Cuauhtemoc Blanco is still kicking in the Mexican second division, and recently led his team to a cup win.
The match had everything one could hope from a final and more: a raucous full house in Tamaulipas, a back-and-forth 90 minutes, one team playing a man down for much of the game, and a last-gasp equalizer that led to penalties.
But as crazy as the game was, all that has been par for the course over this wild Copa MX campaign. Perhaps the only disappointment on the night came when Correcaminos failed to secure the title in front of their home fans, who had been witness to so much drama over the past three months.
Just over three months ago, Correcaminos served notice by pulling off one of the more remarkable comebacks in recent memory: beating America, 4-3, at home in August after being down three goals after just 32 minutes.
At the time it seemed like just a wild result, but in the end that match proved a harbinger of things to come.
Correcaminos, like Dorados, won its group by a single point despite finishing with a negative goal differential. In fact it was another quirk of a strange tournament that both of the two finalists won their groups while being outscored overall. Correcaminos were blown out in the return leg at America, 6-0; Dorados were walloped in visits to Leon and Morelia.
In the end, the UAT, along with eventual champion Dorados, was one of four second-flight squads to make the semifinals, and all would have made worthy champions.
Both teams battled to the final match with scintillating performances more apt for top-flight contenders. But the dramatic means by which Correcaminos made it to the final, first fighting back from a 4-1 second half quarterfinal deficit against Club Tijuana to go through on penalties after a 5-5 tie, and then advancing to the finals after another PK win over Toros Neza, was particularly remarkable.
In general, it was the kind of drama the Mexican second flight needed to show observers everywhere that Mexico’s other league is more than a place for castoffs and a retirement home for Blanco.
In reality there’s some excellent soccer being played in the second fight and it’s little coincidence that recently ascended top flight teams like Leon and Tijuana have found so much success in Liga MX.
When the two Liga de Ascenso teams played off Wednesday for the Cup, as much of a sentimental favorite as Correcaminos may have been after the emotional run to the final, the team from Sinaloa became a worthy champion after proving the only team not to need penalties to get to the semifinal round.
Blanco has another title, and the second flight had a campaign to remember. In the end, Copa MX was just what Ascenso MX needed to make Mexico’s second level relevant for once. That newfound relevance is due to taking advantage of the spotlight with a long series of enthralling matches, impossible to tune out no matter the division of the teams.
So for fans and up-and-coming teams across the country, the re-inaugural edition of Copa MX proved a rousing success. Perhaps next time out, they’ll be playing for more than just pride.
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