Cruz Azul defeats Toluca, claims record sixth CONCACAF crown
Thanks to a first half goal from Argentine Mariano Pavone, Cruz Azul has finally managed to transcend its reputation. After runners-up finishes in the 2009 and 2010 CONCACAF Champions League -- and second place finishes in four Mexican league tournaments in the last seven years -- La Maquina had become Mexico’s nearly-club, but with a 1-1 result Wednesday in Toluca, Cruz Azul finally broke through. After a 0-0 result last week at Estadio Azul, Luis Fernando Tena’s team claimed CONCACAF’s title on away goals.
Edgar Benítez’s late tally brought the Red Devils back even, but after a scoreless draw last week in Mexico City, Pavone goal gave Cruz Azul the final’s first tiebreaker. Though Toluca nearly went up through Pablo Velazquez late, Liga MX’s second place team was unable to overcome the Clausura’s pacesetters, leaving Tena’s team to claim its CONCACAF history.
Cruz Azul entered the final tied with Club América for most confederation titles (five), though thanks to the club’s near misses on the domestic front, La Maquina had acquired a reputation for second place finishes. That reputation was only reinforced after last week’s leg in Mexico City, where chances for attacker Marco Fabián failed to produce a goal, allowing Toluca to take a 0-0 result out of Mexico City.
But with the Mexican sides accustomed to each others’ home venue, the scoreless draw in failed to dissuade La Maquina. Instead, Pavone, held relatively quiet in last Tuesday’s first leg, was able to break though before half time, putting the impetus on Toluca to respond.
RELATED FROM SOCCERLY: What historic title means for Cruz Azul
Though Velazquez came close, the Diablos Rojos were ultimately unable to keep the Cementaros from claiming its their CONCACAF title since 1997 - an honor that qualifies the team for December’s Club World Cup. First to qualify for the FIFA tournament, Cruz Azul will join the six other FIFA confederations in Morocco, where a team from the host country’s domestic league will also contest club soccer’s world title.
In the interim, Cruz Azul gets to savior a victory that could signal a small change in the club’s identity. Though the club has consistently built talented, competitive teams, it’s also become associated with an ability to transcend the final hurdle, whether that hurdle be a Liguilla or a Champions League final.
After Wednesday’s draw in Toluca, that perception may evaporate. Cruz Azul finally gets to size a crown.