The wait is nearly over for the Liga MX final. After the league's semifinals wrapped up Dec. 4, we knew we'd have a long wait for the final, with its two legs set for Thursday and Sunday.
Blame it all on America. Well, maybe not all of it. It was, after all, Tigres who could've topped Las Aguilas in the CONCACAF Champions League final that earned America a spot in the Club World Cup and caused the delay. So, maybe we were bound for this layoff anyway.
Neither team seemed too thrilled about having to wait around for such a long time, with Tigres coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti expressing his frustrations before the semifinals were even set and Ricardo La Volpe having to rotate personnel in Japan with another final to think about. But now it's game week.
Tigres, of course, have been able to sit at home in (or near) Monterrey and put their focus solely on America. In addition to this season's matches and playoff games from when La Volpe took over for Ignacio "Nacho" Ambriz, there were three more matches of tape to analyze, to search for weakness and to put into practice on the training ground. In addition to having just one opponent to prepare for, Tigres also had the benefit of not traveling to another country.
America has tried to minimize travel headaches as much as possible, but going to another continent is disorienting. As soon as the team steps off the plane, it must be ready for the first leg of the domestic final, which it hosts.
It's not all bad for America. It has to recover quickly from a journey, but overall it was a successful tournament.
"I'd grade our showing as acceptable," La Volpe said after the team fell in the third-place game on penalty kicks. "We showed that Mexican soccer is competitive. Nacional is one of the best teams in Colombia."
Playing against a team that is one of South America's best and also holding ground with Real Madrid for a half not only is good experience — it also can be a bit of a mental boost. Tigres probably would've had the momentum, with forward Andre-Pierre Gignac's hot streak and quality defensive performances buoying the team to impressive aggregate wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
Now it's anyone's guess which team comes out on the front foot, with America perhaps able to use its Club World Cup as a boost after having to come on late to get past Necaxa in the semifinals.
Either way, we should see a quality final, even if both teams have to knock a little rust off at the Estadio Azteca this week. The contest pits two of Mexico's most successful teams of late, with only three of the last eight short tournament finals not featuring one of the two clubs.
Tigres perhaps are chomping at the bit more to get the matches played, since they've been able to avoid travel and keep their eyes on the domestic prize while America has prepped for other opponents.
Now, the wait is nearly over. It's almost final time.