All eyes were on Julián Quiñones as he took the field at Estadio Azteca Saturday night. The four-time Liga MX champion (with Atlas) was making his first appearance in a Club América shirt.
Quiñones did not disappoint, getting a goal and an assist to help the mighty Aguilas coast past Puebla 3-0. The athletic 26-year-old forward made his debut complete with a goal in minute 87 before departing with a standing ovation a few minutes into stoppage time.
Just 35 minutes into the match, JQ led Kevin Álvarez into the box and the right back fired past Jesús Rodríguez for a 1-0 lead. That was a debut goal for Álvarez – a Liga MX champ with Pachuca – who was acquired from the Tuzos for a hefty 11 million-dollar fee.
Quiñones’ debut goal was long in coming. The speedy Colombian was denied on a 1-on-1 break by Rodríguez, saw a header off a corner kick graze the outside of the left post and had a goal annulled for offside. Diego Valdés made up for being offside in minute 87, launching the move that led to Quiñones’ goal, an easy tap-in at the back post off a feed from Brian Rodríguez.
Liga MX debutantes
The absence of top players during the opening weeks of the Apertura 2023 season (on national team duty) has forced a few coaches to dip into their clubs’ academy systems.
Cruz Azul coach Ricardo Ferretti gave four players their Liga MX debuts on Opening Night. Defenders Alan Zubiri, 22, Josue Díaz, 19, and Luis Iturbide, 21 as well as Raymundo Rubio, 22, can now call themselves Liga MX players.
Three other Cementeros made their Liga MX debuts during that 2-0 loss at Atlas – Brazilian forward Moises Vieira, Colombian midfielder Kevin Castaño and Colombian forward Dider Cambindo. These veterans are expected to help Cruz Azul contend for the title but an 0-0-3 start makes even the Liga MX playoff berth seem like a long shot.
Guadalajara coach Veljko Paunovic had a much better experience than Ferretti with debutantes. The Serbian manager granted three debuts on Opening Night and came away with a big 2-1 road win at León.
Juan Brigido, 21, Yael Padilla, 17, and Raúl Martínez, 21, stepped on a Liga MX pitch for the first time and made key contributions.
Brigido served up a lovely pass to skipper Víctor Guzmán with the score tied in minute 76, but “El Pocho” rocketed his shot off the left post. Just 5 minutes later, Guzmán sent Padilla into the right side of the box and the teenager slotted him inside the near post.
Padilla scored again on Matchday 2 and this weekend Brigido notched this first Liga MX goal, pumping in the Chivas’ first in the club’s 2-0 win vs. Necaxa.
Other Liga MX firsts
After 17 years with Cruz Azul, Julio César Domínguez was released by the Cementeros. It didn’t take long for the veteran defender to find work with another Liga MX club and “Cata” now wears an Atlético de San Luis kit.
On Saturday afternoon in front of his new fans, the 35-year-old back-liner scored his first goal as a Tunero against visiting Querétaro.
Dieter Villalpando’s minute 53 corner kick flew through a scrum of players untouched before bouncing in the middle of the box. Domínguez, unmarked at the back post, sprung forward and powered a header into the roof of the net from 12 meters and San Luis led 3-1 in a game they would eventually win 4-1. “Cata” scored 17 goals in 657 games during his 35 seasons with Cruz Azul.
As an added note, the victory was the first for new Atlético de San Luis coach, Gustavo Leal. Leal, a Brazilian in his first Liga MX job, took over for countryman André Jardine who took the América job.
Speaking of the Aguilas, Saturday’s 3-0 win over Puebla was the first with the Aguilas for Jardine who is expected to do nothing less than to guide “Los Azulcremas” to their 14th Liga MX title.
With three players on Gold Cup duty (goalie Luis Malagón, defender Israel Reyes and forward Henry Martín), Jardine was able to give two youngsters their Liga MX debuts on Saturday.
Winger Bruce El Mesmari, 21, and forward Patricio Salas, 19, made their professional debuts, albeit brief ones. Both rookies entered the match in stoppage time.
At the other end of the age spectrum, grizzled veteran Jesús Corona earned his first victory between the pipes with Tijuana. After the long-time Cruz Azul skipper was released this past offseason, the 42-year-old netminder wasted no time in finding a new job.
Although “Chuy” will have to contend with José Antonio Rodríguez when the latter returns from Gold Cup duty, he will provide coach Miguel Herrera with security in goal.