Sympathy for the Devils

Please allow me to introduce myself;

I'm a man of snark and spite.

I've been around for about three years,

always assuming that I'm right.

And I was around when Piojo

was assumed to be hopeless and vain.

Compelled to be there

when Cruz Azul ended his pain.

I pray they beat you,

and they take this key game.

But what I really need

is a heavy dose of Aguila shame.

And ...  I'm sorry for that. Couldn't help myself.

It wasn't meant to be like this. I sat down with the intention of writing the masterpiece of semifinal previews. It was meant to be insightful and full of interesting tidbits on these two intriguing match-ups. It was going to be great. 

The problem was that no matter how hard I tried, the only thing that kept passing through my mind is how much I want Toluca to win ... how much I need them to win.  And perhaps there's even a case for how much we all need the Diablos to be victorious (except of course for the literal hordes of Club America supporters ... but who wants to hear from them anyway).

I used to be simply focused on my team. I rode the highs and precipitous lows with nearly-equal parts anxiety and rage. I had no more animosity for any of Cruz Azul's supposed rivals and simply wanted what was best for my club. I was never a big fan of Pumas due to their attitude toward away supporters in the CU, nor the exclusionary rules in place at Chivas. Yet, I never openly rooted for their demise (at least not excessively).   

This balanced and sane approach to viewing the Liga MX has been slowly replaced with the jaded and broken viewpoint of a man who sat through both legs of last season's final. My mind, which in its hay-day showed signs of normalcy, has been exposed to the psych experiment that was the last five minutes of the Clausura 2013. The distaste that I harbored for the Aguilas has now been mutated in to a blind hatred. This was only amplified by the actions of the FMF and their overlord Televisa in hijacking the Mexican National Team.

Hence, when looking at this Liguilla (and after the predictable quick exit by my Cruz Azul) I'm completely on board with whoever happens to be facing Club America. Let's go, Diablos Rojos!

Now that the blatant favoritism is out of the way, I'm going to try and build the case for Toluca coming out on top. Certainly, it won't be easy. America is justifiably the favorite in these playoffs. However, they are not the world beaters that the most recent incarnation of El Tri might have you think.

The ideal time to take down the champs was that first round meeting with Tigres; it was certainly there for Tuca's club. America was riding high and the normal ebbs and flows of the league were coming for them. Tigres relentlessly pushed for the winner despite being down a man for the final third of the match. They just never found it. Tigres just didn't have the offensive acumen to find the desperately needed goal.

But along comes Toluca who just so happen to have the highest goal total in the league. They have the firepower and the ability to pressure America. If America has an Achilles heel, it is their defense. Their two wing-backs are not the most astute defenders (*see below for an example of Layun defense ... one of my many World Cup fears, by the way). The three center backs are both individually and collectively a calamity waiting to happen. Topo, Maza, and Mosquera can all easily forget someone on a set piece or commit a bad foul in the wrong place. Toluca have the players to put pressure on this defense and either punish those wingbacks for not defending or forcing those centerbacks into a costly mistake.

The Aguilas should score on Toluca, but there's a good chance that this turns in to a shoot-out. For all the grief Alfredo Talavera gets for his placement with the national team, he continues to be a undervalued goalkeeper. He's a smart player who always finds ways to help his defenders or waste a few extra minutes. Talavera will undoubtedly need to have a big couple of games for Toluca, but this is something that he is more than capable of accomplishing.

Will Toluca pull off the upset and send the Aguilas out of the Liguilla? I don't know, but I am certain that it will be a tight one. This really could go either way, but I do know which way I'll be throwing my full support.    




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