Cruz Azul and América will meet in a Liga MX final for the fourth time.
Is this déjà vu all over again? Liga MX fans might wonder.
Ahead of the 1971-1972, First Division newcomer Cruz Azul, moved to a new home – Estadio Azteca – joining América as residents of the Coloso de Santa Ursula. Cruz Azul finished first in the standings and América finished 3 points behind.
The two Mexico City rivals faced off in the Final with Cruz Azul winning 4-1 to claim its third title since joining the top division of Mexican soccer eight years earlier (in 1964). The league sanctioned the final as a single game since both teams were playing at “home.”
Ahead of the Apertura 2018 season, Cruz Azul moved to a new home – Estadio Azteca – again sharing the iconic stadium with the long-time tenant, América. Cruz Azul finished first in the standings and América finished 3 points behind.
The two Mexico City rivals will again face off in the Final, though unlike in 1972, it will be a two-game playoff.
The upcoming Liga MX Final marks the fourth Clásico Joven to decide the championship. The first was the aforementioned Cruz Azul triumph on July 9, 1972, the second was after the 1988-89 season with América coming out the victor on a 5-4 aggregate score. Both teams still called Estadio Azteca home.
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The Cementeros moved to Estadio Azul 1996 and won a title in December 1997, their 8th and last title.
The last time the two capitalino clubs met in the Final was after the Clausura 2013 season and Cruz Azul had not won a title in 16 years. Their drought would continue as América scored minute 88 and minute 90+2 while playing with 10 men, forcing overtime. América claimed the title on penalty kicks.
Four players from that Clausura 2013 Final will be on the field for this week’s championship games: Jesús Corona, Cruz Azul goalie; Julio César Domínguez, Cruz Azul defender; Paul Aguilar, América right back and Adrián Aldrete who played left back for América in 2013 and will be manning that side of the pitch for Cruz Azul this time around.
Cruz Azull fullback Gerry Flores started both games of the Clausura 2013 Final and he is still on the Cementeros roster, but injuries have forced him off the game-day roster and he is unlikely to be on the bench this week.
Miguel Herrera was the winning coach in the 2013 Clásico Joven final and he is back at the helm of América again, after spending some time as manager of El Tri and then as coach with the Xolos of Tijuana.
Ricardo Peláez was the general manager for América when the Aguilas hoisted the Clausura 2013 trophy. Two years earlier, he had hired Herrera to be the coach. Peláez left América in summer 2017 when his contract was not renewed and he took over as Cruz Azul general manager on May 9, 2018.
Odds & Ends
América boasts the more expensive roster for the Clásico Joven Final, with a payroll of 68.2 million dollars, according to El Universal Deportes. The dynamic midfield duo of Guido Rodríguez and Mateus Uribe each have annual salaries of 8.5 million dollars, tops on the Aguilas. Their “cheapest” player is young defender Jorge Sánchez who has a contract that paid him 910,000 dollars this year.
Cruz Azul’s wage responsibilities are 48.2 million dollars, with defensive midfielder Iván Marcone earning the most money (5.1 million dollars). Both goalie Jesús Corona and fullback José Madueña have salaries of 1.1 million dollars.
This will be Cruz Azul’s sixth final since defeating León for the Winter 1997 trophy, and Cementero fans would love to end their title drought by defeating their biggest rivals. Meanwhile, América is looking to add to its league-record 12 titles. Their last championship came after the Apertura 2014 season, while their last Final appearance was a losing effort after the Apertura 2016 season against the Tigres.