DATE: Saturday, August 22, 2020
TIME: 10 ET (9 CT)
VENUE: Estadio Azteca
With the Estadio Azteca’s new lighting system set and ready to go, América get ready to host Rayados in what will be a rematch of the Apertura 2019 final played just eight months ago. This will be the Aguilas’ first match in their stadium this season, after having played their first two home games in Pumas’ Olímpico Universitario. The last time these two met was at the end of February in Estadio BBVA, in which Herrera’s side claimed victory by a score of 1-0, ultimately leading to Rayados’ long 10-game winless streak.
Although América had gotten off to a hot start to the season, winning three out of their first four, fans and critics remained unhappy with the team’s performances, claiming they hadn’t put together a solid 90 minutes despite said wins. To make matters worse, they got pounded by a humble Gallos Blancos squad last Sunday by a score of 4-1, and it could’ve been much worse. Although many people find themselves discontent with head coach Miguel Herrera, there’s no arguing with the results he’s been able to put together and currently has his team atop the league table with 10 points, owning the tiebreaker thanks to goal difference.
Rayados on the other hand, are a totally different story. After starting the season on the right foot by defeating Toluca at home and proving utter dominance on the way, fans immediately gave a sigh of relief, as their winless streak was over and their team looked like the Rayados of old. But not long after, an unlucky loss in León, followed by a last minute goal to salvage a draw at home vs. Santos, ensued by two more draws with Pumas and Necaxa, have quickly created and extended a new winless streak for Mohamed and company, which is now at four.
The story so far has been the offense’s lack of energy and play creation when Janssen is off the pitch. Once the Dutch star has come on, this offense has come alive and look much closer to the powerful team we all know they can be. It happened in both the Santos and Pumas games, and Mohamed finally came to his senses last weekend and put Janssen in the starting lineup vs. Necaxa. While they were unable to come away with the win, there was certainly no lack of play creation. And so, Rayados find themselves in 11th overall with just six points, which is certainly a disappointment for a team with this amount of talent. Rumors have begun to circle mentioning if Monterrey were to lose this match, that would mean the end for their Argentine head coach.
If América want to win, they must put pressure on Rayados early. They must come out hungry, intense, and guarding their man closely, taking away space for Pavon’s long distance shots, for Funes Mori to get open, or for Janssen to create a play. They must also make sure Córdova and Roger Martínez stay involved all game long, as they were dried up in the second half and eventually disappered vs. Querétaro on Sunday night. When Córdova got the ball in the first half, he created danger. And last but not least, they must get back on defense. Herrera’s players were extremely lazy getting back on Sunday when Gallos counter-attacked, which allowed for so many clear chances. If they don’t adjust, they will continue to get eaten up like that by rivals.
For Mohamed and company, it’s much simpler. They have so much talent that they can win any game they set their mind to. For me, it comes down to two things. First, they must make sure América don’t score early, meaning in the first 15-20 minutes. I believe América will come out barking and running, trying to get on the board as soon as possible, considering the adjustment Rayados’ players will have to make given Mexico City’s height above sea level, and this would complicate things tremendously for the blue and white, were they to concede early. Keep that zero on the board early and give yourself a chance to react. Secondly, continue to keep Janssen involved. Nothing but positive things have occurred when Janssen has been put in the game. Keep that offense running, give yourself a chance by creating plays, and keep América honest by making them get back on defense.
PREDICTION: Unfortunately, if the rumors about Mohamed turn out to be true, my prediction will have him out of a job come Monday. América don’t allow embarrassments to last, and for that reason will want to win tomorrow’s match at all costs. I don’t see Rayados having that same look in their eye, and the defense has proven weak and error-prone when tested. I believe Janssen can give them a real shot, but I expect América to prevail in this one. Home team wins tomorrow.