Finals loss takes big toll on Cruz Azul
The team went into a funk after the loss to América, especially as there were only three weeks between the Final (Dec. 16) and the Clausura 2019 opener (Jan. 4). After going undefeated at Estadio Azteca during the Apertura 2018 regular season, Cruz Azul was shut out by the Chivas in the Clausura 2019 home opener.
Injuries (Elías Hernández and Stephen Eustáquio) further damaged the Cementeros’ title chances as did the surprise departure of midfield bulldog Iván Marcone. In addition, newcomers Jonathan Rodríguez and Orbelín Pineda were slow to win the confidence of Caixinha, who appeared too stubborn to adjust his tactics to maximize the talents of the evolving roster.
As the team struggled to recover from a poor start, Caixinha got himself into hot water with controversial comments to reporters. There were reports that the Cruz Azul coach was given an ultimatum and the team responded, climbing from 12th place to claim a playoff spot though it was only the No. 5 seed.
América bounced Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals and the front office had a long summer to restructure their roster. The Cementeros lacked creativity in midfield and Caixinha favored a physical style up front despite the lack of production from striker Martín Cauteruccio and forward Edgar Méndez.
Peláez targeted a scorer and a playmaker during the summer transfer window, eventually corralling Guillermo “Pol” Fernández, 27, from Argentina’s Racing. He was expected to team up with Pineda, Hernández and “El Piojo” Alvarado in midfield and spark a flowing offensive attack. Cruz Azul also brought in versatile defender Juan Escobar to shore up the back line.
Finding a striker proved to be more problematic and Peláez finally introduced Brayan Angulo after Matchday 3 as the Cementeros sat in 15th place thanks to a 0-2-1 start to the Apertura 2019.
The embarrassing 3-0 loss at Querétaro on Matchday 3 was followed by an unconvincing 2-0 win at home against FC Juárez. The following week, the Cementeros seemed to be back on track as they spanked Atlas in Estadio Jalisco by a 3-1 score. But Cruz Azul has not won since then.