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Cruz Azul: If not now, when?

A first leg draw in Pachuca has put La Máquina a home win from reaching the Guard1anes 2021 league final

Pachuca v Cruz Azul - Playoffs Torneo Guard1anes 2021 Liga MX Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Cruz Azul have put themselves in a bit of an awkward position for the second leg of the semifinal on Saturday night. And the reason for that is because of them failing to score a goal on the road yesterday night. Facing an inconsistent Pachuca squad who finished 8th overall in the league table and who were way off on their aim, La Máquina could’ve scored once and all but have sentenced the series. After all, that is what they did all season, right?

To put it in simple terms, Cruz Azul got lucky last night. After a first half vastly dominated by Pachuca, who created at least four or five dangerous approaches against none to Juan Reynoso’s squad, half-time appeared to have done the superlíderes some good. They came out firing in the second half, but slowly retreated, resulting in Pachuca getting a few more extremely close approaches on goal toward the end; the first was completely wasted by Mauro Quiroga who was unable to tap a wide open ball in the six-yard box home, and the second, a bit of a more uncomfortable header by Quiroga himself that ultimately could’ve been headed on goal. A third approach was another cross sent in to Quiroga that was barely deflected at the last second by Pablo Aguilar to prevent a wide open header by Quiroga.

Cruz Azul had a couple dangerous approaches themselves in the last five minutes of the match, but it was still no excuse to sit back and risk their season the way they did. Ultimately, they played their style of game, sitting back and waiting, betting on holding their opponent scoreless and striking on a counter attack. Nothing new there, except it hasn’t worked as swimmingly as it did during the regular season. After winning 13 out of 17 regular season matches, they have now played three playoff matches (1W, 1D, 1L). Doesn’t look as strong as the regular season, does it?

With all of that being said, La Máquina still have the best chance at lifting the Liga MX trophy next week. They are by far the most solid team out of those remaining and truly have no excuse for not ending their 23-year title drought. In fact, when else can we remember Cruz Azul having such a clear path to the title as the one they have now? Normally, clubs such as América, Tigres, Rayados, and lately, León are standing in the way. We all know how tough those bad boys get come playoff time. This season, however, only Puebla (3rd overall), Santos (5th overall), and Pachuca (8th overall) stand in the way. Not your typical semifinal lineup, that’s for sure.

This is the time to win for Cruz Azul. No disrespect intended for the other teams, but I’m not sure it’ll ever be this easy for Cruz Azul again. These are teams who were not only mightily inconsistent over the course of the season, but that despite being solid quality-wise, lack the star-studded starters that the bigger clubs in the league have. With that being said, things could really turn dark on La Máquina if Pachuca manage to get a score on Saturday, automatically forcing a win from Cruz Azul to advance. Everything tells us Juan Reynoso’s squad are the ample favorites and should move on to the final, but we know better than to just assume in favor of the Mexico City-based club during the playoffs.