By Mike Woitalla
Club America won a record 12th Mexican league title with a 3-0 win over Tigres, who had three players red-carded as their 1-0 first-leg edge evaporated in Azteca Stadium. Among the victors was a 22-year-old U.S. product.
1. Arizona kid wins Mexican
Ventura Alvarado left his native Arizona in 2008 at age 15 for Club America’s youth academy. On Sunday, he started at right back and helped Las Aguilas win the 2014 Liga MX Apertura crown. Alvarado played with poise and shut down Tigres winger Damian Alvarez, who was red-carded in the 67th minute for taking a swing at Alvarado after being dispossessed. Alvarado, who worked his way up through Club America’s youth teams, made his league debut with a four-minute appearance in February 2013, was loaned out to second division Necaxa, and returned to Las Aguilas this season.
Alvarado made his first start in November, sat out the quarterfinals, but started both legs of the semifinals and final. With dual citizenship, he’s eligible for the national teams of Mexico and the USA and recently said he would consider both.
Another U.S. product, Texan 27-year-old Jose Torres -- winner of the Clausura 2007 crown with Pachuca -- started in left midfield for Tigres. He hit a couple impressive cross-field passes but Club America dominated the midfield. Las Vegas product Herculez Gomez didn’t get off the Tigres bench.
2. Club America surpasses Chivas Guadalajara.
Chivas Guadalajara has given its fans very little in recent years but at least they could pride themselves on being record champion winners. That changed on Sunday as archrival Club America moved ahead of Chivas with a 12th title. Las Aguilas won their 11th in 2013 under Coach Miguel Herrera, now at the national team helm, and finished runner-up to Leon in the Apertura 2013.
Club America and Tigres finished 1-2 in the regular-season standings, but Tigres’ offense sputtered in the postseason. A pair of scoreless ties with Toluca in the semifinals sent Tigres to the final and they were fortunate to eke out a 1-0 first-leg final in Nuevo Leon.
Playing at home in front of a sold-out Azteca Stadium, Club America had little trouble containing the Tigres offense and after a scrappy half hour leveled the aggregate score when Ecuadoran Michael Arroyo intercepted a midfield pass, stormed toward the goal, and unleashed a rocket from the corner of the goal area that beat keeper Nahuel Guzman at the near post. Paraguayan Pablo Aguilar made it 2-0 in the 61st minute when he headed, facing away from the goal, a chipped free kick from Rubens Sambueza from the midfield that looped over Guzman. After that, Tigres imploded.
3. Strict ref gets it right.
Tigres especially, but both parties came out as if fouling was a key strategy, and referee Paul Delgadillo responded appropriately – with a quick whistle and five first-half yellow cards.
The game finally found some rhythm in the second half, but after Aguilar’s go-ahead goal the Tigres' panic began in earnest. Hernan Burbano -- who entered the game one minute earlier for Torres -- grabbed and pulled down Miguel Layun on a breakaway -- and received the first red card in the 63rd minute. Delgadillo had no choice but to send off Alvarez three minutes later for a roundhouse that fortunately didn’t make contact. The third man out was goalkeeper Guzman, who got a second yellow when he kicked Arroyo in the stomach on a sloppy slide tackle. Playing 11-v-8, Oribe Peralta scored the third America goal in the 78th minute.
The count at the end: two yellows and a red for Club America, whose Luis Angel Mendoza was sent off in the 79th minute during a post-goal melee; six yellows, three reds for Tigres.
The verdict: Delgadillo called it right and Club America is deserving champion.
TRIVIA. Club America coach Antonio Mohamed, an Argentine who starred for Toros Neza as a striker in the 1990s, was also coach of Tijuana when it won the Apertura 2012 title with U.S. products Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Greg Garza.
Dec. 14 in Mexico City
Club America 3 Tigres 0. Goals: Arroyo 36, Aguilar 61, Peralta 78.
Club America -- Mares, Alvarado (Martinez, 83), Munoz, Goltz, Molina, Arroyo, Aguilar, Sambueza (Mendoza, 72), Layun, Peralta, Zuniga (Valenzuela, 64).
Tigres -- Guzman, Ayala, Arevalo, Torres Nilo, Guerron (Palos, 73), Alvarez, Torres (Burbano, 62), Pizarro, Duenas, Lugo (Villa, 46), Rivas. Red cards: Club America -- Mendoza 79; Tigres -- Burbano 64, Alvarez 67, Guzman 72.
(America wins 3-1 on aggregate).