Shrewd transfer dealings and a gushing talent pipeline have made Las Aguilas the standout club in Mexico.Club America is making it look all too easy at the moment.
As the other members of Mexico’s “big four” - Cruz Azul, Pumas and Chivas - struggle, Las Aguilas have five wins from five games this Apertura and continue to exude confidence in almost every aspect.
Even last weekend against Morelia when America didn’t play particularly well, Las Aguilas won, with Oribe Peralta popping up with the winner in second half injury time.
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And coach Antonio Mohamed doesn’t believe the current team is playing near its potential at present.
“We’ve got a lot to improve, lots to correct,” stated Mohamed in a press conference Thursday. “We’re a long way from hitting the ceiling and for us that is very important.”
Mohamed deserves a lot of praise for the job he has done, coming in to take over Miguel Herrera’s team and molding it into his shape and style slowly but surely and picking up results at the same. The gradual shift from Herrera’s back five to Mohamed’s defensive unit of four has been particularly impressive.
But even aside from the Herrera’s role in the restoration of America at the top of the Mexican game from November 2011 and Mohamed’s continuation of it, the foundations that both took over have been less heralded, making it much easier for the coaches to work.
Sporting director Ricardo Palaez has done his job shrewdly in terms of getting in the right players, with the shock transfer of Peralta before the World Cup the perfect replacement for the outbound Raul Jimenez. But it has been the work with America’s youth system that has been most surprising and rewarding for the club.
America’s Under-20s won four consecutive championships, ending with the Clausura 2012, with the cream of that crop Jimenez and Diego Reyes, who are both now playing for top European clubs after playing in two finals for Las Aguilas’ first team.
The money received from Porto (Reyes) and Atletico Madrid (Jimenez) provides all the evidence the club – and others in the Liga MX – needs to suggest that investment in quality youth infrastructure is worth it.
Behind that illustrious pair is a new crop of youngsters slowly starting to be drip-fed more minutes with the first team, like Martin Zuniga, Ventura Alvarado, Hugo Gonzalez, Gil Buron and Erick Pimentel. Not all of them will make it with America, but the conveyor belt of talent is producing like never before in the club’s history.
The combination of quality signings – Miguel Layun, Moises Munoz, Pablo Aguilar, Paolo Goltz, Peralta etc – mixed with youngsters coming through has produced a consistently good side. Sometimes in Mexican soccer, the playoff system and the two tournaments each regular season makes it easy to overlook consistency, but America is 15 points clear at the top of the relegation table – worked on points-per-game over the last three years. It has been a model of consistency, reaching three of the last four playoffs at a canter and winning 50 more points than Chivas in those regular season games.
In terms of this season’s CONCACAF Champions League and Liga MX, there is no doubt America is the team to beat. The club is in a good place at present and Americanistas are rightly lapping it up, as rival fans look on with a degree of jealousy.