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Through 4 games, Aguirre has made a difference

Only a fourth of the season in, but already a difference can be seen in Rayados’ style of play, along with the team remaining undefeated thus far.

Puebla v Monterrey - Torneo Guard1anes 2021 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

It’s only been four matches, but ‘El Vasco’ is already making an impact on his new club. After three consecutive seasons of floating around in mediocrity, winning and losing with no real pattern or consistency, thus far in this new season, Rayados appear to have grabbed on to something and found some sort of system. Now, we all know four games are in no way anything more than just a small sample, if anything, but given the circumstances Rayados found themselves in, both the club and the fans will take it.

After opening up the season on the road and defeating what probably is the worst team in Liga MX currently, Monterrey easily took care of a pitiful Atlas. Next, they came home to face their first real test of the season, playing hosts to América. They were able to take care of business as well, taking advantage of the rough patch the Águilas are going through at the moment. Then came their scoreless draw on the road in Puebla, about two weeks after almost half the team tested positive for COVID. Despite not winning, a draw on the road is never unwelcome.

Finally, this past weekend, they received another supposed Liga MX “big” in Pumas, who somehow only lost one game last season through a series of very fortunate events, and found their way to the league final through the team who had the biggest letdown in Liga MX playoff history. They gave what was probably ther best game we’ve seen from them in this football year, as they attacked in orderly fashion on both flanks, and sent in countless dangerous crosses that were just waiting to be bumped in to the back of the net. Eventually, one of them was by Aké Loba. And that was all it took. Just like that, Rayados took their record to 3W, 1D, 0L, accounting for 10 points and sharing the top of the league table with both Toluca and América, who also both have played an extra game. In other words, the league-lead is in La Pandilla’s hands.

The surprise here isn’t just the fact that Rayados are undefeated through their first four games. It isn’t just the fact that they have yet to concede a single goal this season and have looked much more organized defensively for the first time in a very long time. And it also isn’t just the fact that they finally appear to be finding their true identity and actually having a gameplan, embarrassing Pumas’ defenders last weekend and crossing the ball all over the place, without allowing Lillini’s squad to truly ever respond. No, it’s the combination of these three things what is most surprising.

Normally, it takes a coach a month or two for his team to start understanding his system and string together some positive results. However, in this particular case, the change appears to have been immediate upon Aguirre’s arrival. Rayados are showing toughness, quality, defensive grit, and an offensive mindset that we honestly haven’t seen in recent memory, other than the Apertura 2019 championship run. And even then, the gameplan wasn’t all too clear. The fact Layún appears to know what he’s doing on the offensive end, and Pabón is receiving the ball closer to the penalty box (where he’s most dangerous) and is the one sending in the crosses, putting Funes Mori (and hopefully Janssen very soon) in position to score, tells me ‘Vasco’ knows exactly how this team should be playing.

As I said earlier, the sample isn’t a big one, but the fact we’re seeing improvement every week, and with that improvement, results that have this club still undefeated and tied for 1st, says a lot about the change in leadership at the coaching position. There’s still a very long way to go for the season, but the fact we’ve seen such positive results early on has to be inspiring for front office and fans everywhere. The tough part is up next, which is to maintain this level of play and prove it isn’t just a fluke, as we saw under Mohamed and Alonso previously. Up next for Rayados is another big test as they travel to Torreón to play their northern rivals, Santos, who consider this match to be their clásico. We should be in for a good one.