America’s ticket has already been punched, but Santos Laguna still needs at least a point to secure a Liga MX Apertura Liguilla spot.
Clearly the match of the week, Club America travels to Torreon to take on Santos Laguna is one of the better matches of the Liga MX season, let alone the weekend. Santos has been consistently cream-of-the-crop, while America sits high in the standings even as they’ve had sub par performances.
Two consecutive draws have allowed Club America to lose their spot at the top of the table. Santos Laguna comes into the match looking to bounce back from their stunning loss last week to hold on for home field in Liguilla.
Club America: D v Toluca 1-1
Before I had even gotten my live stream to work, Toluca was up 1-0. Taking the ball off of a turnover and rapidly transitioning to offense, Toluca got on the board with a strike from Alexis Vega in just the 2nd minute of play. Club America then spent the rest of the half dominating the ball. The pressure they received from Toluca wasn’t enough to force Las Aguilas into enough mistakes, and Henry Martin was able to find the equalizer in the 35th minute. Toluca never really threatened after their opening goal, with just three total shots in the match. America lacked creativity, however, and couldn’t muster any more offense, settling for the 1-1 draw.
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Santos Laguna: L @ Queretaro 1-2
In the lead up to the match, I had predicted that Queretaro basically stood no chance. At the very least, it seemed incredibly unlikely that Los Gallos Blancos could find enough offense to overcome the daunting Santos defense. For a decent portion of the match, I was correct. Queretaro found the back of the net 18 minutes in from Alexis Perez, but even so, Santos felt like they’d have an answer. In the 61st minute, Daniel Villalva doubled Queretaro’s lead and it became clear Santos was in trouble. Jonathan Rodriguez would pull one back in the 89th minute, but it was too little too late and Los Guerreros fell 1-2 in Santiago de Queretaro.
Club America: 4-4-2
Aguilar – Valdez – Aguilera – Reyes
Renato – Rodriguez – Uribe – Ibarrguen
Peralta – Martin
I wouldn’t expect many changes to the lineup Piojo Herrera used against Toluca. Henry Martin, despite scoring the game-tying goal didn’t provide much else the rest of the match, but Roger Martinez hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, either. Ema Aguilera could potentially lose his spot to Edson Alvarez after a less-than-stellar performance last week, but I think Piojo will prefer to keep the lineup relatively consistent, overall.
Abella – Nervo – Doria – Angulo
Isijara- Lozano- Rodriguez
For the most part, it seems like Santos simply had a let-down match against Queretaro. The Santos midfield of Osvaldo Martinez, Jose Vazquez, Jesus Isijara, Brian Lozano, and Jonathan Rodriguez has been among the best in Liga MX and will put a lot of pressure on America’s Guido Rodriguez and Mateus Uribe. It would be nice to see Ecuador call-up Ayrton Preciado get significant minutes for Los Guerreros, as he’s been a nice burst of energy for them in the past.
Club America: Piojo Herrera. I know. I know. He isn’t a player, technically, but it’s my preview and I’ll do what I want. This America team is better than they’ve played. They have won largely on individual talent rather than teamwork and togetherness. That works for a while, but as we’ve seen it also means you may struggle for long stretches. Against what I think is the 3rd best team in Liga MX. It’s time for Piojo to show he deserves a longer go with America. Show some tactical skill and make the right subs when they are needed. That is what I’ll be looking for most.
Santos Laguna: Osvaldo Martinez and Jose Vazquez. Mateus Uribe has been less-than impressive in the draws against Cruz Azul and Toluca, it’s up to Martinez and Vazquez to make sure that continues. Guido Rodriguez is phenomenal defensively, but he’ll need help against this Santos attack. If Martinez and Vazquez can overrun him, it will open up things for Furch and Rodriguez against a back defensive line that has been leaky from time to time.
Santos is basically in, but they have a bit more to play for, anyway. America needs to find top form headed into Liguilla and a big match against a quality opponent like Santos will give them the means to calibrate their game to Liguilla-level. The America defense is a bit underrated at this point in the season, with the 2nd lowest goals conceded in the league. However, a few shaky moments that haven’t resulted in goals have Americanistas worried they might be a mirage. Santos should provide a good test of that theory. On the road, America will need a great performance.