América’s dream of a double can come closer to reality with a win in Juárez against the second division Bravos.
Coach Miguel Herrera made it clear at the beginning of the Clausura 2019 that the season would not be considered a success if the Aguilas did not win the double. They can take care of half of that “promise” on Wednesday night when they face the Bravos of Ciudad Juárez in the final of the Copa MX, a trophy they have not won since 1974.
América – the defending Liga MX champion – is heavily favored but they will have to defeat a plucky squad that eliminated the Aguilas last season in one of the biggest Copa upsets in recent memory. However, last season Juárez was en route to finishing atop the Ascenso MX table before falling to Diego Maradona’s Dorados of Sinaloa in the Apertura 2018 semifinals. This season, the Bravos are 14th in the 15-team second division primarily because they have struggled to find the net (9 goals in 13 games).
Fortunately, the Copa MX has been a different story for Juárez. The Bravos won Group 2 (over Puebla and Ascenso MX club Tampico Madero), scoring 7 goals in 4 group stage matches. In their three knockout stage games, the Bravos have added another 4 goals, including 2 in their 2-0 win over the Pumas in the semifinals.
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América has had little trouble in the Cup since advancing out of the group stage. The Aguilas topped Group 4 with a 3-0-1 record, but had a slim 6-4 goal differential. But the knockout stage has been a breeze. América routed Pachuca 5-2, dominated the Chivas 2-0 in the quarterfinals and trounced Tijuana 4-0 in the semifinals.
Coach Herrera has had to deal with injury issues (central defenders Emanuel Aguilera and Bruno Valdez missed last weekend’s league game against Tijuana, a 3-2 loss). Striker Nico Castillo is dealing with a leg issue and captain Oribe Peralta has been out since February after ankle surgery. But the Aguilas have a deep roster and player availability should not be a problem.
The one-game final will be played in Juárez because the Bravos are the higher seed (they finished as the #2 seed, while América earned the #4 seed). Juárez coach Gabriel Caballero knows his team faces an uphill battle. “It will hurt if we lose, but we know we will play the best game we can,” he said during a Tuesday press conference. “They have great players and a great coach so we need to be 100% focused on what we are trying to do and take advantage of any opportunities we create.
Notes: Juárez knocked América out of last season’s cup in the Round of 16, winning a lengthy penalty shoot-out (9-8) after tying the game 2-2 in minute 85. That game was played in Estadio Azteca. … América will be trying to win its record 6th Copa MX trophy, breaking a tie with León and Puebla who also have 5 Copa titles. … The Aguilas last won the Copa MX in 1974. … Juárez – a 4-year-old franchise – has never won the Cup. … The last Ascenso MX team to win the Copa MX was the Dorados of Sinaloa on Oct. 31, 2012.