The Mexico national team manager bowed out in ignominious fashion, but his club should be proud of what it accomplished in 2013.
Sent off from the bench, screaming at the officials and on the losing side isn’t how Miguel Herrera would’ve wanted to go out as Club America coach, as he leaves to take over the Mexico national team.
The idea was to overturn the 2-0 deficit against Leon from the first leg in front of 100,000-plus fans, win rare consecutive titles, overtake Chivas as Mexico’s most successful club and move to El Tri with the momentum and confidence that a league title brings.
Instead, America lost 3-1 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate and Herrera was left spitting feathers, complaining vociferously about the referring decisions he said played an important part in Las Aguilas’ defeat. He even stormed out of the postgame press conference due to a line of questioning from the amassed media.
It was an ugly way to leave a club that has dominated Mexican football in 2013.
America became champion after an epic final in the Clausura 2013 against Cruz Azul, finished the Apertura regular season in first position, and was the heart of soul of the Mexico national team that overcame New Zealand.
At the last hurdle, America fell short, but it was still a remarkable year.
Despite his frustration at not capping it with the Apertura title, Herrera was wrong in putting the emphasis on the officials. This season belonged to a Leon side under Gustavo Matosas that plays open, attractive soccer and is deservedly champion.
Seventeen goals over the six playoffs games tells its own story, one of a team that got it together in the liguilla and overcame its defensive deficiencies with pure firepower upfront.
On Thursday, it was goalkeeper William Yarbrough who was the hero, producing a couple of memorable saves to keep America out at vital times, with Las Aguilas giving every last drop of sweat to try to get back in the series.
Over the playoffs there have been a number of Leon players that have stepped up, none more than former Wigan and Genoa striker Mauro Boselli, who netted 16 goals in 21 appearances, including five goals in the playoffs.
It was his cool finish in the 13th minute that calmed Leon’s nerves at a time when the crowd was behind Las Aguilas and the team was pressing.
Then there was Carlos Pena, a player whose reputation is growing quickly, who has declared his desire is to play in Europe and who is showing the kind of form that suggests he could succeed in one of the better leagues on the Old Continent.
Following on was captain Rafa Marquez, who won his first Liga MX title at 34-years-old to cap one of the great careers for a Mexican player. No other player from CONCACAF can boast such an impressive resume, including one Ligue 1 title, one French Cup, four La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and two Champions Leagues.
He may not be most popular figure in the United States after his stint in MLS, but the resurrection of his playing career since coming back to Mexico shouldn’t be underestimated.
Next season promises much for a Leon team with the potential to set the continent alight with attacking displays in the Copa Libertadores, but that will depend on La Fiera keeping Pena and Boselli right where they are.
Beyond Leon, the title win had significance elsewhere, specifically two hours down the road in Guadalajara.
At Chivas, the whole club must have breathed a huge sigh of relief that America wasn’t able to win title number 12 to become Mexico’s most successful club.