Cecilio Dominguez, Club America turning a corner under Herrera
MEXICO CITY -- There hasn't been a day this week where news related to Club America hasn't made the front page of Mexico City's main sports newspapers. It's common to see Las Aguilas be the main talk of the town, especially now that their manager is Miguel "Piojo" Herrera. However, after Club America's 2-0 win over Pachuca at Estadio Hidalgo, the hype has been quite exaggerated, and there's a need to find middle ground. Ahead of their clash against Pumas in another edition of the Clasico Capitalino, America will arrive in Estadio Azteca after losing its first two home games in the new Herrera era.
There seems to be a persistent desire to once again see America commanding the league from the top. The win at Pachuca stoked a great degree of optimism around the club; after Cecilio Dominguez's brace against Los Tuzos, the press started tagging the word "idol" to his name. Dominguez is undoubtedly a special talent. He doesn't shy away from the critical moments and can be regarded as the daredevil that America will need in order to transcend come Liguilla time.
"I'm happy, but I don't get it in my head [the possibility of becoming a club idol]," said Dominguez on Tuesday as the club held a mixed zone at their training grounds. "The fans treat me well, and the fact that they call me [an idol] can end up affecting me.
"When we start winning titles, then maybe I can be regarded one," noted Dominguez, who's mature declarations are a good sign for what's ahead.
Dominguez missed most of last season due to a left shoulder injury, so this could be the season when Liga MX will see his skills and personality. In seven league starts over the two campaigns, he has scored five goals.
The glimpses he gave in Pachuca were eye-catching. His dribbles and his take-ons demonstrated a natural skill that left more than one fan in awe. Dominguez sways his body from one side to the other to confuse his marker, and when he sees an open space he takes off, leaving the defender exposed. He does what an America No. 10 must in order to win the respect of his teammates and the fans.
After the win against Pachuca, Herrera reiterated that this new process was still in its initial stages, but what he enjoyed was to see players such as Silvio Romero and Darwin Quintero win needed confidence in the early stages of the season.
"There were many footballers that needed to win confidence in a game like tonight's," Herrera said. "Silvio [Romero] gave a phenomenal game. Maybe you can't see his contributions on the final score, but we created opportunities for him to score, but they were blocked. He gave a great game when it came to conducting the ball, giving orders, and working in defense. All these are valuable for us.
"Each player is winning on confidence, for example, Darwin [Quintero] leaves this game with his confidence reinforced and Cecilio [Dominguez] is returning to that level that we want to see him in. He's a player of another level. As each day passes and our team becomes more consolidated, we'll be winning more on confidence."
Herrera's praise of Romero at Pachuca came at an interesting moment because he has yet to score a goal this season, and in America's first two games in the Apertura, Herrera has set Romero and Oribe Peralta as the team's two strikers. On Wednesday against Atlas in Copa MX action, Romero played 70 minutes but failed to get his name on the score sheet once again. As was the case in the inaugural game at Azteca against Queretaro, Las Aguilas lost 1-0 to Atlas and the doubts once again came back.
But the doubts are unnecessary, as was the extra hype the team got earlier this week after its first Apertura win. Herrera will head into Saturday's Clasico Capitalino knowing that, as America manager, he has never lost a match against Pumas, while Pumas manager Francisco Palencia has yet to lead the club to a win over Los Azulcremas.
With about 48 hours to go until kickoff, Herrera still has to work on how he's going to replace Guido Rodriguez, who was red-carded against Pachuca. One of the options is to slot in another center-back in the backline and play with a backline of five, which would leave Edson Alvarez as the sole defensive midfielder, or continue on with a 4-4-2 formation and put in William da Silva to play alongside Alvarez. One thing is for sure, though: Dominguez will continue working on winning over America's faithful.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.