboldi’s charges must mark their man better moving forward.

While poor defensive organization can fortunately be fixed on the training ground, La Máquina’s worrying tendency to drift in and out of games could prove more difficult to resolve. Victories against Santos and León followed a similar pattern to Saturday’s contest, with the hosts inexplicably losing control after going ahead.

The last few months have demonstrated that Cruz Azul have the talent to beat anyone. However, short spells of brilliance will not be enough in two-legged ties against the division’s elite. Siboldi has turned La Máquina into a juggernaut capable of lifting the league title, but the Uruguayan must make sure that they do not become victims of their own success. More consistency is needed.