Could Piojo’s Loyalty to Poorly-Performing Players Cost América a Championship?
On Sunday night Club América played mostly at a championship level during their 90-minute quarterfinal match with Toluca. Américanistas across the globe began dreaming of what could be waiting for them at the end of this tournament, the ultimate prize: the 2018 LigaMX Apertura Championship. But with 30 minutes left in the match up, the dream started to look like a nightmare.
After watching this match I had to ask myself: Is Piojo loyal to a fault? We’ve seen his loyalty pay off in the past with former Aguila and current Mexican National Team star Miguel Layun; the media and fans called for his head, but Piojo stuck with his man and Layun delivered. He ultimately gained the admiration of Américanistas everywhere.
History seems to be repeating itself now with Cecilio Dominguez and Roger Martinez. When you consider Roger Martinez’ lackluster level of play during the regular season, the forward played remarkably well in the first round against Toluca. If he continues to play this way in Club América’s upcoming semi-final matchup with intra-city rival Pumas, I can see him becoming the latest player Piojo Herrera brings back to relevancy.
If you listen to our podcast I’m sure you’re well aware of how I feel about Miguel Herrera. El Piojo returned to Club América in 2017 and brought this proud and historic team back from the dead. His management style, and most of all his passion, motivates not only his team but also the fans. Piojo raised the bar for soccer across Mexico. (I’ve never doubted that he could succeed beyond Mexican soccer and still hope that he gets his chance outside of LigaMX someday.)
But after watching the first round of La Liguilla I started to question my feelings about Piojo. I thought about Piojo’s time in charge of El Tri and asked myself the following question: who is to blame for Mexico’s loss in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16 to Holland after carrying a lead until the 88th minute? I then asked myself, how did Club America almost lose to a Toluca squad playing a man down after leading 3 to 0?
When Club America signed Cecilio Dominguez, I backed the signing. But since then, I have since lost all faith in the Paraguayan forward. It appears as though El Piojo is starting to lose faith in the striker as well, but not for the performance-based reasons that I have. After Club America avoided an embarrassing collapse in the second leg of their quarterfinal matchup with Toluca, the cameras caught a testy exchange between the player and his manager. This comes on the heels of an incident between the two in the first leg that resulted in Herrera subbing out Dominquez for lashing out with insults directed toward Herrera.
Piojo can’t have it both ways. Which brings me back to my original question: Is Piojo loyal to a fault? Why stick with Dominquez through his poor level of play-to-date until he personally attacks Herrera? Piojo’s bruised ego is what caused him to make a change that Américanistas have been calling for all season. How can they trust him to guide the team to a long-awaited championship crown when he has more capable players like Renato Ibarra, Andres Ibaguen and Diego Lianez sitting idle on the bench?
So who’s to blame for the unneeded stress that Américanistas felt last night? I have no choice but to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Miguel Herrera. It appears he overplayed his hand with Dominguez. He has a history of pulling these same stunts and passing the blame onto his players. But at the end of the day, he runs the team, he makes the substitutions, he sets the lineups. I certainly hope that he proves us wrong once again (like Miguel Layun, and with the current and very long-awaited ascension of Roger Martinez) or the dream of a championship will remain just a dream.
Anthony Garcia is the lead soccer analyst of the El Three Podcast. He lives for the game and is unafraid to share his passion with anyone bold enough to listen.