Down 0-2 at home and into stoppage time, Rayados looked poised to lose their first match of 2022. However, Funes Mori and Montes, along with Cruz Azul’s long history of last-minute letdowns (or “Cruzazuleadas”) had something else in mind. With an Erick Aguirre assist to a magnificent Funes Mori left-footer in the 92nd minute, followed by a beautiful Maxi Meza cross that found César Montes’ head to level the score at 2, the impossible once again became possible against a Cruz Azul club who continue to be haunted by their last-minute woes. But that’s missing the entire point.
Despite dominating ball possession (65% to 35%), as well as total shots (19 to 7), you could barely tell Rayados had been as superior. Not to mention, Cruz Azul’s style of play allows for those kinds of stats as they are perfectly comfortable sitting back and looking to counter. Believe it or not, Reynoso’s squad created just as many dangerous opportunities as Rayados, and if it weren’t for Ignacio Rivero starting half a second too early, they would’ve taken a 0-3 lead with half an hour left to play. That’s where the match was at that point.
After an acceptable performance (effort-wise, of course) at home against a feisty Querétaro squad despite ending in a scoreless draw, followed by a dominating first half at Necaxa in their 0-4 blowout win, Rayados were showing signs of life as we approach the Club World Cup. However, they took a step back yesterday night and looked their usual selves once again, failing to create opportunities with any particular form of play, missing open shots, poor defending, but more importantly, lackluster effort until the final minutes of the match (yet again). This is what we have come to expect from La Pandilla.
Aguirre’s inability to communicate his vision to his players and see it realized on the pitch after over a year in charge says more than enough. As I’ve previously stated, I believe this problem stems from further inside the organization, all the way up to Duilio Davino, as he has seen at least four different coaching stints over the past three years end very poorly, never again retaking the level of play we witnessed when the new stadium opened (2015), not to mention, Vucetich’s golden years (2009-10).
The problem is that we’re talking about one of the top 3 expensive teams in the league. The least you can expect is effort and somewhat consistent quality. We fail to see both of these on a regular basis. This is the equivalent as if we were saying the same of Manchester City or Liverpool in the Premier League, or Real Madrid or Barcelona in La Liga. It just isn’t acceptable. And now, even more doubts have been cast around the club as they now travel to the UAE to take on their Club World Cup duties in a couple of weeks. We know this tournament involves quality, but it’s more effort and grit than anything, as it’s short format allows for a bit more wear-and-tear without as many consequences. If Rayados keep this level of effort up, they will play out a one-and-done situation in the UAE.
In conclusion, this team continues to show so many limitations despite having a more than talented roster. Their lackluster performances at home this season (Querétaro and Cruz Azul) screams of the dier situation they drag on from at least a couple years behind. But failing to score on a team like Gallos and losing 0-2 in stoppage time to a shell version of Cruz Azul just isn’t acceptable for a team like Rayados, and more importantly, for the team they aspire to be. Not only is change needed at the player and coaching level (which it REALLY is), but the true change that is needed is at the top, starting with Davino. Failure to get his players to buy into four different head coaching stints tells us just how unsold the players are on his current project. And boy, if 5 years aren’t enough to do at least that, then I don’t know what is.
Call it a lack of demand in results, lack of leadership, or even complacency with simply making the playoffs each season or winning a couple CCL titles, but something is wrong from the top of this organization, and as long as it isn’t addressed, I find it very hard to believe they’ll win another league title.