How Aguilas regained flight: Chasing the updrafts

América players toss coach Antonio Mohamed into the air after the Aguilas won the Apertura 2014 Liga MX title. (Photo by Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
América players toss coach Antonio Mohamed into the air after the Aguilas won the Apertura 2014 Liga MX title. (Photo by Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/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 IV, América struggles to stay on top after a coaching change.

Miguel Herrera won a title in his third season in charge of the Aguilas, and América was eyeing a repeat when the national team came calling. El Tri was struggling to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and Herrera was hired as interim manager to lead Team Mexico in a playoff series against New Zealand. The loser of the two-game set would miss out on Brazil 2014.

“El Piojo” led América to a first-place finish during the Apertura 2013 season, but the Liguilla was postponed for two weeks so that Herrera could have a full roster for the two games El Tri would play against New Zealand on Nov. 13 and Nov. 20. Herrera named seven América players to the squad and Mexico trounced the Kiwis to qualify for the World Cup.

Aguilas regain flight, Part IV
Miguel Herrera celebrates during El Tri’s victory over New Zealand in their FIFA World Cup intercontinental play-off at Estadio Azteca on Nov. 13, 2013. Photo:  ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images) /

Back home in the Liga MX playoffs, América marched to the finals but was deprived of back-to-back titles by a veteran León team that took advantage of the tired legs of the Aguilas stars.

Immediately after the final, Herrera was named head coach of the national team and Aguilas general manager Ricardo Peláez conducted a quick coaching search. He had only three weeks until the Clausura 2014 season kicked off.

Peláez turned to Antonio Mohamed. Just one year earlier, “El Turco” guided upstart club Tijuana to the Apertura 2012 Liga MX title. The Xolos had earned promotion for Ascenso MX only 18 months earlier. Mohamed was signed to only a one-year deal and he had big shoes to fill.  “El Piojo” Herrera had become a darling of the Aguilas fan base who loved his brash manner. Mohamed was destined to fall short of the team’s lofty expectations the first season.

Aguilas regain flight, Part IV
Team president Jose Romano, left, and general manager Ricardo Peláez, right, pose with new coach Antonio Mohamed. (Photo by Miguel Tovar/LatinContent via Getty Images) /

The defending champs finished fifth in the Clausura 2014 and got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. The new coach was vilified in the press and fans were grumbling. Mohamed was upset because he thought the front office did not do enough to shield him from the criticism.

Six months later, the Aguilas were champs again, but bad blood had seeped in.

Mohamed’s offensive style was attractive and América finished the Apertura 2014 as the league’s top-scoring team and claimed the No. 1 seed. The “Azulcremas” dispatched the Pumas in the quarterfinals, then trounced the Rayados of Monterrey in the semifinals, setting up a meeting with the Tigres in the Apertura 2014 Finals. After losing the first leg 1-0, América routed the Tigres 3-0 in Estadio Azteca to claim their 12th league title, getting goals from Mikey Arroyo, Pablo Aguilar and Oribe Peralta.

His 12 months on the job had been tough on Mohamed. Shortly after hoisting the trophy, the aggrieved coach accused América management of bad-mouthing him to the press. There had been rumors that the front office was wooing former León coach Gustavo Matosas to replace “El Turco.” The team was in a tough situation after Mohamed led the Aguilas to the title, but the coach refused to renew his contract, declaring that he “preferred retaining my dignity.”

In Part V – Trying to remain aloft – Ricardo Peláez realizes winning isn’t always enough, but América’s pride and earned arrogance is back.

Part I – Spiraling in the downdraft – can be read here. Part II – Playing with clipped wings – can be read here. Part III – Soaring the heights again – can be read here.

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