A single point separated Morelia from making the Liga MX playoffs while Toluca qualified for the Liguilla with two points to spare. A tie in Friday night’s season opener will do neither team much good.
Toluca did not win any of its final three games last season, but snuck into the playoffs with a point to spare. Morelia lost at home to Cruz Azul in the Apertura 2018 season finale, missing out on a chance to climb past Toluca and qualify for the Liga MX postseason.
Neither team has much margin for error and a stumble out of the gates could prove to be a harbinger of things to come. This should be a game of attrition in midfield with the winner of the possession stats having the best chance to win. Toluca’s four-season playoff streak could be at risk this season after being more of a seller rather than a buyer in the transfer market.
Apertura 2018 result
Toluca 2, Morelia 0
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The Diablos’ looked strong up front in the season opener though they displayed the offensive shortcomings that would plague them all season. They wasted multiple scoring chances in the first half but Alexis Vega flashed his talent just before the hour mark and fed Alexis Canelo for a 1-0 lead.
A controversial offside ruling against Morelia annulled the equalizer and Toluca turned the resulting free kick into a fast break that Rubens Sambueza converted. The Diablos peppered Morelia keeper Sebastián Sosa with 18 shots, forcing 4 saves from the embattled goalie.
Acosta – Achilier – Loeschbor – Vegas
Vilches – Rocha – Millar – Flores
Sansores – Ferreira
Fullback Alberto Acosta joins from Tigres to replace Carlos Guzmán who departed for Necaxa. Coach Roberto Hernández calls on his midfielders to track back and to occasionally spring a high trap. The performances of Aldo Rocha, Rodrigo Millar and Rodolfo Vilchis will likely determine the outcome of this game.
Salinas – González – Tobio – García
Mendoza – Da Silva – Rios – Esquivel
The Diablos brought back midfielder Carlos Esquivel and he and Luis “Quick” Mendoza will be tasked with playmaking duties in the absence of jettisoned captain Rubens Mendoza (sent to León). Someone will have to step forward to replace Alexis Vega’s goals up front. Left back Santiago García will be called upon with controlling the flank and linking up with Esquivel. Newcomer Leonel López might get a look-see in midfield. Veteran keeper Alfredo Talavera knows Luis García is waiting to take over between the pipes so he will have to be sharp for a Toluca team that lost 5 of its 8 road games last season.
Morelia: Defender Gabriel Achilier was a stud on defense for the Monarcas … but he was prone to poor decisions on rare occasions. Morelia can’t afford for him to lose concentration especially if goals are hard to come by again this season. Achilier and Emanuel Loeschbor will have to stand tall if Morelia wants to get back to the playoffs after missing out by 1 point last season.
Toluca: Striker Enrique Triverio missed time last season due to injury but he is expected to pick up the slack after management traded young phenom Alexis Vega to the Chivas. He scored 22 goals during his first stint with Toluca (2015-2017) but only found the back of the net twice last season. He must produce if the Diablos hope to reach the Clausura 2019 Liguilla.
After the season-opening loss to Toluca last season, Morelia went 3-3-0 and climbed into 5th place. Then their roster limitations became apparent, but Coach Hernández had the Monarcas in playoff contention until the final match. Toluca sold its most valuable asset (striker Alexis Vega) and sent away emotional leader Rubens Sambueza. I see the Diablos getting off to a slow start this season and their road woes will continue.