Now that Club America managed to avoid embarrassment in the Superclasico versus Chivas with a 1-1 draw, the team must now deal with the CONCACAF Champions League final against the Montreal Impact.
There's a lot of pride at stake here for the country of Mexico, which has seen a Mexican club crowned champion 30 times in all. Liga MX has never lost the championship title to an MLS club (or any other club from CONCACAF) since the current format of CCL began in 2008. Individually, Club America also has the chance to capture their sixth title in overall tournament history, pulling even with Cruz Azul as the most successful Mexican club of all time in the competition.
The regional rivalry isn't softened because Montreal happens to be an MLS club in Canada, either, at least if one veteran of CCL competition is to be believed.
@TedLyons not one bit
- herculez gomez (@herculezg) April 23, 2015
Yet, having the desire to beat the Impact and being able to do so are two different things. Club America is even on aggregate with the Impact before the return leg of the final, but the away goal counts against them.
Here are five strategies that can help Club America beat the Montreal Impact.
1. Go hard at the goal.
One key element of the first leg match was that regular Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush was carded after the match ended, due to an altercation with Club America defender Paul Aguilar. Hampered because their backup goalkeeper was cup-tied, Montreal contracted an emergency goalkeeper from a lower league. Newcomer Kristian Nicht or the team's third-string backup, John Smits, will be in goal against the Aguilas players.
Club America needs to test whoever gets the nod early and often, as unfamiliarity among a defensive backline is a ripe environment for producing errors that can lead to goals.
2. Less pretty can be more effective.
In many Liga MX matches this season, Club America has had more possession, but it often resulted in the players meandering, passing the ball back and forth, but not setting up the final pass effectively for a scoring chance. The kind of daring shown by Aguilar against Chivas, where he rocketed a shot from distance, or the type of creativity that Rubens Sambueza can produce is needed to break the rut of politely sharing the ball that the Aguilas players can fall into at times.
It's key that striker Oribe Peralta, who has been the most effective goalscorer this season for Club America, was held out of the match versus Guadalajara. He should be fully rested and ready to go from the start against Montreal. Peralta is a skilled player, but often he finds the back of the net through sheer persistence and that's the attitude that Club America needs to bring to this game.
3. Parlay experience into savvy
Club America's players have already fought back from elimination before in this CCL tournament, when the squad went down by three goals to Herediano in the first leg of their semifinal tussle before turning it all around by scoring six goals in the return round. The team has the confidence that comes from being able to generate goals when they are sorely needed, and they merely need to tap into that again.
In addition, though Montreal's Olympic Stadium is fully sold out for the championship game, that's still roughly half the size of Estadio Azteca, Club America's home ground. It shouldn't intimidate the Aguilas squad.
4. Respect all comers
Though only a few players on the Montreal roster, like Nigel Reo-Coker, are recognized names world-wide, Club America can't afford to take any of them lightly. Pachuca got eliminated from the CCL by a late goal from Montreal Impact rookie Cameron Porter.
Dilly Duka's name may seem silly, but he's scored multiple goals in the tournament as well. Argentine Ignacio Piatti, who scored the crucial away goal in Azteca, will have no fear going for another.
5. The cry of Liga MX
At some point, a Major League Soccer club or a Costa Rican league team will break through and end the hegemony of Liga MX on the CCL and earn their own ticket to the Club World Cup. Whether it happens at Club America's expense is within their fate to control, however.
It is up to the players to decide that no, tonight is not the night Liga MX concedes and loosens the iron grip it has retained for years on the CCL trophy.