As every season progresses and begins to enter its maturing stage, there are certain matches that have more meaning than just the final score. There are “Easter eggs,” if you will, that lay within some results that foreshadow things to come or paint a much broader picture of the actual reality. In this case, the Querétaro-Toluca matchup on Thursday was precisely that. There are specifically two clear “Easter eggs” to be found within this match, which I will proceed to describe.
The first egg, if you look closely, is the fact that both of these teams have proven just how especially mediocre Liga MX has been this season. It usually is anyway, but this current season has proven to be more so than others. The story of these two clubs’ first half of the season couldn’t detail it any more perfectly. The first fact to give it away is both of their statlines. Querétaro has 3 wins, 1 draw, and 4 losses so far, while Toluca has accumulated 4 wins and 4 losses. But it goes further than that.
In Querétaro’s case, after getting off to a slow start to the season, they defeated both Cruz Azul and América in convincing fashion to revive their fans’ hopes, with a couple of much simpler matchups ensuing (Atlas and Santos), which they proved unable to live up to. Both Atlas and Santos found themselves in the bottom portion of the league table and both got untested wins against a Gallos Blancos side that appeared to get amnesia after having defeated two title-contenders in a row. And finally on Thursday night, as a menacing and more accomplished Toluca walked into La Corregidora stadium, Querétaro regained its memory and stomped all over the Diablos Rojos, just as they did vs. América. Can’t get any more inconsistent (or mediocre) than that.
Toluca, on the other hand, started off as losers of two of their first 3 matches of the season (one of those to Mazatlán no less). They quickly made up for it, going on a completely unexpected three-game win streak, taking down Tigres and Chivas in that span. And then, just as it presented itself to Querétaro, two upcoming “simpler” matches were up next, with a great chance to convert them into a five-game win streak and declare themselves as official title-contenders, as they prepared to visit Puebla and Querétaro. But, amnesia took care of de la Torre’s squad as well, as they lost both matches by the same 4-1 final, proving everything they did during their three-game win streak disappeared in the blink of an eye. They went from possible title-contenders to just another middle-of-the-pack team. Toluca won’t be anywhere near the title come season’s end either.
The second “Easter egg” to be found in this match is one that proved me totally wrong. Since the start, I had no confidence in any of Gallos’ new team members, as the major overhaul that occurred helped replace most of their First Division roster with Second Division players from Liga de Expansión’s Atlante for the most part. Not to mention, a Second Division head coach with no First Division experience. But after eight games and half of the season gone by, the only thing one can do is admit to having judged this team incorrectly; Querétaro is undoubtedly a First Division team. While it is true they have no stars and no stand-out players, the way head coach Alex Diego has gotten his team to perform and dominate his system is worthy of being noted. It is not a simple thing to do, especially in Mexico.
Their three league victories thus far have come against historically successful franchises, after defeating Cruz Azul by a 1-0 score, but more importantly, defeating América and Toluca both by 4-1 finals. A bad team can’t win games by that differential, much less do it twice in a four-game span. But the score isn’t the only thing that dazzles; the way in which they have dominated their rivals and executed their gameplan. Gallos should’ve scored three or four more goals in both of those games, creating countless clear goal opportunities and seeping through every crack in their rivals’ defense. Diego’s defensive system, which consists of sitting back and waiting for their rival, sniffing out a mistake, and lethally counter-attacking has been executed brilliantly in their home games so far. And just as a side note, their four losses have all been one-goal difference results. The bottom line is Querétaro isn’t as bad a team as everybody expected when the season began, including myself. These players have proven they can compete and have earned a right to play in First Division. Even their head coach has sent a clear message to why he was chosen by the front office for the job over the summer. Gallos have mastered a simple but effective style of play which reminds us of the power a team has over individual talent.