The last year has not been good to Club America. And for a team whose standards are set as high as theirs, it’s been a rough patch for the Americanismo. Naturally, heads roll when a team with this much clout, this much money, but not so much patience struggles. But whose head(s)?
America has done enough to keep its fans from sitting in the tub and throwing in the boombox right when Morrissey sings “I wear black on the outside cuz black is how I feel on the inside.” The Aguilas did make the finals of the Copa Sudamericana in 2007. Unfortunately, they gave up a late winner and the trophy slipped away. They gave Mexican footie one of their best results ever when they beat Flamengo 3-0 away in the Maracana in last year’s Libertadores. A stunning result considering how poorly the club was doing in the local league -- they finished dead last at home. But they still beat Chivas.
Despite the impressive run in South America, the local league has been a disaster for Televisa’s crown jewel. 3 coaches tried to right the ship last year. But how much could they do? Their greatest player had moved on to the MLS. His highly trumpeted replacement, Federico “el pocho” Insua, was injured and lost for the year. And the other high priced reinforcements really just didn’t pan out. But even with all this chaos, the real smoking gun was a mica thin back line. It’s tough to win games when you only score 12 goals in 17 games. Tougher still when you give up 27. There are only so many incredible parries Memo Ochoa can make in a game.
This season, Club America brought in a heavyweight: Ramón Diaz, an Argentine who had added plenty of hardware to River Plate’s impressive trophy case. His salary was impressive by anyone’s standards: 3.5 MM dollars / year. His buyout clause? Let’s say his agent knew what he was doing. But a pricey coach can’t do anything about injuries. Salvador Cabañas spent most of last season hobbled. And that defense – only two clean sheets the entire year. They missed the liguilla again.
The fatalists in the Mexican media proclaimed that Diaz underestimated the quality of the Mexican league. The haters rejoiced. The team made changes. Wholesale changes. A briagde of fresh troops brought in. Team President, Michel Bauer, who some americanistas believe should be walking the plank, gave Diaz a 4 game ultimatum. The fourth game is this weekend vs. Pachuca. So far, Diaz has run the gambit. 1 win, 1 loss, and 1 tie.
Regardless of the result, it wouldn’t make sense to get rid of Diaz now. With new players to work with, a healthy Cabañas, and what they hope is a stronger defense, Club America is position to rebound, improve and take (what americanistas believe is) their rightful place among the league’s elite. Some pundits have even picked them to win the tournament. Mexican football, like any other sport, is better when the big teams are good. And there is no one bigger in Mexico than the polarizing Aguilas.