It's early, but Cruz Azul appears to be in the midst of redefining itself
SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- The season's first four games don't provide enough of a sample size to make a definitive judgment on Cruz Azul's season, but they can offer hints that a once-insecure team with a habit of falling apart at the wrong time is turning things around. A valiant away draw at Tijuana's always-difficult pitch, earned with only 10 men from the 22nd minute on, made it clear that Cruz Azul is ready to move on from its recent period of uncertainty.
Any conclusions at this point would be conjecture, but let's go ahead and give Cruz Azul's faithful hope for what lies ahead.
The first thing that needs to be understood is that it's just Week 4 and nothing can be considered a sure thing, but this version of Cruz Azul looks and feels different. Could it be true?
In just a few weeks, Pedro Caixinha and his players have all but buried a term that was destined to become an entry in Spanish-language dictionaries. The word "Cruzazulear" -- the club name in verb form, if you will, meant to convey trademark epic collapses that have been the source of so much fan heartache -- has so far kept a distance from anything having to do with its namesake.
Give credit to Ricardo Pelaez, the legacy club's new sporting director, who since the preseason has provided order and direction, structure and a bridge between the coaching staff and front office.
On the field, Cruz Azul has the look of a team comfortable with itself.
An accomplished defense relies on one of the best in goal in Mexico in the past 30 years in Jose de Jesus Corona. The unit was further reinforced with the addition of Pablo Aguilar, his ejection Sunday for yellow-card accumulation aside.
In front of him are two players who have done an impeccable job of fixing the midfield, Rafael Baca and Ivan Marcone. The tireless Baca, who has added strength and personality to midfield, handles coverage and recuperation. Elias Hernandez and Edgar Mendez open up the field and fill it with fresh ideas. Young Roberto Alvarado has won a starting spot with his passing skills and constant participation.
Up front, Martin Cauteruccio and Milton Caraglio are charged with the scoring.
Cruz Azul has good form, depth and strength. It's beginning to show a style that generates confidence, which is obviously pleasing to its fans.
The club's woes won't simply disappear after four weeks. Still, beyond its productive start lies a sense that we're seeing a different club, one with conviction at crucial moments that hasn't been there.
There are a lot of games left to play to really convince ourselves that Cruz Azul has left its shortcomings behind. For now, the club seems to be burying any tendencies to Cruzazulear its season, and is instead broadcasting more positive vibes.
David Faitelson is based in Los Angeles and co-hosts "Nacion ESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation." Follow him on Twitter @Faitelson_ESPN.