Tigres and Tuca Ferretti frustrate America, Miguel Herrera in 2-2 draw
MEXICO CITY -- As each season comes and goes, Club America vs. Tigres is a rivalry that grows with the league. Heading into Wednesday night's match, the all-time record during Liga MX's short-season format between the Mexico City club and Monterrey club read 16 wins for America, 18 draws and 17 wins for Tigres. The parity between both sides is noticeable, and their desire to be regarded as firm title contenders is openly expressed, but on Wednesday Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti surprised the league with a rare decision: He left Andre-Pierre Gignac on the bench.
But even if Ferretti took that risk and ended Gignac's streak of 27 consecutive starts in Liga MX, Tigres left Mexico City pleased with a 2-2 draw, the 19th draw between the sides in Liga MX's short-season format.
"There's always a first time in life," said Ferretti when asked about why he decided to leave Gignac on the bench and not deploy him until the 61st minute. But later Ferretti would delve deeper into the rationale behind the rare decision.
"I made this decision because we have a group of 20-something players, and everyone trains the same way. "I can pick
whomever I want; I don't see why there's so much surprise. [Jurgen] Damm is a national team player, [Enner] Valencia is a national team player and Lucas [Zelarayan] is a great player. This is nothing special. This is a game that could have gone either way.
"Let's set up this differently," Ferretti said. "What if one of the three players [Gignac, Edu Vargas, Ismael Sosa] gets injured. What do we do? You're telling me we can't put in the others? So why can't I put them in [a game like this]?"
It could be said that Ferretti's decision to leave Gignac, Vargas and Sosa on the bench was a risky one but throughout the 90 minutes, his team never panicked. Their strategy of keeping America's defense under pressure worked because Tigres led twice before America tied the game 2-2 in the 85th minute. Meanwhile, America manager Miguel "Piojo" Herrera's demeanor after the game was that of a runner who had just completed a long marathon. The game left him both frustrated and happy because he knows that Ferretti's Tigres are always vying for the league title.
"The first half was theirs and we committed a lot of mistakes. They controlled the ball better than us. In the second half, we controlled thing, and the game became a back and forth race, with both teams looking for the win," Herrera summarized the match.
Tigres' first half included 66 percent ball possession, three shots on target and 31 duels won. America only had two shots on target and goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin had to make two huge saves to keep the game at 1-1. America's first goal of the game best showcased how it could have caused more problems to Tigres' defense. Some trickery from Darwin Quintero got him free of Israel Jimenez and he sent a precise through pass to William da Silva, who surged into the box and connected a hard left-footed shot to give Las Aguilas their first goal. Yet America needed players like Renato Ibarra, Cecilio Dominguez and Quintero to produce more individual plays that could have disorganized Tigres' tight defense.
"I do think that we had many clear scoring chances, but they managed the ball pretty well," Herrera said. "This opponent was a great exam for us; it was a great game. We have to continue improving on certain things. I want to see the team with more volume in its game, and all of a sudden the players who are supposed to give that extra in a game like tonight's finish tired."
Las Aguilas took five shots on target in the second half while Tigres only had two. With very little in the attack, Tigres had the killer instinct and it allowed them to take a 2-1 lead even though America created most of the dangerous chances in the second half. Striker Enner Valencia finished the night with a brace and after three Liga MX starts, he's already scored five times.
However, it was a night to forget for America's goal scorer and captain, Oribe Peralta, who had two of his scoring chances go over the crossbar. Both chances came with almost zero marking around him; it wasn't his best night.
Above all else, Ferretti seems to have the upper hand over Herrera. The experienced Tuca knows how to complicate things for "Piojo." Last season when Herrera was in charge of Xolos, Tuca's Tigres defeated them three times: 3-0, 2-0 and 0-2. And in six games as America manager, Herrera has been unable to defeat Tuca's Tigres. There have been six games played, with four draws and two defeats.
Ferretti left Estadio Azteca feeling vindicated, having opted to give full rest to forwards like Vargas and Sosa while giving Gignac about 30 minutes of playing time. He left Mexico City with no injuries but will he continue to make sure significant rotations in upcoming weeks?
"It's not my style; you all know me. It's been 26 years [since my coaching debut]. I like having a starting XI that I can repeat because that way, I can create more understanding with my players and more cohesion between them.
"But if we need to make changes and I see the necessity, there's no problem."
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.