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Will Cruz Azul rebound after losing 2-1 to Toluca in the first quarterfinal leg?
After appearing to take their Liga MX playoff opponents lightly by placing a couple of starters on the bench, Cruz Azul can no longer afford to experiment or try alternative methods.
Following their first loss in all competitions since mid-January, expect Cruz Azul to fine-tune their approach when they host Toluca for the second leg of the Liga MX playoff quarterfinals this weekend.
|Toluca will have to enjoy their success that will likely be short-lived. Pick Cruz Azul for the win this Saturday.|
|Cruz Azul vs Toluca Information|
|Teams||Cruz Azul vs Toluca|
|Location||Estadio Azteca (Mexico City, Mexico)|
|Time||Saturday, May 15th at 10:00pm ET|
|How to Watch||Univision, TUDN|
Were Toluca a bit lucky to gain their mid-week win on Wednesday? Perhaps.
Despite the fact that Cruz Azul had more total shots and duels won in the defeat, Toluca was able to sneak away with a win thanks to two controversial penalty calls in their favor.
Initially utilizing a couple of backups in their starting XI, Cruz Azul looked shell-shocked as they chased a deficit and tossed on some of their best-attacking players during the 2nd half.
The decision from manager Juan Reynoso ultimately proved to be too little too late. Reynoso took Toluca too lightly and lost 2-1.
The win is a massive one for Toluca, and although it should be celebrated for the side that was 11th in the regular-season standings, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to maintain this good fortune through the weekend.
It’s an obvious but very important point to make.
In the past, it hasn’t been out of the ordinary for Reynoso to occasionally tinker with his starting options in mid-week matches. With plenty of depth, he’s regularly benched his most talented players during busy runs.
That said, it was nearly shocking to see him leave marquee names like Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodriguez and Orbelin Pineda out of the starting XI on Wednesday.
It was an experiment for the manager who was looking to rest some of his favorites before the weekend’s second leg, but by the latter stages of Wednesday’s game, it became abundantly clear that it was a mistake to do so.
Now chasing a 2-1 scoreline in the quarterfinals, Reynoso must place his ideal XI on the field this Saturday — which is good news for Cruz Azul fans who questioned his recent decision-making.
Toluca are a wildcard team. As seen on Wednesday, the soccer gods have sometimes been kind to them with unexpected wins and entertaining high-scoring results throughout the 2021 Clausura tournament.
The question is, can they maintain this effort over 180 minutes against Cruz Azul?
Odds are, probably not.
No team in the playoffs have allowed more goals than Toluca in 2021, and when expanding this to every club in Liga MX, only five have allowed more.
On any other given night, Cruz Azul would have had a couple more chances find the back of the net on Wednesday — especially when you consider that their leading goalscorer was on the bench for Reynoso.
With just a cameo in the 2nd half against Toluca, Cabecita didn’t have much time to enforce his aggressive and threatening style of play. Limited minutes led to just a few shots and chances created.
Now, after being given a break by Reynoso, the leading goalscorer for Cruz Azul is now set to be back in the XI this Saturday in the second leg.
With nine goals and three assists in 16 matches this season, few players have been able to surpass what the Uruguayan has accomplished in the frontline for Cruz Azul.
And it’s not just Cabecita either who should make an instant impact.
Orbelin Pineda, who was also benched on Wednesday, will also be expected to return to the XI. As one of Cruz Azul’s most creative players, the Mexican will be an attacking asset that will help feed the ball to Cabecita.
Goals will surely follow, and by the time the final whistle blows this Saturday, it’ll be Cruz Azul who will not only earn a win, but also a place in the Liga MX semifinals.
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Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast. Email: [email protected]More info on Cesar Hernandez
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