🤠 Rayados reign again in Concacaf Champions League
Casting poor form aside, Monterrey makes it five of five in CCL finals
The Concacaf Champions League final certainly was a combobreaker.
América had lost just once since June, coming into Thursday night’s match at the Estadio BBVA on a four-match winning streak to contract with Monterrey’s four-match losing streak.
Monterrey didn’t have form on its side, but it did have hunger, desire and a better game plan, riding a Rogelio Funes Mori goal in the 9th minute to a 1-0 victory.
“I’m happy for the guys, who played really well. We haven’t had results in the league, but they played soccer with heart,” Rayados manager Javier Aguirre said after the contest.
“Sometimes that gets you there, and other times it doesn’t. We had the chance to score the goal very quickly. We scored it, and there it is,”
This was certainly a match in which the ‘outside observer test’ failed. The one where you say “Show this game to someone who doesn’t know which team is the one in first place in the league and which one is on a four-match losing streak,” and they pick Monterrey as the good team rather than the stragglers.
It lent credence, however, to what Aguirre said in the build-up, that the CCL is an entirely different animal from the league season, that it is possible to be struggling in another competition and smash it in CCL.
That is what Monterrey keeps doing, smashing the competition in continental play. This is their tournament. Five times they’ve reached the final, five times they’ve won it. Only once in history has Monterrey qualified for the CCL and not lifted the trophy at the end of the tournament.
That record looked in serious doubt before the match, with Rayados not only struggling in league play but dealing with injury doubts for their top scorer, winger Duvan Vergara, and most experienced defender, Hector Moreno.
Moreno was fit to start but with América coping with the absence of Pedro Aquino and leaving enormous holes in the midfield that allowed Monterrey to be in dangerous spaces nearly instantly after winning back the ball, the defender didn’t need to be too active.
“Rayados were better than us in the opening minutes, they were able to score the goal and after that, they managed the game,” América manager Santiago Solari summarized after the match.
The surprising thing, beyond the battering Monterrey issued in the first 20 minutes of the contest, was América’s lack of response. This is a team that has been criticized for winning ugly, but any of the grit and muscle generally associated with grinding out a result was totally absent, even as the former Real Madrid manager went to his bench and brought on Sebastian Cordova, Nico Benedetti and other substitutes he hoped would turn the tide.
The response there was came far too late, as América continued to struggle in transition play and lacked the creativity needed to break through against a Monterrey team perfectly happy to defend well and surge forward when the chances were presented.
There were strange moments the referee needed to parse through. Of course there were. This is Concacaf, after all. The center official, Fernando Hernandez, worked through most plays the best he could, with the stoppage-time incident that saw a flying, then falling, then flailing Maxi Meza a truly bizarre play.
At the end of the night, the confetti fell, and the team that had put the better performance on the field celebrated and lifted the trophy.
Rayados have their issues to work out. Among those, a happy addition: Travel logistics for the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates in early 2022 and, naturally, where the hell to put another one of these CCL trophies.
Please enjoy Santiago Solari making faces while struggling to hear questions asked via Zoom
The América manager was classy in defeat Thursday, rounding up his players after the match for them to attend the post-match ceremony and applaud Rayados. He also began his news conference congratulating Monterrey on the title and answered questions respectfully.
Being 2021, the news conference was conducted via Zoom and, with reporters either in busy newsrooms or, in the case of one questioner, in the bowl as celebrations continued, it was quite difficult for the coach to hear what he was being asked.
Please enjoy a series of screenshots of Santiago Solari struggling to hear questions being asked via Zoom:
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