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America looks to rebound

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America is now Mohamed's

Antonio Mohamed has Club America firing on all cylinders.
Antonio Mohamed has Club America firing on all cylinders.

It's not easy replacing a living legend like Miguel Herrera. "El Piojo" and the memories of that rain-soaked, vibrant, improbable 2013 Clausura championship will live in the hearts of Aguilas fans for many, many years.

Unlike Herrera, a favorite son of the Mexican populace who is more recently known as the savior of the beloved Mexico national team, current Club America coach Antonio Mohamed is a foreigner, an Argentine.

It probably didn't help that compared to the lovable Herrera, Mohamed is far less cuddly and not nearly as imposing. "El Turco" doesn't really tweet, doesn't take numerous selfies, and certainly doesn't crack as many jokes.

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Perhaps the death of his young son, Faryd, in a car accident at the 2006 World Cup in Germany is part of the reason Mohamed is a serious sort.

Or perhaps an event like that puts life into perspective, which could be part of the reason Mohamed was far more reasonable and diplomatic about Club America's exit from the Liga MX playoffs last season than one would expect the emotional Herrera to be.

Though Herrera is still revered by Club America fans, even his most fervent supporters will probably admit his final match as a club coach was notable for the number of complaints he had about the game officials.

Club America's first season with Mohamed at the helm was an odd combination of frustration from fans not accustomed to losing and a wait-and-see approach from the powerful club directors who had chosen the coach. For some people, the coach known mainly for his run with the upstart Tijuana Xolos still had a lot to prove.

It's now only five games into the Liga MX season, and even the most ardent Herrera follower has to like what Mohamed's club is doing. The Aguilas have played five matches and earned five wins. The team is top of the Liga MX table. It's not possible to do better.

Interestingly, Club America had more reason than most teams in Mexico to plead a World Cup hangover as an excuse for any players struggling or falling out of form. The club contributed more players to the El Tri squad than any other team.

Mohamed hasn't allow his players to lose focus, though. He's done this partly by putting players on the spot about their responsibility to the club. He's also rotated players old and new at the club so that everyone on the roster believes that if they train well, they will earn game time.

When Raul Jimenez was weighing options from clubs abroad, Mohamed didn't hesitate to call him out, saying that the young striker was distracted and that the negotiations were affecting his play. The implied threat of less playing time was obvious in Mohamed's remarks. Jimenez responded in spectacular fashion, scoring a trio of goals in his next match and earning a transfer to Spain.

Again, Mohamed did not allow that big news to divert the attention of his players from the task at hand. He put out a strong lineup against Morelia in league play this past weekend and was rewarded with 3-2 victory. New signing Oribe Peralta scored the winning goal, one that displayed how well he has meshed with his new teammates.

While Peralta's goal had America fans cheering, they are in a way lauding Mohamed's moves and tactics, as well. He has relegated Herrera to a fond memory for supporters instead of a constant standard of comparison. People are excited about what this squad can do next, including in other competitions like the CONCACAF Champions League. While it's still early, some are already discussing whether an undefeated season is possible for Club America.

Mohamed isn't an Internet meme, and he's not as colorful or lively on the sideline as Herrera is. But Mohamed is competitive, intense and calculating -- and all these factors have added up to propel Club America on a wave of momentum this season.

The past is in the past. It's Turco's team now.

Andrea Canales covers both Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter @soccercanales.


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