Fans of the Liga MX could not have asked for better matchups in the semifinal ties to be played this upcoming Thursday and Sunday between Club America-Toluca in one semifinal tie and Leon-Santos Laguna in the other. The Leon-Santos Laguna tie is a very fascinating one that offers a lot to talk about in terms of tactical analysis, but my focus on this article will be on the Club America-Toluca tie as there is one particular tactical battle which I believe will determine who wins the tie and advances to the final.
The key battle will take place along the wings. In particular, the battle will be that between Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar, Club America’s wing backs and Isaac Brizuela and Carlos Esquivel, midfield wingers for Toluca. The reason why these two mini-battles along the wing will determine the winner of this semifinal is because these two teams generate the majority of their attacking and scoring chances thanks to these four players.
For Club America, Layun and Aguilar are the wing backs in the 3-5-2 formation preferred by coach Miguel Herrera, and the the play of these two has been a very big reason in why America have one of the most well oiled and balanced attacks in the league. To highlight the importance of the play of Layun and Aguilar for Club America’s attack one needs to look no further than in last Sunday’s game between Club America and Tigres UANL where Layun delivered a well placed crossing pass into the penalty area which Raul Jimenez headed home spectacularly to give America a 1-0 lead and eventually help secure passage into the semifinals.
While both Layun and Aguilar are great going forward and above average defenders when having to do some defending from their respective wing back positions, they are at times susceptible to being caught out of position. And as a result America can be had and exposed defensively from time to time. Because of this, the play of Brizuela and Esquivel as the wide midfielders/wingers in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 played by Toluca will be a key factor in whether or they can overcome and win this semifinal tie. Against Cruz Azul in their quarterfinal tie, Brizuela and Esquivel caused major havoc in the first leg game which they easily won.
Not only in that game but throughout the Apertura 2013 season, Brizuela and Esquivel have been major components in what was a Toluca team that scored the most goals during the regular season. It is the prowess and attacking abilities of Brizuela and Esquivel or potentially Edgar Benitez that can make America pay for the attacking adventures of Layun and Aguilar. Therefore, before Layun and Aguilar go attacking they will need to take more caution as being asleep at the wheel for one second could mean that they leave their team in a position where it is caught on its heels, and as a result Toluca can score.
Because they both have a significant imprint on the history of Mexican futbol, the semifinal tie between Club America and Toluca was already a must-watch — and that’s before you include the fact both have played well during the Apertura 2013 regular season and are very good attacking teams. With that in mind, the tactical battle along the wings will be a must-watch given that whoever wins this battle will be finals bound.