‘Marche’ kicks América past Tigres in Champions Cup

America players celebrate after Marche's title-winning penalty kick in the Liga MX Champions Cup on Sunday night in Carson, California. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
America players celebrate after Marche's title-winning penalty kick in the Liga MX Champions Cup on Sunday night in Carson, California. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /

América opens Apertura 2019 season by hoisting the Champions Cup after defeating the Tigres in a penalty-kick shoot-out.

On Saturday night, América goalkeeper Agustín Marchesín topped Tigres counterpart Nahuel Guzmán at the Golden Ball Awards, earning recognition as the top Liga MX netminder. On Sunday, Marchesín beat Guzmán from the spot to give his Aguilas the Champions Cup in a penalty kick shoot-out.

After a scoreless draw in Carson, California, América defeated the three-time defending Champions Cup champs 6-5 in sudden death as Marchesín stopped three Tigres kicks then converted the winner as Guzmán dived the wrong way.

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América claimed its 6th Campeón de Campeones trophy in history and now trails only the Chivas (7) for most Champions Cup. The last time the Aguilas won this title was in 2005.

Coach Miguel Herrera had his hands tied somewhat as league MVP Guido Rodríguez was serving a one-game suspension after being shown a red card in América’s last match (against León in the Clausura 2019 semifinals). Also missing was defensive midfielder Edson Álvarez who was held out as management negotiates his expected transfer to Europe.

Herrera also held out new acquisition Giovani dos Santos who was deemed not fully fit to play. Gio – who signed with América on July 6 – has not played a competitive match in nearly a year.

The game itself was intense and physical, but quite sloppy. Both teams sorely lacked timing and many players simply looked rusty. The Tigres-América rivalry has become the biggest Liga MX match over the course of the past decade and there were several instances were tempers boiled over, though it never went beyond pushing and shoving.

The Aguilas were more direct in their play, but Guzmán was splendid in goal. Despite only enjoying 33% possession during the match, América outshot the Tigres 15 to 8. Even worse for the Tigres, none of their shots were on goal. The closest they came to scoring was on a corner kick when Aguilas defender Bruno Valdez accidentally deflected the cross against his own post.

Three times Guzmán saved goals with diving parries and he stopped numerous scoring chances by racing off his line to clear centering passes. With roughly 10 minutes remaining, Guzmán hustled 10 meters outside the penalty box to break up a Nico Castillo breakaway.

Nevertheless, as the Tigres offense looked mostly stagnant and unimaginative (winger Luis Quiñones could not make a decent cross to save his life and playmaker Lucas Zelarayán was out of synch and was replaced around the hour mark).

At the back, the Tigres occasionally looked vulnerable as coach Ricardo Ferretti opted to use left fullback Jorge Torres Nilo as a central defender. His hand was forced by last week’s knee injury to Francisco Meza and the absence of Gold Cup winner Carlos Salcedo who doesn’t report to camp until Monday. Torres Nilo’s poor performance might force management to consider signing another central defender since Meza will be out until next season.