It was a good night for Mexican soccer last night. One team served notice that it is the team to beat in the CCL. Another notched a historic win in Brazil, and a third got a terrific debut from a coach who had been away from the game for too long.
THE CITY OF QUERETARO is ideally located in Mexico, a halfway point between Mexico and Guadalajara. It was the only city that got a new stadium for the 1986 World Cup, and that locale has seen first division soccer come and go. Emphasis on the go part. Ownership groups have come and gone as well, some more mysterious than others. The Club is now owned by Grupo Angeles, a conglomerate that owns hospitals, media properties, financial services companies and The Camino Real hotel chain.
They are all business, and they mean business in Queretaro. The team brought in Ronaldinho last year, a ticket sale move more than anything, but he still has some gas in the tank. He has had his moments, both on and off the pitch. A slow start to the Clausura 15 season usually means a coach is about to get dropped. No real surprise, anyone who follows Mexican footie knows that a 3-game losing streak is more than enough for the axe to fall. Nacho Ambriz was on the business end of that business decision in Queretaro. It is the guy they brought in that should make Queretaro fans very happy.
When we last saw Victor Manuel Vucetich, he was scapegoated for Mexico's near catastrophic World Cup qualifying campaign. After a year or so as a talking head, "King Midas" was waiting in the wings for the right fit. That is not to say he wasn't tempted by other offers, but he stayed away from the dumpster fires. He signed with Queretaro a couple of days before making his debut with the squad: a 5-0 stomping of Santos in Copa MX. How did Ronaldinho respond to the new coach? He set up two goals before leaving the pitch to a standing ovation. The move proved the ownership group is serious about getting it going in lovely Queretaro.
ANOTHER TEAM that finally got serious about its soccer after the failed stint of one Michel Bauer (the Cruyff Institute graduate, remember him?), took a giant step in its campaign to make its first appearance in the rebranded CCL. Playing at the Saprissa, the Mexico City finally broke through in an entertaining back and forth with Saprissa late in the 2nd half. 6 minutes later, the score was 3-0.
3 away goals in hand with the 2nd leg at the Azteca.
Oribe Peralta came off the bench to score what seemed like his 100th and 101st CCL goals. The scary part is that America still has yet to hit their stride under their new coach Gustavo Matosas. They are second in the local league as defending champions and have to be considered the favorites in the Concachampions as well.
A COUPLE OF HOURS before Club America escaped the Dragon's Cave with the 3-0 win, Atlas became the first side since 1978 to defeat Atletico Mineiro at home in a Libertadores tie. The rojinegros got a late, late goal to defeat the 2013 Libertadores champs 1-0. It was only the 6th win for a Mexican side in Brazil in the Libertadores.
Atlas owners, TV Azteca, are more than keen to enhance the team's brand a team that is known best for the fact that they have not won the league since 1951. They see the Libertadores as their best chance to raise the Q factor. So much so, that 10 of its starters won't even fly back to Mexico for the league tie over the weekend. They will be staying in South America to get ready for their next match at Colo Colo. Good. Nothing is more baffling than Mexican sides who do not take this tournament seriously enough to send a full strength team to play it.