America and Michael Arroyo dismantle Tigres to repeat as CCL champions
MEXICO CITY -- With goals from Osvaldo Martinez from the spot and Michael "Miky" Arroyo, America defeated Tigres by a final score of 2-1 in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final, with the aggregate score of 4-1 sealing a second consecutive CCL title for Las Aguilas.
It was the first trophy for manager Ignacio "Nacho" Ambriz since taking over at America and earns the team a spot at the Club World Cup in December.
Here are three takeaways from Estadio Azteca.
1. America's all-attack strategy gets job done
In the second leg of the CCL final, Ambriz decided to include three forwards in his starting XI: Oribe Peralta, Dario "Pipa" Benedetto and Darwin Quintero. By including these three, the manager sent a message to the crowd and to Tigres that Las Aguilas were going to try to add more goals to their 2-0 lead.
During the first 30 minutes, Ambriz's strategy was running as planned with Rubens Sambueza sending key passes to the forwards; America's attacking surges led by the speedy Quintero carried more ideas with them than Tigres, whose surges tended to end with crosses that landed far from Andre-Pierre Gignac or Rafael Sobis' reach.
However, America was unable to convert in any of its attacking surges. The attacking moves, though dangerous, hardly bothered Nahuel Guzman, who didn't have to make a top save to keep Tigres in the game.
America's confused state began towards the end of the first half, when Gignac sent home a goal that momentarily gave Tigres a 1-0 lead. Gignac's goal came after Tigres' best build-up play in the first 45 minutes.
The goal didn't quiet the Estadio Azteca crowd, who sensed another title was coming their way, but there was a section that didn't make a noise as Gignac rushed to the heart of the pitch and hurried his team to restart the match right away.
Ambriz's plan started to break apart once Quintero left the pitch with an apparent muscular injury. For the second half, Andres Andrade moved in the same part of the field as Quintero, but Andrade couldn't provide the surprising spark the Colombian gave to Los Azulcremas in the first half.
Without Quintero, America started to look like the team that was coming off two consecutive Liga MX losses. Even if Ambriz set up multiple attack-minded players on the field, America's ideas in the final third were very limited and nowhere near to the ones the club showed in its five game Liga MX winning streak. The complications that were starting to arise on the field were resolved by one man, from Ecuador international Michael "Miky" Arroyo.
2. Michael "Miky" Arroyo lights up the night
Arroyo doesn't complain if he starts most of the games on the bench. He accepts the coach's decisions and whenever he's given the shot to take the field he plays as if it will be his last match. Arroyo's goals and dribbling give Americanistas reason to come to the stadium.
His goal, which at the time gave America the 1-1 draw on the night, was worth the hundreds of pesos it cost to attend the second leg of the final and witness America win its seventh CONCACAF club title.
In the 2014 Apertura final, at Azteca, Arroyo also scored a goal that got the crowd going. In that final, the opponent was also Tigres.
Tigres has turned into the team that Arroyo likes scoring goals against and that makes Azteca go into total mayhem as was the case on Wednesday night. Arroyo has already won over the America crowd, and that in itself is something to be proud of because few players have been able to do it. Ask Carlos Reinoso or Cuauhtemoc Blanco?
Arroyo's individual play will be the kind that Ambriz and Americanistas will remember for many years. And if Ambriz decides to leave him on the bench in the next match, Arroyo will not complain because that's how "Miky" is.
3. Tigres with two games to save season
At El Coloso de Santa Ursula, Tigres wanted to show an intense desire to prolong the final and take it all the way to extra-time. Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti didn't want his team to lose this final without a fight, but they did very little to intimidate America. The teams troubles in the last few months are real, if not hard to pinpoint, but certainly troubling for fans and players alike.
Tigres, a team that has been built to be one of Liga MX's main title contenders, has dramatically fallen. Clearly they intend to continue competing against teams like Monterrey, America, Pachuca and Leon, but its football ideas have become repetitive and proven to be easily dismantled by its opponents.
The current Liga MX defending champion has two remaining games to save a first half of 2016 that's not looking memorable for Gignac, Ferretti and teammates.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.