Cruz Azul says adios to pair of legends as roster facelift under way

Jesús Corona (left) and Julio César Domínguez hoist the trophy that ended 24 years of frustration for Cruz Azul. The two legends were sent packing by the club recently. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Jesús Corona (left) and Julio César Domínguez hoist the trophy that ended 24 years of frustration for Cruz Azul. The two legends were sent packing by the club recently. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /
Cruz Azul face lift
Julio César Dominguez is leaving Cruz Azul after 17 years during which time he set the all-time club record for games played (657). Here, “Cata” (right) grapples with Matías Vuoso during a 2008 contest. (Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

It wouldn’t be Cruz Azul without overwrought drama following yet another early postseason elimination.

Only a month after “La Máquina Azul” knocked out of the playoffs in the wildcard stage by Atlas, the Cruz Azul brain trust has been working feverishly to remake the roster … with limited success.

Two long-time Cementeros were given their walking papers – not without considerable hand-wringing (though a certain cohort of Cruz Azul fans cheered one-half of the decision).

Then the increasingly inept front office went to work trying to bring in new faces … with mixed results.

Bidding adios to a pair of Cruz Azul legends

The first big move by the Cementeros was the announcement that skipper Jesús Corona and defender Julio César Domínguez would not return to La Noria.

Corona, 42, made over 500 starts for Cruz Azul since joining the team in 2009, posting 130 clean sheets and leading the Cementeros to the Apertura 2021 Liga MX championship to end the club’s 24-year league title drought.

Domínguez, 35, joined the club at 15 and came up through the academy system, debuting with the senior team in 2006 at 18 years, 6 months.

“Cata” holds the all-time franchise record for appearances (657 games played) while also helping “La Máquina” win two Copa MX trophies, two SuperCups, a Champions Cup, a Concacaf Champions League title and the aforementioned 2021 Liga MX crown.

Unfortunately, “Cata” also had the habit of making bonehead mistakes at the worst posible time and over the past 10 years he became a favorite target of frustrated Cementeros fans who demanded he be sent packing.

Their departure came about ignominiously, particularly for Domínguez who hoped he’d retire with the only club he played for. Ownership presented the two “legends” with rather insulting, low-ball contract renewal offers and were promptly turned down. Thus ended their tenure with Cruz Azul.

Roster facelift off to bumpy start

A week or so after the Cementeros’ season ended on May 6, reports that Cruz Azul was acquiring Santos Laguna defender Matheus Doria and his teammate Eduardo “El Mudo” Aguirre, a young striker.

The Doria “acquisition” was met with great anticipation because when the Brazilian back-liner is healthy, he is one of the best central defenders in Liga MX.

However, this past week, Record sports daily indicated the talks had broken down. The clubs had agreed to terms, but Doria was balking at the contract he was being offered by Cruz Azul (less than he was getting from Santos).

It is said the Guerreros are fielding offers from other clubs so the Cementeros could be back to square one with regard to shoring up their defense.

On the other side of the ball, “La Máquina” has brought in two South Americans who will be tasked with boosting the team’s sluggish offense (the Cementeros scored just 21 goals in 18 matches, including the playoff game).

Coach Ricardo Ferretti will now have 26-year-old Brazilian Moises Vieira and 22-year-old Colombia international Kevin Costaño under his command.

Ferretti will also be reunited with defender Carlos Salcedo who played for “Tuca” at Tigres. Salcedo, 29, has struggled with inconsistency (his poor form saw him dropped from Mexico’s World Cup roster) but he bounced back this past season while with FC Juárez.

In addition to looking for another central defender (Ramiro Funes Mori was released after a second consecutive unimpressive season), Cruz Azul is in the hunt for a defensive midfielder to pair with Erik Lira.

There were strong rumors that “Tuca” was lobbying for Rafa Carioca who bossed midfield for Tigres the past decade, but he’ll be 34 later this month.

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So Cruz Azul still has work to do, but new GM Oscar Pérez is doing his best to put his stamp on the team even as higher-ups continue to meddle and dither. At least, he has been able to make a few additions early in the summer, unlike his predecessors who too often were still “fixing” the roster several weeks into the season.