Goals a no-show as Liga MX kicks off Apertura 2021

Bruno Valdes reacts after his header soared over the Querétaro crossbar as América and the Gallos played to a scoreless draw. (Photo by HECTOR HERNANDEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Bruno Valdes reacts after his header soared over the Querétaro crossbar as América and the Gallos played to a scoreless draw. (Photo by HECTOR HERNANDEZ/AFP via Getty Images) /
Liga MX season opener
Neither América nor Querétaro could find the net in the Liga MX season opener Thursday night. (Photo by HECTOR HERNANDEZ/AFP via Getty Images) /

Liga MX Opening Night turned out to be a dud as América visited Querétaro and played to a scoreless draw.

The highlights from the first game of the Apertura 2021 season can be summed up in one paragraph:

One minute into the second half, Querétaro striker Nico Sosa flubbed a great scoring chance when Bryan Oliveira led him into the box with a lovely 40-yard diagonal pass. Sosa’s shot attempt clattered off his shin guard and skidded wide.

That slice was one of only four shots the Gallos Blancos managed all game, while América sprayed 14 of its 16 shots wide of the frame.

América flutters and flounders

If Aguilas fans had one complaint about Santiago Solari’s first season in charge it would be that the club too often settled into a pragmatic style instead of the physical, quick-strike approach favored by his predecessor Miguel Herrera, who led América to two Liga MX titles.

Other than the occasional flourish from striker Roger Martínez, there was not much spark from the Aguilas Thursday night, and, eventually, a the club settled into – dare we say it – pragmatism.

As if to augur that the Apertura 2021 would feature more of the same approach, Solari went with a graybeard defense to start the game.

Left-to-right along the back line were Luis Fuentes (34), Emanuel Aguilera (32), Bruno Valdez (28) and Miguel Layún (33). Valdez, the youngster of the group, is already starting his 11th season as a professional, while Fuentes debuted with the Pumas back in August 2007.

New acquisition Salvador Reyes, a 23-year-old fullback who showed considerable flair with Puebla last season, came on for Fuentes in minute 60, but the Aguilas lacked inspiration in midfield.

To be fair, América is among the Liga MX teams most impacted by national team obligations. Four Aguilas are in Tokyo with El Tri Olímpico (goalie Memo Ochoa, defender Jorge Sánchez, midfielder Sebastián Córdova and forward Henry Martín all started in Mexico’s 4-1 win over France).

Roster turnover in Liga MX epitomized by Querétaro

When Fernando Madrigal made his Aguilas debut in minute 77, América had just as many players from last season’s Gallos roster on the field as did Querétaro when the game started – 1.

The offseason roster overhaul undertaken by Querétaro was quite evident in the season opener.

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The Gallos Blancos featured 10 new faces against América in the starting line-up. Defender Alexis Doldán was the lone holdover from last season.

The new faces (with last season’s team in parentheses):

Goalie Washington Aguerre (Uruguay’s Cerro Largo), defenders Betsiel Hernández (Santos Laguna), Maxi Perg (Puebla) and Kevin Balanta (Xolos), midfielders David Cabrera (Necaxa), Raúl Torres (on loan from Tigres) and Osvaldo Martínez (Paraguay’s Sol de América), plus forwards Pablo Barrera (Atlético de San Luis), Bryan Oliveira (Uruguay’s CA Fénix) and Nico Sosa (León).

The first sub into the game for the Gallos (to start the second half) was Omar Mendoza who most recently played for Tijuana.

Coach Héctor Altamirano has his work cut out for him, trying to fit together so many new pieces while striving to remain relevant (the Gallos finished 12th last season, claiming the final Liga MX playoff spot only to get routed 5-0 by Santos Laguna.

Pumas reunion, and a debut

América’s left back Luis Fuentes played against two former teammates, fellow Pumas academy grads Pablo Barrera and David Cabrera. The three were members of UNAM’s Liga MX title-winning squad in the Clausura 2009 season.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Karel Campos was 6 years old when the Pumas hoisted that trophy in May 2009. On Thursday, the 18-year-old Campos made his Liga MX debut for América.

The playmaking midfielder was playing for the club’s Under-17 team last year, but was registered with the senior squad, coming on in minute 85 for Álvaro Fidalgo who put on an uninspired display. Campos didn’t have enough time to show fans what he offers, but coach Solari will not be happy with Fidalgo’s performance since he gave the Spaniard the keys to the offense this summer.

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Liga MX fans will now have to wait until Friday night for the first goal of the Apertura 2021 season. Surely we’ll see someone bulge the old onion bag either in Aguascalientes (Santos Laguna at Necaxa) or in Cd. Juárez (Toluca at FC Juárez).