MEXICO CITY — Pumas UNAM legend Hugo Sanchez celebrated his former group’s passage to the Liga MX remaining so loudly that he believes he awoke his neighbors at his Madrid house.
Who may blame him? Overturning a four-goal first-leg deficit to Cruz Azul on Sunday night time and incomes a 4-0 win at Estadio Olimpico Universitario was one thing of a miracle. Pumas had lower than a 1% probability of going by way of forward of kick-off, in line with FiveThirtyEight.
Even earlier than that epic turnaround on Sunday night time, Pumas’ path to the ultimate had already been something however bizarre. This was a group that was left and not using a coach on the eve of the Guard1anes season, after “Michel” Gonzalez unexpectedly exited. The membership’s youth system director Andres Lillini subsequently stepped in and someway Pumas went by way of the common season with just one defeat.
The mentality proven within the victory over Cruz Azul highlighted precisely why second-seed Pumas will probably be a tricky proposition for top-seeded Leon within the Liga MX remaining.
“We aren’t crushed, we do not know what that’s,” Pumas’ 20-year-old midfielder Erik Lira had mentioned forward of the second leg. “We’re targeted on successful and that is what we’ll do, we wish to erase the [losing] picture and we wish to do it for the individuals on the skin, for our households and family members.”
When the ultimate first leg rolls round on Thursday, the college group from Mexico Metropolis would be the underdogs as soon as once more, however that is nothing new of late even for a membership thought of amongst Mexico’s “Huge 4.”
Heading into the season, expectations have been comparatively low, with most predictions projecting Pumas to complete round mid-table. And even after the membership’s sturdy common season, there have been few pundits backing Pumas towards Mexico Metropolis rival Cruz Azul within the semifinal. However the gamers have come collectively. You possibly can see it on the sector within the aim celebrations, the barbecues on the membership’s coaching complicated posted on social media, and in Lira’s perception that overcoming Cruz Azul was potential even at 4-0 down.
“I believe one thing that’s actually necessary is that we turned sturdy, we united as a bunch and we knew that it was us gamers who needed to shut ranks and imagine in ourselves,” defined Juan Pablo Vigon, the scorer of the decisive aim towards Cruz Azul, in an interview with ESPN. “[Coach Andres] Lillini did an incredible job with us, his energy of conviction and confidence gave us a lift.”
Pumas followers speak and demand “garra” — actually “claw” however loosely which means drive or “placing in a shift” — at least requisite for carrying the shirt and that is precisely what they have this season, even with out the followers inside Liga MX stadiums.
Lillini’s group is not the most effective in Liga MX when it comes to particular person abilities — Pumas have the Twelfth-most costly squad within the league, in line with Transfermarkt — however the Argentine coach has constructed on Michel’s work and crafted an intense, pushed group that’s awkward to play towards and really tough to defeat. Pumas play a 4-4-2, attempt to get the ball rapidly to strikers Juan Dinenno and Carlos Gonzalez, who’re each good within the air and sharp at sniffing out possibilities in and across the field.
Skilled goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera is arguably the signing of the previous low season and must be again from damage for the ultimate. And if center-back duo Johan Vasquez and Nico Freire can replicate anyplace close to the usual they confirmed in that second leg towards Cruz Azul, Leon goes to be in for a tricky collection.
This can be a well-coached, compact Pumas group, however there is a purpose seven-time champions Leon are going into the ultimate as the favourite and it is not fully right down to Pumas. The reality is that La Fiera would’ve been favored towards another group in Liga MX.
“Nacho” Ambriz’s facet have merely been fascinating for the final two years, enjoying possession-based, attacking soccer, and topping just about each optimistic stat you can consider in Liga MX in 2020: Leon has essentially the most targets scored per sport (1.77), highest possession per sport (60%), most wins (21 from 31 video games) and fewest defeats (4).
Leon midfielder Luis Montes has been the league’s greatest participant this yr and stopping him from getting time on the ball and influencing the sport will probably be of prime concern for Pumas, whose solely defeat within the common season was a 2-0 loss to Leon. Then there may be Costa Rican ahead Joel Campbell, who has been inconsistent generally, however hit type within the semifinal towards Chivas.
Leon have been extra pragmatic and mature than explosive and entertaining towards Chivas within the semifinal, however Ambriz’s facet obtained the job carried out, and could possibly add left-back Yairo Moreno, who is out there after damage, and right-back David Ramirez, who examined optimistic for COVID-19.
Pumas, going for his or her eighth title and first since 2011, ought to push Leon nearer than Chivas and make this a closely-contested collection. There is no doubt the group from Guanajuato wants a title to cap this optimistic interval. And due to that, there may be probably added strain. Pumas, in the meantime, are virtually enjoying with home cash given the low expectations forward of the season and the heroics towards Cruz Azul.
Whoever wins, we must be in for a grandstand remaining.