Cruz Azul: Iván Marcone, Rafa Baca, Edgar Mendez, Roberto Alvarado, Elías Hernández, Javier Salas, Ángel Mena
The Cementeros play with a 5-man midfield, two deep-lying midfielders – Marcone and Baca – and three offensive-minded midfielders – Mendez, Alvarado and Hernández. Marcone has been a surprise in front of the central defense, contributing steals, deflections and cutting of passing lanes. Baca has been a perfect complement, harassing ball-handlers and recovering possession while moving forward right behind his midfield mates. But he has hit a slump and was left out of the starting line-up on Saturday. Hernández started out the year (his first season with Cruz Azul) like an MVP candidate. Since then, he has shown only flashes of brilliance and on rare occasions has allowed frustration to impact his game. Mendez hustles up and down the right-wing but is only an average dribbler and not a great passer, but he is a physical presence to take some pressure off the lone striker up front. The mercurial Alvarado, 20, is a smooth passer, especially on the break, and is very good on the give-and-go, though he sometimes dribbles into trouble. He must work on consistency (against Querétaro in the quarters, he was a demon, whereas against Monterrey in the semis he was effectively bottled up). Creativity is occasionally lacking, but you can count on the Cementeros to attack with vigor.
América: Guido Rodríguez, Mateus Uribe, Diego Lainez, Joe Corona, Renato Ibarra, Cecilio Domínguez, Andrés Ibarguen
Rodríguez and Uribe are the heart and soul of this Águilas team. They can be intimidating in the middle of the pitch, they tackle hard and they track back with effort. But both can score, especially off set pieces. Uribe is the better passer and shooter, but Rodríguez might have been the team’s MVP this season. Lainez is a diamond in the rough. He missed time early due to injury and he missed time late on duty with Mexico’s U-20 team that qualified for the World Cup. A great dribbler and incisive passer who sees the game well, he is developing a lethal left-foot shot off the dribble. Corona is a jack-of-all-trades, sturdy and skilled. Ibarra is a beast who battled injuries during the season. He sparks the offense, is physical and fast with the ball at his feet, and can be lethal on the counter. Domínguez and Ibarguen are offensive-minded and got lots of playing time while Lainez and Ibarra were out, but have seen more bench of late. Both can be profligate and tend to prefer individual efforts that can kill a possession. América prefers that the ball not stop in midfield and the midfielders are expected to get forward fast.