Evaluation of Atlas and Cruz Azul after the Super Cup

Cruz Azul players hold up the Liga MX Super Cup trophy in celebration after beating Atlas in a penalty shootout on Sunday. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Cruz Azul won the first Apertura 2022 trophy, beating Atlas, two-time Liga MX champion, on penalties win the first-ever Super Cup.

Julián Quiñones scored the equalizer at minute 90+1 to force the shootout but then missed the decisive kick, allowing the Cementeros to hoist the brand new material.

Cruz Azul manager Diego Aguirre made his Liga MX debut in victorious fashion thanks to the 4-3 victory on penalties which followed the 2-2 draw. Cementeros winger Ángel Romero was named Super Cup MVP after assisting on the first goal, scoring the second and converting the first penalty.

The Super Cup was invented to replace the Champions Cup (Campeón de Campeones, in Spanish) which pits the two previous Liga MX champions against each other in a summer playoff match. But since Atlas won the last two Liga MX titles, they have won the Champions Cup. The Super Cup was quickly created with Cruz Azul selected as the Cementeros were the last league winners before the Zorros took over.

Liga MX champions suffer from short pre-season

With the 2022 Apertura telescoped into a smaller window in order to complete the season ahead of November’s World Cup in Qatar, Atlas had a particularly short vacation.

The Zorros won the Clausura 2022 title on May 29 and only returned to training two weeks ago. The front office barely had time to assess the list and identify the team’s needs. The priority for the Liga MX champions will be to strengthen the bench as Diego Cocca had to settle for few options for the subs late in the game.

Four players were released (only one starter – Jairo Torres – and the winger actually left to join MLS club Chicago Fire before the playoffs even started) and two players were signed – Peruvian international Edison Flores (DC United) and full-back Idekel Domínguez (Necaxa).

Flores expects to see plenty of action as a playmaker on the wing (his Sunday debut was marred when he missed his shot on goal in the shootout) while Domínguez saw his chances of contributing increase after left-back Diego Barbosa went down with what looked like a serious knee injury late in the game against Cruz Azul.

Atlas are reportedly looking for another midfield playmaker (Alfonso González from Monterrey is on the wishlist) and another forward (Mauro Manotas from Tijuana has been mentioned). The Liga MX champions must also assess offers for Julián Quiñones and captain Aldo Rocha, although the sale of their midfield general is seen as unlikely.

Cementeros ready to fight for the Liga MX crown?

Cruz Azul enters the new Liga MX season with expectations despite many question marks.

“La Máquina” had arguably the deepest roster in the league last season, but underperformed. The Cementeros finished the Clausura 2022 in the middle of the pack then bowed obediently in the quarter-finals. Misuse of a talented roster is the main reason why Juan Reynoso was fired.

New manager Diego Aguirre takes over pending an upgrade after the front office cleared the departure of two veteran defenders – Pablo Aguilar and Adrián Aldrete.

The Uruguayan chief also asked for a punch knowing the Cementeros struggled to find the net last season. But better use of available personnel – finding a successful line-up and rotation and sticking to it would be a good first step – should alone be enough for a return to the Liga MX playoffs.

Aguirre’s first steps indicate some confidence in the youngsters on the roster. The Cementeros handed the team’s No.9 shirt to 21-year-old Santi Giménez, an academy product who has teased fans with flashes of untapped potential. A good season for ‘Chaquito’ could earn him a spot in Mexico’s World Cup roster.

Precocious goaltender Sebastián Jurado last week was named the team’s starting goaltender. The 24-year-old goalkeeper will try to replace the legendary ‘Chuy’ Corona who could move to another team before the transfer window closes. Jurado played 11 games last season in place of the injured Corona, including all three playoff games. He conceded 7 goals in his three regular season games and left 2 bullets behind in the playoffs.

The front office is not left out, however, and Argentina winger Carlos Rotondi25 years old, is apparently on the way at La Noria. Another target is 22-year-old defender Bruno Méndeza Uruguayan who last season played for Inter from Brazil’s Porto Alegre.

And finally, Cruz Azul received a boost on Sunday night as Carlos Rodríguez returned to action for the first time since breaking his leg on April 8. news for El Tri as he is expected to make the trip to Qatar.

About Marie A. Gingrich

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