Heading into the 2018 LigaMX Final: Cruz Azul vs América
In 2013 I believe I witnessed the greatest LigaMX Final ever played, between Club América and Cruz Azul. As an Américanista, the game sent me through a wave of emotions. I went from feeling sad and defeated to crying tears of joy when América stormed back to win the title. Tears were also shed especially for Moises Munoz, who survived a very serious car accident that year and whose subsequent performance cemented him as a Club América legend.
I watch the replay to this day and still tear up. Some men might not show emotion for a funeral, wedding, or another life-altering moment, but for some god-awful reason sports seems to tug at our heart strings. So here we go again. This is not just another Final. Winning this championship will come with a bonus prize: the rights to claim “ownership” of Estadio Azteca...at least through the upcoming Clausura.
Over the summer Cruz Azul snatched up every possible resource they could find. Their biggest move was hiring Sporting Director Ricardo Pelaez, a key figure in rebuilding Club América. Ricardo is known to have an eye for spotting talent and signing the right players (as seen this year) and has plans to bring in big names next year. But what's important now is what’s to come this week.
Cruz Azul has gone 21 years without a title, while América is now one week away from trying to reach lucky number 13 and become the winningest club in Mexican Soccer. Palaez is passionate about what he does, and he is a competitor that hates to lose. So of course he wants to beat América. He built Cruz Azul to try and beat América.
On the other side of the field we have Piojo, a talented coach that has yet to win a title without Palaez by his side. This América team has Piojo’s name on it; he groomed these players and wants to prove he can do it without Palaez.
Between Cruz Azul and América, we are looking at two very similar teams with similar styles, and both teams depend on the midfield to win matches. Both have hard working strikers with engines that don’t stop. A matchup to watch is Pablo Aguilar of Cruz Azul vs. Bruno Valdez of América. Other than Nico Sanchez from Monterrey, these two guys are the best in the air when it comes to scoring goals with their heads. Aguilar may have an advantage knowing América very well (as he was a key figure for América when they last won a title) but now he has to worry about Bruno, and Bruno has to worry about Pablo. It will be exciting to watch the two defenders do battle against each other in the upcoming series.
This game will undoubtedly be a defining moment for both teams. Cruz Azul wants to reassert themselves as a powerhouse, Club América wants to make history. For América a loss to Cruz Azul might be too much to bear in the upcoming season; a loss would have a major impact on the team, and we could expect changes coming Piojo’s way if he can’t figure out how to take down La Maquina. We know one thing for sure: this series will be fought with hard fouls, injuries, blood, sweat, and tears.
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.