Wavering White Flag

After a particularly depressing Cruz Azul performance a few weeks ago, I officially wrote off this team's chances. They put out pitiful performances that made clear their intention of ineptitude. Even past the effort displayed on the pitch, they simply were not talented enough to compete with the best teams in Mexico. Cruz Azul's play on Sunday tested my resolve. 

Despite my troubles with Cruz Azul's form (lowlighted by their home loss to Queretaro last week), I elected to make the trip to Toluca on Sunday. I reasoned that at the very least I'd be able to see Estadio Nemesio Diez, which by all accounts is a pretty nice place to take in a match. Those accounts were accurate as the stands are so close to the action you feel as if you could take a throw in if called to do so. Yet, the surroundings were quite unexpectedly overshadowed by the profound play of the men in blue on the field. 

Cruz Azul didn't play a flawless game. Toluca had several great scoring chances. Both Jesus Corona and Jair Pereira bailed out some sloppy defending and loose possession from their teammates on several occasions. What Cruz Azul did do was play with life and energy. They looked to move forward with every possession of the ball. They played with speed and energy. I didn't realize they had either. Israel Castro actually took two shots. This is someone I've only seen five-yard horizontal passes from prior to this match. Alejandro Vela played like everyone thought he was supposed to play. His movement as he swung from the wing to the middle and back opened holes in the Toluca defense throughout the first half. Although, he started to drag in the second half, he capitalized on a breakaway with a perfect shot into the side netting. Frankly, I didn't think Vela had it in him. 

On a similar note, I must apologize to Gerardo Flores. I have written some harsh things about him in the past. I won't go as far as to say that I was completely wrong. He has had some moments of complete inadequacy, but his play has improved dramatically. He had the problem of playing too far forward and never tracking back as a midfielder. In his new role in defense he has been fairly decent. He's been a solid defensive presence that can exploit space in front of him offensively. I'd also be remiss if I did not mention the ascent of Jair Pereira. He is not the lauded young defender that Nestor Araujo is, but I'm starting to think he is far superior. He is clearly the leader of the defense and is in many ways a complete player. Pereira has speed, strength, height, skill on the ball, and back-line discipline. He was easily the man of the match on Sunday. I should probably stop before I argue for his place in El Tri.

Despite these positive signs, I know I shouldn't get excited. This team is not of the class of Santos, Tigres, Monterrey, or Morelia. They are going to eventually flame out. It will be ugly; it is just surprising to know that Cruz Azul has the ability to make it pretty. I just need to continue to tell myself that when the critical time arrives Cruz Azul won't. I've learned to expect it.    

 



      

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