Why Winning the CONCACAF Champions League Is Key for Cruz Azul

Karla Villegas GamaFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2014

Cruz Azul's Gerardo Torrado, left, fights for the ball with Toluca's Antonio Naelson during a Mexican soccer league match in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Moises Castillo

It's been quite a season for Cruz Azul so far, and winning the CONCACAF Champions League would be a key piece in the puzzle that has become securing a title locally. They host Toluca in the first leg of the final on Tuesday.

It's been 16 years since the club managed to win the Primera Division, which has resulted in all sort of jokes, but there is furthermore concern.

Cruz Azul have been runner-ups in the 1999 Invierno, 2008 Clausura, 2008 Apertura, 2009 Apertura and Clausura 2013, with the latter being the most painful.

They had a 2-0 advantage up until the 88th minute of the second leg, when Aquivaldo Mosquera put the ball away and then Moises Munoz did the same in the injury time. La Maquina ultimately lost to America in penalty shootouts.

The defeat was dreadful for another reason. The fans had a beacon of hope since the team had grabbed the Copa MX on April, one month before the 2013 Clausura final, although that tournament hasn't had much of an impact since it was restored in 2012.

Ever since Cruz Azul's last major title (1997 Invierno), the club has had nine different managers: Jose Luis Trejo, Mario Carrillo, Enrique Meza (two terms), Luis Fernando Tena (two terms), Ruben Omar Romano, Isaac Mizrahi, Sergio Markarian, Benjamin Galindo and Guillermo Vazquez.

Last December the directors brought back Tena, who was in charge of the club when they won the 1997 Invierno. His touch and vision are evident.

This season Cruz Azul has a 10-3-2 record. They were unbeaten until Matchday 10, when Tigres surprised them with a 3-0 victory.

It's been a long way for La Maquina, but the transfers have paid off. Marco Fabian's has become the most notable of them. The former Chivas midfielder is the fourth-best scorer and the top Mexican scorer of the 2014 Clausura with seven goals.

After 15 matchdays La Maquina lead the 2014 Clausura with 33 points, three clear from Toluca.

And that is one of the reasons why CONCACAF Champions League final is a key factor in Cruz Azul's quest for the Liga MX title.

They will face Toluca, a squad that ever since 1997 has become one of the most successful of the league, having grabbed seven titles. Los Diablos Rojos have a very talented squad, including three players in the national team: Alfredo Talavera, Miguel Ponce and Isaac Brizuela.

Carlos Navas, the CONCACAF Champions League top scorer, and Pablo Vazquez, the best finisher for Toluca in the 2014 Clausura, are also on the squad.

Toluca have been very dominant against Cruz Azul, ousting La Maquina five times from the Liguilla (playoffs), with one of them in the final clash (2008 Apertura).

This will be the first time they'll meet in the final showdown of the CONCACAF Champions League. In this edition both led their respective groups; in the knockout stage Toluca went undefeated, while Cruz Azul lost two matches.

In the first leg of the final, which will be held on La Maquina's ground, the home team will not have Jose de Jesus Corona on the pitch after a brawl nearly at the end of the semifinal against Tijuana, as reported by Kyle McCarthy of Fox Sports.

A win for Cruz Azul will be the reaffirmation of the club's fantastic momentum and the ideal confidence boost to break a 16-year drought in the Liga MX. It will also be a ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup and the end of Toluca's control in knockout stage.

Also, grabbing the title would set La Maquina as the most successful club of the tournament, which they have won it in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1996 and 1997.

This is it. Tena and his players have the responsibility and obligation to finally seal the deal.

All data provided by MedioTiempo.com unless otherwise stated.