FC Juarez faced off against defending champions Monterrey last Saturday. The match ended at a goal apiece with Rayados dominating much of the match. Los Bravos made some subtle changes to their starting XI to combat Monterrey’s strengths. Joaquin Esquivel made his way back into the starting XI after coming off an injury and being in the Pre-Olympic training camp for the Mexican national team. Caballero also elected to start Rabuñal instead of Flavio Santos. This essentially consolidated the midfield for Juarez since it was a formation that had 3 holding midfielders. We also saw the debut of Maxi Olivera as a starter in Liga MX. Olivera played in the left-back position and contributed with a goal. The most startling observation from the match is how much Los Bravos are going to miss Diego Rolan. Without him, defenses can focus in on Dario Lezcano much more and not pay much attention to Mauro Fernandez. For a team like Juarez, a draw away from home feels like a victory. This one didn’t quite feel this way for many reasons. Let me cover three of those that will determine if Juarez can continue this historic start of the campaign.
1. Gabriel Caballero went back to his old habits
One of the most surprising aspects of this season was watching Caballero develop as a Liga MX coach. This is due to his determination to stick to his style of play being home or away. This was a welcome change, one that saw Juarez become one of the most lethal teams in the Clausura 2020. The match against Monterrey should be scary for FC Juarez fans. Caballero elected in the 70th minute to park the bus by subbing in Luis Lopez and Flavio Santos. This essentially made Juarez switch to a backline of 5. I don’t disagree with parking the bus to secure the point away from home but doing it in the 70th minute after Monterrey has dominated the entire second half is not the way to do it. This decision almost cost us the game as Rayados sent a plethora of crosses into the box in the final fifteen minutes. Luckily for us, VAR saved the day by disallowing a goal due to a handball. This relapse from Caballero back to his old habits should be a concern for Juarez fans. It is something to follow week to week if Juarez wants to qualify for a Liguilla spot.
2. Bruno Romo, the anchor FC Juarez needed
Bruno Romo has acclimated to Liga MX play flawlessly. He is exactly what FC Juarez needed and missed for all of the Apertura 2019. Romo provides clarity and calmness whenever he touches the ball. He wins most aerial battles and always maintains constant communication between all lines during a game. Romo has been a pleasant surprise for FC Juarez and is an undisputed starter from here on out. The most impressive trait for Romo is how quickly he adapted to Juarez. He debuted the same week he arrived at the team and looked like an instant leader. This past weekend he put in another stellar performance. He did enough to stifle Funes Mori for the much of the match and was able to compete with Vincent Janssen for the last minutes of the match. Bruno Romo is the dark knight for Juarez. He’s not the center back we wanted but the one we deserved.
3. FC Juarez will struggle without Diego Rolan
The most startling observation from Saturday’s match versus Monterrey was how much Los Bravos missed Diego Rolan. Rolan brings much more to the team than just what he does when he has the ball. This was easy to notice this past match. When Rolan plays the opposing team’s full-backs have to keep track of him and when he is on the ball a midfielder joins to provide double coverage. With Rolan not playing the opposing teams, full-backs can join the attacking third much more easily without having to worry about the potential of Rolan starting a counterattack. It is also a fact that Liga MX teams can live with Mauro Fernandez beating them on the wing since he does not have the ability that Rolan has to completely take over a match.
Rolan’s absence is the main reason why Caballero elected to start 3 holding midfielders. This allows the team to tighten their lines and cut passing lanes. Rolan’s absence was also felt with how Dario Lezcano played. Instead of being able to play a through ball after covering the ball like he usually does with Rolan, Lezcano had to play it back or take a foul. This made the match turn into a midfield battle which eventually trended towards Monterrey fully dominating the second half. Diego Rolan is one of the most important players for FC Juarez and style of play. If Los Bravos want to continue their current run, they need to have Rolan as a catalyst in the attacking third.