How would the common Mexican soccer fan describe the upcoming Copa MX final between Monterrey and Pachuca?
Take it away, Rafa Ramos:
📅21 de diciembre
🤦🏼♂️La Copa Del Consuelo
🤳🏻Monterrey vs Pachuca pic.twitter.com/GTOznc5yvM
— Rafael Ramos (@rafaramosESPN) December 12, 2017
My dear colleague is usually right on the money with these types of takes. The Copa MX final has usually been an afterthought, the forgotten Mexican tournament. In the past, interest has been reserved for fan bases looking to quench long title droughts (Cruz Azul, Chivas), those who wouldn't typically get a mass audience remotely interested in their games, (Puebla, Veracruz) or those of us so addicted to the sport we'll pretty much watch anything.
Quick, name the last five Copa MX champions. Okay, name the last three. The last two? Point made. This Copa MX final, however, has an air of actual interest around it. Why? One word: failure. Monterrey and Pachuca will look to take some silverware home on Dec. 21 after failing to do so in their last pursuits, the Liga MX final and the Club World Cup, respectively.
Los Rayados are looking to make their fans quickly forget about the choke job produced by Hugo Gonzalez and Aviles Hurtado in the second leg of their Clasico Regio final against Tigres.
Gonzalez, recently hailed as one to watch for a potential World Cup spot, fumbled a header from Francisco Meza to gift Tigres the go-ahead goal. Hurtado missed Monterrey's sixth penalty kick of the season -- a team record -- just 10 minutes before the match ended.
Simply put, Monterrey coughed up a golden opportunity (they racked up 37 points this season and bossed the league from start to finish) to put a dent into their rival's growing dominance over Mexican soccer. Since Monterrey's last title win, Tigres has now surpassed them in the title column, picking up their sixth championship after Sunday's win.
To make matters worse, manager Antonio Mohamed has delivered zero titles in two years in charge of Monterrey. Coming off two championship wins at his last two stops in Mexico, the lack of success at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer has not gone unnoticed. The club, boasting one of the most expensive squads in the country and the continent, has now gone seven years without hoisting the Liga MX trophy aloft. A Copa MX win could soften the blow and show fans that the best is yet to come.
On the other side, Pachuca's Club World Cup bid was never expected to end in silverware. However, it's ultimately bittersweet to watch Los Tuzos cough up a chance to make the final and potentially face Real Madrid after a disappointing 1-0 loss to South American champs Gremio in the semifinal.
After an uninspiring 1-0 win in extra-time against Wydad Casablanca, Pachuca dominated large stretches of the match against Gremio. Like their Mexican rivals, the Copa Libertadores were themselves unable to parlay their continental success into league glory in 2017.
Pachuca made a succession of splashes in the summer off-season when they unloaded Hirving Lozano to PSV Eindhoven and signed Keisuke Honda from AC Milan. However, the loss of Lozano was too much to bear in the Apertura, and Los Tuzos limped to a disheartening 12th place in the table. Thus, runs in the Copa MX and Club World Cup were pretty much all the team could hope to crow about. With one of those chances gone, there's just one more opportunity for Pachuca to add to a trophy case that has become quite swollen since the turn of the current century.
Since 2001, Pachuca has won five Liga MX trophies, five CONCACAF Champions League titles and one Copa Sudamericana, in perhaps the proudest international moment for Liga MX in recent years. But they've never won a Copa MX; victory there would mean they are the only Mexican team ever to have hoisted trophies at the Ascenso MX, Liga MX, CONCACAF Champions League, Copa Sudamericana and Copa MX levels. No doubt, it would also mean a fantastic feather in the cap of Uruguayan manager Diego Alonso, who is on the verge of his third piece of silverware with the club.
Finally, the December 21 matchup between Monterrey and Pachuca will mean a rematch of their Clausura 2016 final in the league. On that occasion, Pachuca attacker Victor Guzman launched himself into the spotlight by heading home in the dying embers of the second leg, dooming Monterrey and setting Pachuca up for their run in the CONCACAF Champions League, where they promptly beat the current league winners, Tigres.
Since then, Guzman has become a trendy pick for those looking to inspire Juan Carlos Osorio's World Cup roster. In 16 league games this season, Guzman scored eight times and was responsible for Pachuca's only (as of now) goal in the Club World Cup. Monterrey on the other hand, strengthened their attack by adding Hurtado in order to boost their firepower after they were unable to power through against Pachuca last year. In many ways, their upcoming meeting will bring them full circle after that faithful matchup.
So forgive me in expecting the upcoming Copa MX final to be nothing short of a barn-burner. It might just be the "Consolation Cup," as eloquently described at the head of this article, but it's also a chance at redemption for two hungry (and talented) squads.