Vucetich's Queretaro eyes first major title in Copa MX final clash vs. Chivas
MEXICO CITY -- The city of Queretaro has been waiting for another shot at a title since Los Gallos Blancos lost to Santos Laguna in the 2015 Clausura final by an aggregate score of 5-3. On Wednesday, the team will host Chivas in the 2016 Apertura Copa MX final. Tickets for the game are already sold out.
In Victor Manuel Vucetich, Queretaro has one of the most successful coaches in the history of Mexican football, while Chivas have Matias Almeyda, perhaps the most popular manager in Liga MX at present.
"At the international level, without a doubt, bringing Ronaldinho was highly significant because of the special place he holds in world football. But in Mexico, right now we have the most successful head coach. That's why they call him King Midas," Queretaro president Arturo Villanueva said in an interview with ESPN FC.
"We have great chemistry with [Vucetich] and our communication is phenomenal ... Although there were plenty of rumors suggesting a disconnect between [Vucetich] and the club's directors, he is still with us because our communication has always been positive. Every week we come together to have dinner, and I think that by forming a great team we have a well-balanced squad."
Queretaro's season has had plenty of ups and downs, which have in turn driven the club out of the Liga MX playoff picture. However, in order to get to the cup final it had to defeat teams like Cruz Azul and Toluca.
"We're an uncomfortable opponent for every team." said Vucetich after Queretaro eliminated Toluca in the semifinals in a penalty shootout that finished 8-7. "If we hadn't eliminated Cruz Azul (in the Copa MX quarterfinals) all the teams with the most titles in Mexico would have been in the semifinals.
"But us -- the ugly duckling -- we gave the surprise and now we're in the final."
Although Vucetich referred to his squad as the "ugly duckling" of the tournament, Almeyda is aware that getting a win in Queretaro will not be easy.
"It will be a difficult opponent, with great players and one of the most winningest head coaches in Mexican football.
"I always enjoy taking part in a final, and we're going for the Copa MX," he said after Chivas' 3-2 win over Cruz Azul on Saturday.
Vucetich record in finals reads 13 wins in 15 appearances. He has already led clubs like Tigres and Cruz Azul to Copa MX wins, while Almeyda could guide Chivas to their second Copa MX championship in a little over a year in charge of El Rebano Sagrado.
After eliminating Club America in the semifinals, Chivas' morale is high. Players like Javier Eduardo "Chofis" Lopez, Alan Pulido, Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez and Oswaldo Alanis believe that Wednesday's game is a great chance to prove to Almeyda that they're ready to be in the Liga MX starting XI.
"We work everyday to make history, but to create a successful period in the club requires of time ... We have to go step by step," said Alanis on Monday.
Winning on Wednesday night would put Chivas in a great position to enter the Liguilla in top form, which could allow them to go all the way to the final and win a league championship.
In contrast, the 2015 league final against Santos is still present in the Queretaro camp. The scenes of that daunting first leg, where Santos obliterated Queretaro 5-0, continue to be a topic of conversation.
"Well, I think that one thing we messed up on in the final against Santos was that we started off in bad fashion," said left-back Jonathan Bornstein when asked what Queretaro will have to do in order to win its first official first-division title in its 66-year history. "We had two completely different games, one in Torreon and the other one here in Queretaro. We got off to a bad start because we were losing from the beginning.
"What we have to do is take advantage of the fact that we're playing at home. We have to give our all from the start because the first minutes of the match are going to be important. If we give a good performance from the start, we'll have a better chance of winning."
A win for Queretaro would mean that the team is heading in the right direction with its serious long-term planning. Villanueva noted to ESPN FC that he wants Queretaro to keep being "a club that's making its youth academy stronger and a team that forges its own footballers."
Meanwhile, a Chivas win would mean that with Almeyda, the club has finally recuperated the mentality and hunger needed to win one title after another.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.