After lucking out and avoiding disaster mostly due to their rival’s low quality finishing, Rayados managed to “restore order” in Guatemala and take a commanding 4-1 lead back to the Estadio BBVA where these two are scheduled to meet again next Thursday, Feb. 15th for the second leg of the series. Because of this advantage, it feels nearly impossible that Monterrey could lose the series, especially considering the Guatemalan side are required to score at least 4 goals due to the away goal tiebreaker.
It was a tremendously fortunate 15 minutes to open the match for ‘Tano’ Ortíz’s squad, as Comunicaciones let 3 good opportunities go to waste, failing to capitalize on Rayados’ typical lazy coverage which was on full display again last night. The opening goal finally came on a good cross from a wide open Medina, followed by an assertive header on goal by Berterame. At that point, you thought things would improve for Monterrey.
Wrong. Comunicaciones continued their assault and just a couple minutes later, nearly drew even after Edson Gutiérrez (who was the last cut-off man) incredibly slipped as he started to make his way toward the ball. Carlos Mejía got a wide open, 1-on-1 face off with Andrada as a result, to which the keeper rose heroically to save his goal.
But another blown coverage just minutes later rendered Andrada’s save irrelevant, as both Gutiérrez and Medina left their man wide open on a cross by Stheven Robles that was headed in by Mejía himself. Had the cross been just a bit shorter, Anangonó would’ve been there to put it in anyway. Just wretched defending on the part of this supposed elite CONCACAF club.
To end the first half, Brandon Vázquez missed an incredible wide open shot on the edge of the six-yard box in which he ended up being offside, but the mere fact that everything was off on Rayados’ part says so much about just how vulnerable this team really is, despite playing a team much less talented than theirs. The teams took a 1-1 scoreline into the locker room.
At the start of the second 45, you got the sense this was anyone’s game. However, a cross by Gallardo that had nothing on it was mishandled by keeper Fredy Pérez, which allowed ‘Ponchito’ González to get open for a simple tap in after a series of rebounds to give Monterrey the lead back at 2-1. However, Rayados got comfy with the lead again and decided to sit back and wait for the Guatemalan side to continue to put pressure on their goal. And that they did.
Had it not been for what is most likely the defensive play of the year (LITERALLY) by Luis Romo, the game would’ve been knotted up at 2. But an incredible goal line header sent the ball (on target) over the crossbar for a corner. The result of that? A Rayados corner kick just 2 minutes later was backheaded in by Gallardo to give them a 3-1 lead. And that proved to be the dagger in this one.
Comunicaciones appeared to lose intensity after that third goal and mostly just floated around for the remainding 20 minutes as Rayados continued to hold possession of the ball. Their 4th goal was a consecuence of this as Gallardo sneaked in behind Andrés Lezcano and barely elevated the ball, allowing Rodrigo Aguirre (who was in dire need of a score) to head it in, confirming the victory.
Despite the big win on the road which has all but guaranteed them a spot in the Round of 16, it’s important to not get carried away with this vulnerable Rayados team. Stefan Medina continues to appear more of a liability despite his assist for the first goal. Moreno and Gutiérrez looked slow, blowing tons of coverages and relying on Comunicaciones’ finishing issues. A better offensive team could’ve put them away within the first half hour of the match. That’s why they’ve suffered the fate they have of late in the liguilla when they face the true quality teams.
Jordi Cortizo was a non-factor yesterday, which is strange to say as he’s been one of the few consistent bright spots on this roster. Berterame and Vázquez could’ve done a tad better in terms of finishing their wide open opportunities, but that happens with strikers, so not super worried in that aspect.
On the bright side, there are 2 players to highlight; Andrada had a heck of a game and Romo was very good on the ball, giving the team clarity in their attacks, even coming close to scoring a great goal at the start of the second half to go along with his saving header to avoid an equalizer.
All in all, an important result that puts Rayados on the verge of clinching a spot in the next round, but many worrying factors about this team remain. And as long as they do, they’ll be tough to be favored over other teams such as América, Tigres, or even the strong MLS clubs. Much to improve on Ortíz’s part, but the question is do they have enough time or whether or not these players can even be fixed? Time will tell.