Miguel Herrera still assembling the pieces needed to revitalize Club America
MEXICO CITY -- Miguel "Piojo" Herrera's return to Club America is still at its early stages. There's a building process that's still undergoing and explains why America suffered back-to-back losses to Queretaro in the last two weeks. Herrera's joviality is intact, knowing that in the following weeks his team is bound to show improvements, but it won't be easy because Las Aguilas' next three league games include a visit to Pachuca, a Clasico Capitalino against Pumas at Estadio Azteca and a visit to Atlas.
"This season we started with a loss, knowing that the team was going to try to execute what we wanted out from them, but we had several absences," Herrera began to describe to the press on Thursday afternoon the team's current state. "Obviously, the demand in this team is to always win. The team's obligation is to go out to every match with the idea of winning, but we have to note that [this Saturday], we have an opponent with a great squad, which is well worked and recently won the league. We have to be very alert in order to get a good result."
Ahead of their clash against Pachuca, Herrera is scheduled to have all of his players available, specifically center-backs Pablo Aguilar and Edson Alvarez, defensive midfielder Guido Rodriguez and winger Renato Ibarra. Ibarra's presence is still not totally confirmed because the coaching staff wants to be sure that the Ecuadorian is 100 percent fit before he returns to the pitch.
Without a doubt, Rodriguez's league debut with America is one that will take most of the spotlight because of what he was able to achieve at Tijauna in such a quick manner. The Argentine midfielder couldn't make an appearance in last week's debut because he was still carrying a suspension from the Clausura, but there's expectation as to how he will lead the team from the midfield.
Carlos Vargas, who played alongside Rodriguez in Tijuana and is now his teammate at America, knows what to expect. "Guido [Rodriguez] is fundamental in any team because he holds the midfield. I played with him at Xolos and he was the player that kept the midfield tight.
"He's a fundamental player for the team's midfield to be strong," Vargas said.
On Pachuca's current home unbeaten streak, which is months away from turning two-years-old, Herrera is not worried, but he's an admirer of how Pachuca works as a club. "[Its squad] doesn't scare us. We know that it's a strong team like Pachuca has always been.
"It's a team that works great with its academy, always brings great players, and most importantly it's a club that always supports its manager. Even when good results don't come along, the directors are always supporting the manager. They [the directors] give the manager the possibility to work and to do so freely.
"It's going to be a tough game, but we want the three points," he said.
One of the aspects that's currently incomplete in America's tactical scheme is how Herrera intends to make the team's attack more dynamic. In Las Aguilas' 1-0 loss to Queretaro in Week 1, it was hard to distinguish who was going to be the player that will take the ball from the midfield to the forwards. There are players like Manuel Perez, who got his first league start with America last Saturday, and William da Silva, who tend to shine in the final third, that could become two of Herrera's main offensive generators. However, in the following hours, the club is set to announce a new signing, which could immediately have an influential role in the team.
"We always look for high-quality players," said Herrera when asked if America was looking on making a big splash signing. "At the end, I look for great quality players, than players with the big name. I did it the last time I was here when I brought in [Rubens] Sambueza, and everyone criticized me for it. Sambueza exceeded the crowd's expectations and mine.
"Sometimes you bring a player with a big name, and he doesn't work out. It's not about paying high fees for paying high fees," he continued. "It's about bringing in a player that can improve your team.
"If there's money, we'll go for the player we like, and that's why we went for Jonathan dos Santos. It's not that he was expensive or that we didn't have the money. Really! He was practically ours, but he made another decision."
Herrera's revelation of how close "Jona" was on joining the team was a loud secret among the press, but for Herrera to confirm the details, it did leave the press conference area a bit shaken because had America brought in Jona, the club was going to have a player in the squad who had publicly stated his admiration and love for the club.
Jona is exactly the type of midfielder America is looking for because of his ability to take the ball from the midfield into the final third. Alongside Rodriguez, America would have likely had the best midfield tandem in Liga MX; it would have been an ideal tag team.
But Las Aguilas are still searching and the names that have been brought up are Uruguay's Nahitan Nandez, who's currently Penarol's captain, and Colombia's Mateus Uribe, who Herrera described as "the best Colombian footballer playing in Colombia."
The visit to Pachuca will be dangerous, and it's clear that Herrera's America is still missing pieces to complete its puzzle, but once everything comes together, the team will have all the tools to once again return to the top of the league.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.