América in search of defensive help, Cruz Azul desperate for offense

America defender Sebastián Cáceres returned to action after surgery on his broken nose, but the Liga MX giants still need defensive help. (Photo by RODRIGO OROPEZA/AFP via Getty Images)
America defender Sebastián Cáceres returned to action after surgery on his broken nose, but the Liga MX giants still need defensive help. (Photo by RODRIGO OROPEZA/AFP via Getty Images) /
Liga MX transfer deadline finale
Ricardo Carbajal won his first two Liga MX games as interim manager so Puebla rewarded him with a contract to finish the season. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Before Jimmy Lozano and El Tri absorb the spotlight tonight (and for a day or two thereafter as the required post-mortem takes place), we still have a few hours to check up on Liga MX affairs.

We recently touched upon some important transactions (Marcelo Flores joining Tigres, Chivas scooping up Teun Wilke, the return of “Tecatito” to Monterrey and Tijuana’s recruiting efforts), but there are a few other items worth mentioning.

Item No. 1: Puebla announced that interim coach Ricardo Carbajal will hold down the job for the remainder of the Apertura 2023. Carbajal took over after Eduardo Arce was fired following Matchday 5 as a result of the Camoteros’ 0-1-4 start.

Under Carbajal – previously the director of the club’s reserve and academy teams – “La Franja” has registered two wins from two home games (1-0 over FC Juárez; 3-0 over Tijuana). As a result, ownership decided it would be most beneficial (and certainly cheaper) for the 54-year-old manager to finish out the Liga MX season.

Liga MX title hopeful scrambling for defensive help

As always, the Aguilas entertain hopes of claiming the Liga MX title (which would be a league-record 14th) and they undeniably have the offensive firepower to be considered legitimate contenders.

Defense was always seen as the question mark and injuries to nominal starters Sebastián Cáceres and Néstor Araujo made for tough slogging in the early going.

On Matchday 1, “Los Azulcremas” coughed up two late goals at home to lose to FC Juárez and on Matchday 5 André Jardine’s men conceded two goals a Necaxa team that had found the net just once in its four previous games.

Araujo is about to return from rehab a knee injury but last weekend top reserve Israel Reyes went down with a serious calf injury that will sideline him indefinitely.

Now GM Santiago Baños is even more desperate to acquire a top-line defender before the transfer window slams shut on Sept. 13.

This week, América made a bid for Paraguay international Junior Alonso who plays for FC Krasnodar in Russia though the latest report has the 30-year-old turning down the offer to join the Liga MX giants.

This despite the intense recruiting efforts of Richard Sánchez who is with Alonso and Paraguay as “Los Guaraníes” start their Conmebol qualifying campaign.

Baños quickly turned his attention to Gonzalo Piovi, a 29-year-old Argentine back-liner who currently toils for Racing Club de Avellaneda.

All this comes after the Aguilas wasted considerable time trying to convince El Tri stud César Montes to come back to Liga MX, but “El Cachorro” insisted on staying in Europe.

If Piovi can’t be swayed by the millions América is waving at him, coach Jardine might have to resort to outscoring opponents if he hopes to chase Liga MX hardware.

Cementeros front office continues to flounder

At a sorry 1-1-5, Cruz Azul is off to its worst start since 2004 and a lack of scoring punch gets most of the blame. But the real problem is the ineptitude in the front office which has been on display throughout the summer.

The Cementeros fired Ricardo Ferretti after three games, scapegoating the legendary manager despite failing to provide him with a single offensive player from his wish list.

Ten days ago, “La Máquina” acquired journeyman Angel Sepúlveda from Querétaro but Cementeros Nation viewed that move as stop-gap at best.

In a last-ditch effort to salvage the season or at least keep it from becoming downright embarrassing (making the Liga MX playoffs seems remote even at this early stage), team president Víctor Velázquez has ordered his staff to acquire a goal-scorer post-haste.

One target was Brazilian Joao Figueiredo (with Turkey’s Basaksehir) but he moved to the top of the line only because Colombian starlet Santos Borré (Germany’s Werder Bremen). The only problem is that Velázquez has so badly managed team finances that he is requiring the front office to negotiate a loan deal … with the promise that they will buy out the contract after the season.

Borré laughed off the offer as did Charlotte FC forward Enzo Copetti. And as Figueiredo seemed poised to reject a move to Cruz Azul, Cementeros Nation exploded in fury on social media.

Now “La Máquina” is all in on Gonzalo Mastriani, but that will be a tough one for fans to swallow. Mastriani, 30, plays in Brazil’s second division and also played in Mexico’s second division back in 2016-2017. Not exactly a glowing résumé.

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So now the question is will Velázquez & Co bring in a body just for appearances sake or will they bite the bullet and ask interim manager Joaquín Moreno to make do with the players currently in the locker room? Either way, skeptical Cruz Azul fans are bracing for a long, long season.