SuperCopa MX, Champions Cup launch Apertura 2019

"Chaka" Rodriguez shields the ball from Guido Rodriguez during a Tigres-América match in 2018. (Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
"Chaka" Rodriguez shields the ball from Guido Rodriguez during a Tigres-América match in 2018. (Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The Liga MX kicks off Sunday in Carson, California, with a couple Cup matches as Cruz Azul faces Necaxa followed by Tigres vs América clash.

Cruz Azul tangles with Necaxa on Sunday in the SuperCopa MX, officially inaugurating the Apertura 2019 campaign. Immediately afterward, the past two Liga MX champions – América and the Tigres – square off in the Champions Cup.

Both games will take place at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

Soccer fans in Mexico will be most eager to see if Giovani dos Santos makes his América debut. Coach Miguel Herrera said the club will not make a decision until Sunday morning, once they’ve been able to better evaluate Gio’s fitness. There was some talk that the elder dos Santos might play Tuesday night in a friendly against the Pumas, but he did not suit up.

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Although the Tigres-América rivalry has become one of the best in the Liga MX over the past 5-6 years, this game – coming as it does before the season – will lack the intensity of recent encounters.

First of all, Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti downplayed the match, saying games against crosstown rivals Monterrey are bigger. “Games against the Rayados are our only Clásicos,” he said.

Ferretti also knows his preferred line-up won’t be fully available as defenders Carlos Salcedo and “Chaka” Rodríguez just returned to camp after taking part in Mexico’s Gold Cup triumph. Midfielder Guido Pizarro (Argentina) and forward Eduardo Vargas (Chile) just completed their participation at the Copa América in Brazil on July 6.

As for América, they will be without the services of midfielder Guido Rodríguez. He, too, was at the Copa América but his absence is due to a red card he picked up in a Liga MX semifinal match against León in the Aguilas last game of the Clausura 2019.

Aguilas midfielder Edson Álvarez was a key contributor at the Gold Cup, but he is deep in talks to move to Europe, so he might be held out so as to avoid injury. Striker Nico Castillo (Chile) has not reported to the América training camp in Dallas (where they played the Pumas), but is expected to join the team in Los Angeles.

Coach Herrera will be happy when his roster is complete, but he can’t be too happy about the preseason thus far. The Aguilas have lost all three of their July exhibition games (2-1 to Boca Juniors, 2-0 to River Plate, and 3-0 to UNAM).

As for the Tigres, they’ve played just one preseason game, a 1-0 win over Veracruz with the goal supplied by Andre-Pierr Gignac.

The Tigres have never won the Champions Cup, a competition that dates back to 1942, while América will be vying for its 6th Cup. The Chivas hold the Liga MX record with 7 Champions Cup trophies.

Liga MX says adios to SuperCopa MX

Cruz Azul and Necaxa have the privilege (or ignominy?) of playing in the last-ever SuperCopa MX. This tournament began in 2014 and it pits the two most recent Copa MX winners.

In May, league officials voted to convert the Copa MX into a once-a-year competition.

Furthermore, since the Clausura 2019 Copa MX winner – América – is committed to the Champions Cup, Necaxa – the Clausura 2018 Copa MX champs – will face Apertura 2018 Cup winners Cruz Azul.

On Sunday, Necaxa defeated the Mineros of Zacatecas 4-0 in their final preseason match. Last week, the Rayos tied Atlas 1-1 and lost 1-0 to Costa Rica’s Herediano.

For its part, Cruz Azul spent the past two weeks training in the Dallas area, and on July 6 playing a scoreless draw against Morelia. Coach Pedro Caixinha does not have his full roster available yet. Midfielder Orbelín Pineda was with El Tri at the Gold Cup, while new defender Juan Escobar played for Paraguay at the Copa América and striker Jona Rodríguez was on duty with Uruguay.

Also missing from the Cementeros locker room is Yoshimar Yotún who played for Peru against Brazil in the Copa América final on July 7. Defender Igor Lichnovsky is due in Mexico soon after spending the summer with Chile, reaching the third-place game on July 6.