It took Cruz Azul 15 years, four months and four days to return to the top of the hill, if only for a moment, if only to hoist a minor trophy over their shoulders. But the Copa MX championship is very real, and the boost in psyche as well the opportunity to rise and break through an endless string of bitter failures has lifted one of Mexico's biggest fanbases to the point of no return.
“The Machine”, as they are called in Mexico thanks to an impressive run in the 1970s that launched them into the national consciousness, have recouped a bit of swagger and put the other three big teams in the country on notice. It has also given others, however, the perfect opportunity to create unnecessary controversy and string together non-sequiturs, creating noise over an otherwise hearty celebration.
Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jesus Corona stopped a pair of clear chances in the Copa final, as well as denying former teammate Francisco Fonseca in the penalty shootout that decided the tournament champion. Over the course of Corona's impressive performance, a few TV commentators and Twitter aficionados decided that this would be the perfect time to relaunch Corona's bid to be Mexico's starting goalkeeper.
With Guillermo Ochoa raising eyebrows in France, Corona has to point to his previous résumé as reason enough to give him a fighting chance at the national team spot. Thanks to fantastic performances from the former Atlas and Tecos netminder, Mexico is exactly one Olympic gold medal richer at this point.
Not to mention, Corona did not give up a single goal in the previous round of World Cup qualifying and held Jamaica scoreless after the Reggae Boyz threatened to beat Mexico in the Estadio Azteca on Feb. 6. He is a fine player, who at 31, still has time to think about a move to Europe and challenge Ochoa for international dominance as well. He doesn't need to.
Mexico has never been better at the goalkeeper position. Regardless of who starts for El Tri in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, ever-crucial thanks to El Tri's awful beginning to the Brazil 2014 campaign, the team will be safe from opposing offenders.
Though Ochoa gave up Mexico's only two goals in the Hex so far, little blame can be placed upon him. Francisco 'Maza' Rodriguez blatantly gave up the header leading to the first goal against Honduras on March 22 and promptly committed an iffy penalty minutes later to put Ochoa's back against the wall. The Ajaccio goalkeeper saved Jerry Bengtson's shot, but it unfortunately caromed back into the New England Revolution striker's way for the second goal.
At this point, Mexico's needs are quite clear. Whether it's Ochoa or Corona in the back, Jose Manuel de la Torre needs to figure out who's going to solve things up front for a team sorely lacking in chance-creation and finishing.
Jamaica outran Mexico in the first half of their game, forcing Chepo to reign in his defense and limit his offense. Honduras, aided by the heat and 'Maza' Rodriguez, cashed in on mistakes to rip away a draw. And the United States executed a beautifully-crafted defensive plan to make El Tri's chances few and far between en route to another 0-0 draw for the current Gold Cup champs.
No, the last thing millions of fans watching in Mexico, the United States and beyond need to hear about right now is whether Jesus Corona, Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera or whomever will start in Mexico's goal come next June. It is a pointless discussion. When the time comes, and armchair analysts begin to spout theories and potential lineups, it will be the strikers and offensive midfielders who are up for debate, not the 'keepers.
In the meantime, let Corona as well as Cruz Azul fans bask in the glow of a championship that took four Mexican presidents, six Mexico City mayors and three Catholic Popes to come to fruition.
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