The 1-1 draw between Monterrey and León in their Round 3 makeup game on Wednesday night did nothing other than further fans’ inconformities and uncertainties regarding their teams’ futures for the remainder of the current season. This despite both clubs being on complete opposite sides of the league table; while Rayados sit comfortably in 3rd overall with 19 points, the current champs are 4th to last (15th) in the table with just 8 points, only one above last-placed Necaxa.
What has haunted León all season up to this point (slow starts) wasn’t a factor in this one. Quite the contrary in fact; Ambriz’s squad came out firing and created multiple opportunities to take an early lead, including two correctly invalidated goals. Despite that, there was no doubt regarding the fact it was the visitors who were in control of this one. Finally, León’s first half efforts payed off in the 42nd minute, when center-back Barreiro sent a lovely long ball to his fellow right-back defender David Ramírez, who crossed the ball in perfectly, where only Víctor Dávila could get a head on it, and he did, breaking the deadlock just before the half, as an unresponsive Rayados side simply observed.
The second half arrived, and for some reason, it appeared Ambriz instructed his players to stop going forward. After grossly dominating Monterrey in their own stadium no less, they decided to slowly give up ball initiative and challenged a lazy, yet extremely dangerous offense to come at them. It was a hard-fought, eventless first 20 minutes, but the last 25 made up for it. What was a dead attack all of a sudden came to life and created four extremely dangerous approaches on Cota’s goal to no avail. Until the 78th minute that is, when Tesillo allegedly tripped up Aké Loba in the penalty box, gifting an undeserving Rayados squad a Funes Mori penalty goal to pull even at 1-1.
It seemed a purposely thought out situation by León. No more than 2 minutes went by following the tie, and Jean Meneses found himself on a beautiful through ball that left him 1-on-1 with keeper González. He was unable to get enough air under the ball and González blocked his attempt. A couple minutes later, Costa Rica international Joel Campbell found himself with a wide-open volley at the height of the penalty spot. Unable to connect successfully the ball rolled wide right of the goal. Too little, too late, as many would say.
León proved to everyone once again that their problem isn’t creating opportunities, but rather capitalizing on them, as well as their inability to be mentally focused for all 90 minutes of the match, unjustifiably handing a life-less Rayados the ball for them to eventually tie it up. Had they maintained ball possession and kept attacking their rivals’ goal, they could’ve put the match away with a second or even third perhaps. Rayados on the other hand, have now put together two consecutive stinkers (vs. Querétaro, vs. León) after thrashing a weak FC Juárez 1-6 on the road, making all of us unassertively believe their true potential had awoken. Aguirre’s team continue to float around on the pitch and don’t appear to have any sense of direction, despite having the talent necessary to go all the way and obtain positive results to this point.
The end result in this one is the same for both teams; can they make the necessary adjustments in time for the start of the playoffs? While Rayados sit near the top of the table thanks to them avoiding losses despite their insipid style of play throughout these first 10 matches, León don’t seem too worried about their situation either thanks to the mediocre playoff system; they’re only 3 points out of that 12th and final playoff position with seven games remaining on the schedule. In other words, they’ll be fine. But can they both solve their obvious on-field issues come playoff time and avoid other contenders from punishing them for it?