Liga MX rivals to wrestle over Concachampions trophy

Rogelio Funes Mori (left) and Bruno Valdez (right) will see plenty of each other when Monterrey faces América in tongiht's CCL final. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)
Rogelio Funes Mori (left) and Bruno Valdez (right) will see plenty of each other when Monterrey faces América in tongiht's CCL final. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) /
Liga MX CCL, El Tri Ecuador
El Tri goalie Jonathan Orozco couldn’t stop this shot by Ecuador’s Janner Alman as a Mexico side comprised solely of Liga MX players came up short in a friendly Wednesday night. (Photo by PETER ZAY/AFP via Getty Images) /

A Liga MX team is guaranteed to lift the Concacaf Champions League trophy for a 16th consecutive time as América and Monterrey square off for regional bragging rights – and a big chunk of change – on Thursday night.

The Aguilas – comfortably atop the Liga MX table with two weekends to go – will be vying for their first Concachampions title since winning back-to-back in 2015 and 2016.

The Rayados last won in 2019 and a victory at home against América tonight would give them five CCL cups in the past 11 seasons, including a three-peat (2011-2012-2013).

Going simply on league form, América is the clear favorite. The Aguilas are on a four-game Liga MX win streak and have lost only once all season while the Rayados have lost four straight. The slump has seen Monterrey tumble from second place into seventh.

Long Liga MX season taking its toll

The Aguilas do have some injury issues to deal with. Defender Bruno Valdez injured his knee against Santos on Oct. 19 and though not considered serious, the club does not want to risk further damage heading into the playoffs. Even so, the Paraguayan hardman will be making the trip to Monterrey.

Another defender, Sebastián Cáceres picked up a knock last week as did midfielder Pedro Aquino. Both are considered game-time decisions. Fullback Jorge Sánchez came on as a sub against the Tigres last week and is considered fit after missing the previous two matches.

Unavailable for coach Santiago Solari are jack-of-all-trades Miguel Layún (he was with Monterrey when the Concachampions started in April so can’t play for América) and winger Mauro Lainez who suffered a thigh injury against Santos Laguna.

As for the Rayados, winger Duvan Vergara is out. The fleet Colombian suffered a concussion against Necaxa on Saturday. Also missing the final will be defender Héctor Moreno who got injured in training on Tuesday. The stalwart back-liner is in his first season back in Liga MX since leaving the Pumas for Europe in 2007.

The two Mexican teams qualified for the CCL final back in September. Monterrey dominated fellow Liga MX club Cruz Azul on a 5-1 aggregate while América swept past MLS side Philadelphia Union with a pair of 2-0 wins.

The winner of the Concachampions title will represent the region in the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates early next year. Last year’s champion was Monterrey’s crosstown rivals, Liga MX powerhouse Tigres.

Martino’s Not Ready for Prime Time Players lose to Ecuador

A Mexico team comprised exclusively of Liga MX players came up short against a second-choice Ecuador side in an international friendly in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The South American team only created three chances all game, but all three ended up in the back of the net thanks to errors by multiple players. Mexico looked sharp in stretches but uncertain and hesitant in key moments. That was to be expected since coach “Tata” Martino was forced to assemble a makeshift the roster as several Liga MX clubs declined to make players available.

Jonathan Orozco had a chance to stake a claim to the back-up goalie position and win a spot on El Tri’s Qatar 2022 roster, but he came up small. The Tijuana keeper faced two first-half shots and both ended up behind him. The second was one he should have handled.

Another player who has been a regular call-up this year – left back Osvaldo Rodríguez – also turned in a poor performance despite a brilliant second-half goal to momentarily tie up the game. The León man served up Ecuador’s first goal by heading a clearance back into the middle of the box instead of out of bounds. He also fell asleep on a throw-in, allowing his man to get behind him to tap in the game-winner. In addition, Osvi had three decent overlapping runs that he squandered with atrocious centering passes.

A couple of youngsters disappointed, too.

Pundits have been promoting Toluca defender Haret Ortega, 21, as deserving of a chance with the senior team, but he looked overwhelmed at times in central defense. He and José Ramírez were beaten on Ecuador’s second goal, failing to cover a simple give-and-go inside the box.

Cruz Azul striker Santi Giménez, 20, has a bright future but he is still years away from being a contributor with El Tri. Still not even a starter with the Cementeros, Giménez did not shine on Wednesday night. He did get the assist on Mexico’s first goal with a nice individual effort and played a part in the build-up for the second goal, but he twice badly shanked shots that he should have gotten on net. And he missed the target after being sent in alone by Liga MX teammate Alvarado.