Miguel Herrera, America backing up talk with results ahead of Clasico Nacional

After a midweek win over Chivas, Las Aguilas are preparing for the league matchup against their rivals with more tactical work and less verbal sparing

The action off the field was more exciting than the action on it. 

In the first ofBofo a pair of matches this week between America and Chivas, the home team imposed its will and earned a 2-0 victory over the visitors from Guadalajara. Now, as the clubs prepare for Saturday’s round two, both sides are working on tweaks and making adjustments for the league matchup. 

Prior to the match, a number of America players publicly feuded with Chivas legend Adolfo “Bofo” Bautista, with forward Oribe Peralta and midfielder Mateus Uribe among those who replied to his provocations. 

Nothing is more annoying than someone talking a lot of mess without being able to back it up. Las Aguilas, however, have taken a cue from manager Miguel Herrera and so far are managing to do both. 

“We can’t talk into microphones and not show it on the field,” Herrera said after the Copa victory. “That connected with the guys and they backed up their words with actions and a good attitude. Those are things that heat up Clasicos. Everyone has their opinion. The brunt of the matter is to do it on the field.” 

With deference to Bofo, a fun character who seems to be transitioning from a playing career to one of a hype man before rivalry matches – he also jabbed Atlas and its fans before the Clasico Tapatio – his days of doing it on the field are over. Herrera often runs his mouth but has the showings to back it up. America isn’t in the top positions in the league, but it easily could be there if the positive momentum continues.

“The charge now is to show that level, to keep it up and surely we’ll be in the Liguilla,” he said. “With 10 more points you’re in and from there, well, we’re the defending champion. We’ll defend the title.” 

That’s more likely if they get into more rivalry contests in the playoffs. America steamrolled Pumas in the previous playoffs before topping Cruz Azul in the Clasico Joven final. Including the quarterfinal triumph this week, he’s up to five wins over Chivas as America boss and no manager in club history has seen off the team’s three biggest rivals more times than El Piojo. 

Maybe that’s surprising. Herrera is known more for his brash comments and his animated celebrations than for his tactical savvy. At times, that has been fair, but Herrera has gotten a lot out of his current group. He won the Apertura without a deadly attacking threat (a center back led the team in goals) and while the club moved to fix the issue by signing Nicolas Castillo, it still hasn’t always been smooth sailing. 

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Herrera has an experienced defensive core, a deep and talented central midfield, and in Agustin Marchesin one of the best goalkeepers in the league. Like they did in the Copa MX win, and much of the previous season, Las Aguilas depended on a solid if unspectacular plan and got goals from the defense and midfield. 

The Mexican press loves Herrera, but his counterpart was less than pleased to see the large contingent of reporters waiting for him at the airport the day after Chivas’ first-leg defeat. 

“We hope to you’re here like this Sunday as well, when we might have won, eh?” Jose Cardozo said. “When we win, you don’t come.” 

It’s a strange statement to make about the team that gets more coverage than any other in the country. Yet, you can understand why he’s feeling the pressure. While the scuttlebutt is that Cardozo would keep his job even if Chivas lose Saturday, that would be the third loss in four weeks. 

The club would go tumbling out of the playoff places, and with no chance of silverware coming from elsewhere, the directors might decide to cut bait. He may already have lost the fans with newspaper Ovaciones running a headline Friday on its front page saying, “Cardozo out!” and citing supporters who have had enough. 

Aside from the airport outburst, Cardozo has said little, letting the club’s legends stoke the fire while he looks to get his team back to the form it showed at the start of the season. Having two meetings between the rivals in one week was hailed as historic in the preceding days. It’s something America would want to remember if it can pull off a sweep. 

It’s time for Herrera and his squad to back up the talk once again, and the bragging rights very much would be in his fans’ favor if he can make it happen. 

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