After winning the Apertura 2018 title, coach Miguel Herrera will feel pressure to claim the Copa MX title this season.
Handicapping the Clausura 2019 race is quite difficult while the transfer window remains open. This week, we’ve seen Cruz Azul sign a 22-year-old Portuguese midfielder (Stephen Eustáquio) while América is expected to complete the deal to send Cecilio Domínguez to Argentina’s Independiente, depriving coach Miguel Herrera of an offensive piece.
In the meantime, we have Copa MX matches to gather further information about Liga MX squads, although because of the disrespect too often shown the tournament by first division clubs, conclusions will be virtually impossible.
One thing we do know is that América has told coach Herrera that repeating as Liga MX champion is not enough. Aguilas management wants a double. That means “El Piojo” must do a better job than last season when Los Azulcrema were eliminated in the Round of 16 in the biggest shocker of the Copa MX.
First division Juárez came into Estadio Azteca and knocked América out by scoring the equalizer with 5 minutes remaining, then went on to defeat the Aguilas 9-8 in penalty kicks. América begins its Copa MX journey tonight at Necaxa’s Estadio Victoria. Due to injury and fitness concerns, El Piojo won’t be fielding his first-choice line-up, but América is loaded and many of their bench players would start for other teams.
Latest roster movements
Coach Pedro Caixinha addressed the hole in his midfield on Monday by bringing in compatriot Stephen Eustáquio from Portuguese club Deportivo Chaves (in last place in the Primeira Liga).
The defensive midfielder has worn the Portugal jersey for the Under-21 team that failed to qualify for the U-21 European Championships. He has played 16 games in Portugal’s first division, but he is familiar with coach Caixinha.
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Eustáquio started his football career with Leira and he was advancing through their academy system when Caixinha took his first coaching job with that club. Eustáquio evidently made an impression on Caixinha, since the Cruz Azul coach has followed his career and has now convinced ownership that he could be the replacement for the departed Iván Marcone.
Over in Toluca, the league-leading Red Devils have continued to stock up. They’ll be bringing in two more players in the coming week. Coach Héctor Cristante on Sunday announced that Jonathan Maidana and Federico Mancuello would be joining the Choriceros.
Maidana is a veteran central defender (33 years old) who arrives from River Plate, while Mancuello is a 29-year-old attacking midfielder whose contract is held by Brazil’s Cruzeiro.
Earlier this month, Toluca signed Colombian Felipe Pardo, a 28-year-old winger who last played for Olympiakos and also acquired 31-year-old Argentine striker Emmanuel Gigliotti from Independiente.
Cristante said on Sunday that Pardo still needs more time to acclimatize to Liga MX and to become more familiar with Toluca’s playing style and his new teammates. Gigliotti, on the other hand, was still waiting for his international clearance process to be completed.
So Toluca has added six new faces during the winter transfer window (Leonel López and Carlos Esquivel are the other two), while shipping out three players (Alexis Vega, Luis Quiñones and Rubens Sambueza). The team has gotten a bit older (Vega is 21 and Quiñones is 27), but bringing in veterans suggests Toluca wants to win now.
Who’s minding the kids?
Last month, Dennis te Kloese left his position with the Mexican Soccer Federation (FMF) to become the Chief Operations Officer of the LA Galaxy in the MLS. The FMF has yet to replace te Kloese as manager of El Tri’s youth teams, a position he held in 2012 and then again from February 2014 until December of last year.
On Tuesday, Gerardo Velázquez de León proposed former national team boss Ricardo La Volpe for the position. The Universal Deportes pundit cited La Volpe’s track record identifying and cultivating academy players, mentioning two of his biggest proteges Rafa Márquez and Andrés Guardado. Both players have served as captains for Team Mexico and both found success in Europe. La Volpe worked with those two while head coach at Atlas.
More recently, La Volpe is credited with “discovering” a wispy teenager from Tabasco who was trying to make an impression with América’s youth team. That player is now 18 years old and he is preparing to begin playing in Europe for Real Betis. Yes, I’m talking about Diego Lainez.