Club América face date with destiny against Tigres in Liga MX title decider

BY Kyle McCarthy • December 14, 2014

History beckons at Estadio Azteca, but bragging rights provide the temptation for the 100,000 expectant Club América supporters poised to crowd into this hallowed ground. América and Chivas Guadalajara share the summit of Mexican soccer heading into the final match of the Liguilla. This night could break the deadlock and tip the scale in their favor.

América hosts Tigres UANL with a chance to move clear of Chivas in the race for Mexican supremacy. The bitter rivals each sit on 11 titles right now. If América can overcome a one-goal deficit against Tigres to secure a second championship in four tournaments, then Las Aguilas can ascend to the throne once more and deliver yet another cruel blow to their sputtering rivals.

“For people, it is important to overtake Chivas to highlight our good moment and the difficult situations Chivas have gone through in recent tournaments,” América captain Miguel Layun told RECORD in the buildup to this second leg (7:00p.m. ET, follow live on MatchTrax and @FOXSoccerTrax). “There are a lot of positives for our supporters. We want to give them the joy of supporting the most successful team. We want to give it to them.”

Layun implored the home fans to back América to the hilt and overwhelm the 50 busloads of Tigres fans bound for Mexico City in a Facebook message posted on Saturday. His entreaties reinforce the tenuous nature of the tie after Tigres claimed a 1-0 victory at Estadio Universitario on Thursday and grasped control of the proceedings.

The balance of the dour first leg revealed the pragmatic streak in both managers and underscored the utility of Tigres’ measured approach. Ricardo Ferretti’s side reached the final without winning any of its four previous encounters. Joffre Guerron’s second-half header ended that peculiar record and extended Tigres’ unbeaten run to 15 matches, but it also reinforced the difficult nature of the task ahead for this organized and well-drilled outfit at Estadio Azteca.

“The series is still open,” Tigres midfielder Jose Francisco Torres told reporters on Friday in Mexico City. “We will play it like it is 0-0 and try to settle it at any time. We will continue with the same humility and put the pressure on them to win it.”


1912 FOUNDED 1960
Mexico City LOCATION Monterrey
Antonio Mohamed MANAGER Ricardo Ferretti
2013 Clausura LAST TITLE 2011 Apertura
Oribe Peralta (8) TOP SCORER Guerron / Juninho (5)

Ferretti understand the demands of this predicament all too well. He guided Pumas UNAM to glory in the 2009 Clausura and steered Tigres to victory in the 2011 Apertura from this same position. His deftly constructed side possesses the tools to replicate those feats and subdue América once more even with inspirational captain Juninho ruled out through injury.

Guerron’s winner provides Tigres with the ability to set out its stall and wait for América to throw numbers forward. It is an invitation América must resist in the early stages despite its blunt and often static display in San Nicolas de los Garza. The home side simply cannot afford to allow the distractions -- including the chase for the 12th title, the clamor from the home crowd, and the imminent departure of beleaguered manager Antonio Mohamed to make way for former Club Leon boss Gustavo Matosas -- to prod them off-course at the outset. The need to balance creativity and endeavor with prudence remains even with a deficit to erase, according to Layun.

“We will have to find a way to open holes and unlock their defense, but we must also be aware that we have 90 minutes to tie the series,” Layun said. “If we have to go to extra time, we have the physical ability to do it.”

Ability is rarely the question for América. It is more about temperament than anything else for Las Aguilas, particularly in the wake of the constant speculation surrounding Mohamed’s future and the high-profile excommunication of Paul Aguilar for reported insubordination during the Liguilla. More than 4,500 police officers will keep the peace in the stands. It is down to the 11 men on the home side to maintain their heads and navigate their way through this thicket against an opponent ready to rise to the occasion.

“Now it is do or die in their stadium,” Guerron told reporters. “We know it’ll be a nice party for them with their fans supporting them, but we will come in very confident to do the right things and take the championship.”

The title is there for the taking given the circumstances, but América will not concede the chance to win the precious 12th championship without a fight. The pain of the defeat to Club Leon in the second leg of the Apertura final last year still lingers. The incentive to atone for that setback and recover from the first-leg defeat on Thursday is apparent.

There is a place waiting for América in the record books if everything proceeds according to plan. There is an advantage to gain over rivals Chivas. It is now down to Las Aguilas to overcome this last hurdle and secure their supremacy for the foreseeable future.

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