Did you know Club America is looking for a striker? You did if you're a technical director in South America or Europe. Las Aguilas apparently have left no stone unturned this offseason as they look to rejuvenate an attack that sputtered out at the end of the season. America failed to score in its four postseason matches and had just two goals in the four games before the Liguilla. An aging Oribe Peralta can't do it all, and America has been linked with strikers old and young in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, the Netherlands and Turkey, to name a few.
Clearly, that's what manager Miguel Herrera has decided it will take for his team to add to its trophy chest and continue gaining ground as Mexico's best club all-time. The team signed Jeremy Menez on the eve of the season, but simply adding a scorer may not do the trick. Herrera is ready to turn the team over to some of its promising young players on the back line and hope for a Clausura campaign that once again ends with him lifting the Liga MX trophy.
America wanted to be active in the draft and ended up bringing a number of Herrera's former Tijuana players into El Nido. Forward Henry Martin, midfielder Joe Corona and defender Emanuel Aguilera joined other former Xolos, midfielder Guido Rodriguez and defender Carlos Vargas, in Mexico City. America sent center back Pablo Aguilar back to Tijuana in return and also allowed Miguel Samudio to move north to Queretaro after the left back and the manager had their differences.
Las Aguilas have been heavily linked with a hilarious number of attacking players but as of Thursday had yet to land the three targets that seem to remain: Jeremy Menez (currently playing in Turkey), Luuk de Jong (of PSV), and Andres Ibarguen (a Colombian currently with Racing Club in Argentina). Menez was signed Friday morning.
What to watch for
Herrera hasn't made any secret about his desire to bring in a striker this offseason. Tuesday night he was on multiple Mexican TV shows talking about the club's pursuit of its transfer targets. A new forward would help, especially with Silvio Romero looking out of his depth since the beginning of 2017. He scored just five league goals in the previous calendar year and four of those were against teams that failed to make the postseason. Fans also have tired of Darwin Quintero, though his high price and occasional flashes mean the Colombian could once again be on the field for Las Aguilas. Cecilio Dominguez can't get healthy enough to stay on the field, and promising teenager Diego Lainez still looks like the 17-year-old he is among the grown men of Mexico's top teams.
Will Menez, who hasn't been able to get minutes in Turkey and has scored 10 goals in a season just once in his career, be the answer? It's hard to say. A French striker coming from European club soccer to Mexico obviously draws comparisons to Andre-Pierre Gignac, but Gignac was in much better form when he was wooed across the Atlantic by Tigres.
The panic in the capital is a fair amount of recent-ism, though. America ended the Apertura in third place in the league. Fans of the Mexico's most historically successful club demand more, and Herrera is fond of saying that the expectation every season is a title. That's not realistic, even for a team with America's resources - especially with the Monterrey teams in better economic shape. There are still good pieces on this team, though. The defense was strong at the end of the last tournament and remains an asset with one of the league's best goalkeepers behind it in Agustin Marchesin.
Rodriguez and Mateus Uribe provided strength in the middle of the field that Herrera's previous America teams often lacked. There are pieces there for America to once again finish in the top half of the table and make a stronger charge in the postseason.
America's attacking drought was especially weird because it looked like the club had everything figured out about halfway through the season. The side could score until it couldn't. There was a stretch in which America scored twice in a trip to Toluca, then went to Cruz Azul and scored three times and topped it off with a 2-1 home win in the Clascio Nacional against Chivas. Sure, Las Aguilas are desperate to find another goalscorer and hope they've done so with Menez, but their attack isn't totally inept. It just went cold. Peralta might find the back of the net a few times in January and be back on his way to another 10-goal season.
If that doesn't happen, though, things could be ugly in the Azteca. Herrera's defense held the team together down the stretch, but while he's shrugged off Samudio's departure the defense now will rely on very good but very young players. Edson Alvarez and Carlos Vargas combine to make up Rafa Marquez's age (I originally wrote that as a joke, but it's actually true). While Emanuel Aguilera and Aguilar can provide guidance, the 20-year-old Alvarez and 18-year-old Vargas will be critical in making sure that matches don't again turn into contests of "Can Agustin Marchesin stop 10 shots?" The answer was yes sometimes last tournament. This tournament, America must be better in front of the Argentine shot-stopper to make sure it doesn't come to that.