How the Aguilas regained flight: Spiraling in a downdraft

America players applaud the fans at Estadio Azteca after clap their hands after a win at Estadio Azteca. (Photo by Miguel Tovar/LatinContent via Getty Images)
America players applaud the fans at Estadio Azteca after clap their hands after a win at Estadio Azteca. (Photo by Miguel Tovar/LatinContent via Getty Images) /

Just over a decade ago, Club América was a mess. The Aguilas hit historical lows, churning through two GMs and 11 coaches from 2004 to 2011. This is a five-part series reliving América’s crash and return to relevance. In Part I, the Aguilas crash to earth.

After América won the Clausura 2005 championship (a record-tying 10th at the time) to tie great rivals Guadalajara for most titles, the team seemed destined for greatness. A year later, the Aguilas hoisted the Concacaf Champions Cup and finished second in the 2007 Copa Sudamericana.

But these Aguilas would not again get back to the top of the Liga MX hill. They came close when Pachuca defeated them in the Clausura 2007 finals, but then the bottom fell out.

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In charge at the time was general manager Guillermo Cañedo White. He was the son of Guillermo Cañedo de la Bárcena, the man who created Concacaf, brought the World Cup to Mexico twice (1970, 1986) and served as América’s team president for 20 years (1961-1981). The son did not build on his father’s legacy.

Cañedo White took over in September 2004 but the trophies he won as GM could not erase the sense of chaos and uncertainty emanating from the front office. He had fired coach Mario Carrillo a season after he guided the Aguilas to the Clausura 2005 title for reasons never fully explained.

Four more coaches came and went quickly – Víctor Aguado was overmatched, Manuel Lapuente was too conservative, Luis Fernando Tena did not have América bloodlines and Daniel Brailovsky was only hired because he had played for some great Aguilas teams in the 1980s.

Flightless Eagles

As 2008 began, América had no big stars on the roster – truly a rare occurrence. There were big signings, mind you … they just didn’t pan out. Hefty contracts were handed out to César Carignano, Daniel Bilos, Fernando Saritama, Lucas Castromán, Richard Núñez and Sebastián Domínguez. Just over a decade later, these names don’t prompt a wealth of memories for local soccer fans.

With the overspending on foreign players who failed to produce, the club academy was unable to supply quality fill-ins and América hit the skids.

Aguilas on the decline
Rubén Omar Romano lasted 17 games as América coach in 2008.  Photo: ALEJANDRO PAGNI / AFP / Getty Images /

Just three months into the Clausura 2008, coach Rubén Omar Romano resigned and Estadio Azteca echoed with shouts for Cañedo White to be fired. Indeed, he was sacked in late March, but it would only get worse for Americanistas.

Michel Bauer was named new team president and his first hire was legendary Argentine coach Ramón Díaz who’d already led River Plate to 8 titles. “El Pelado” flopped with América, presiding over the worst stretch in América’s glorious history. Díaz lasted only 21 games (6 wins, 7 ties and 8 losses), getting fired just four games into the Clausura 2009.

Bauer would never recover from this initial failure and his tenure would only last another two years.

In Part II – Playing with clipped wings – the decline continues and América finishes in second-to-last place in the Apertura 2011 season. To read Part III – Soaring the heights again – click here. To read part IV – Chasing the updrafts – click here. To see Part V – Trying to remain aloft – click here.

This feature is part of a series about the Big Four of the Liga MX: América, Guadalajara, Cruz Azul and the Pumas.