Season begins, ends with América-Rayados clash

Carlos Rodriguez puts pressure on América fullback Jorge Sanchez during their Matchday 1 clash in Estadio Azteca on July 20. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)
Carlos Rodriguez puts pressure on América fullback Jorge Sanchez during their Matchday 1 clash in Estadio Azteca on July 20. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) /

Monterrey visited the Aguilas to open the Apertura 2019 season and they’ll close out the year in the same venue.

América and the Rayados entered the Apertura 2019 season among the favorites to win the title, especially since both clubs boast hefty payrolls. As fate would have it, the two teams squared off against one another in the season opener in Estadio Azteca, so it seems only appropriate that they will end the season the same way.

Their Matchday 1 contest was a real slugfest with the host Aguilas claiming the honors 4-2. Rayados striker Rogelio Funes Mori got his team off to a great start, scoring the opener in minute 8 when Dorlan Pabón flicked a pass forward that sent the Argentine in alone on goal.

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The lead lasted less than 10 minutes as Charlie Rodríguez committed a silly penalty and Nico Castillo converted the spot kick. Mateus Uribe put América ahead just 2 minutes later when he powered home a header from close range.

Avilés Hurtado equalized in minute 31 by slipping behind the América defense and nodding home a nifty pass from Stefan Medina. Seconds later, Agustín Marchesín preserved the tie with a sparkling save of a Pabón blast from the top of the box.

The teams went into the locker room tied at the break, but Castillo sent the Aguilas back into the lead just 4 minutes after halftime and Roger Martínez tallied the clincher in minute 77.

Of the players mentioned above, Uribe, Hurtado and Marchesín will play no part in the Finals. Uribe was sold to Portugal’s FC Porto two weeks after the season opener, Hurtado tore his Achilles’ tendon in late September and Marchesín now plays with Uribe at Porto, replaced in goal by Guillermo Ochoa who was acquired late in the transfer window.

Rayados looking to end title drought

Rayados vs America
The Rayados celebrate after winning the Apertura 2010 Liga MX championship. That’s José María Basanta at left with fist raised. (Photo by Gerardo Zavala/LatinContent via Getty Images) /

The last time Monterrey claimed a Liga MX title was nine years ago. On Dec. 5, 2010, Monterrey defeated Santos Laguna 3-0, winning their fourth Liga MX trophy on a 5-3 aggregate score. Current Querétaro coach Víctor Manuel Vucetich was in charge of the Rayados back then and defender José María Basanta is the lone holdover from that title-winning squad. Vucetich also led Monterrey to the Apertura 2009 Liga MX championship a year previously.

After the triumph over Santos in December 2010, Monterrey started a slow decline. The Rayados qualified as a No. 7 seed the season after winning the title, losing to UNAM, and then failed to reach the playoffs in the Apertura 2011 season.

Rayados v America
Sebastián Cordova chases Monterrey’s Miguel Layun during their Matchday 1 contest in Estadio Azteca on July 20. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) /

Then, Monterrey was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Tijuana – and their coach Antonio Mohamed – in two consecutive seasons – the Clausura 2012 and the Apertura 2012. The Xolos would go on to win their first Liga MX title – and Mohamed’s first – in December 2012.

América eliminated Monterrey in the semifinals of the Clausura 2013 season en route to their 12th championship.

The Rayados failed to qualify for the playoffs in five of the next seven seasons prior to reaching the Clausura 2016 Final under Antonio Mohamed who had taken charge of the team a year earlier.

Recent playoff history

In addition to the above-mentioned Clausura 2013 postseason clash, América and Monterrey have met two other times in the playoffs this decade with the teams splitting the honors. In the Apertura 2014 Liguilla, the Aguilas defeated the Rayados on a 3-0 aggregate scoreline with all three goals coming in the first leg in Monterrey. And again, América went on to win the championship.

In the Clausura 2016 playoffs, Monterrey – with Mohamed on the bench – bested visiting América 4-2 in the second leg to offset a 1-0 Aguilas win at Estadio Azteca in the first leg. Edwin Cardona scored the series-winner from the penalty spot in minute 87. Unfortunately for the Rayados (and Mohamed), top-seeded Monterrey came up short against underdog Pachuca in the Final. Rodolfo Pizarro was a key contributor with that Pachuca team.