History was made in Liga MX on Sunday night, when Cruz Azul beat Santos Laguna 2-1 on aggregate to claim the Guardianes 2021 season title. It was the club's ninth in all, but the first in 24 years, a period in which Los Azules have come to be known for its misfortune.
And so this win, which was achieved in front of the first crowd inside Estadio Azteca for over a year, not only gave Cruz Azul chance to celebrate in front of fans, but also provided catharsis for a club that had lost its previous six league finals.
- Stream Futbol Americas' reaction to Cruz Azul's triumph on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
The end of cruzazulear?
To cruzazulear means, in essence, to muck up a sure thing on the pitch and the term has become common parlance in Mexico due to Cruz Azul's aforementioned failures to win a title.
Indeed, the term is so widespread that it has entered the Royal Spanish Academy of Language's radar within its word observatory. And, though it has gone on to describe when other teams snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the term has remained firmly identified with the club that was its inspiration.
Following Cruz Azul's stunning elimination in the Guardianes 2020 semifinals against Pumas, when it contrived to go out even after racking up a 4-0 advantage in the first leg, singer Eden Munoz penned "La Cruzazulie Contigo" ("I Cruz Azuled it with you") to describe a failed romantic relationship.
Now that Cruz Azul has finally seen a championship result through, it seems fair to assume the strength and usage of the term itself will subside -- and probably lift the team in ESPN's Soccer Misery Index -- but such has been its legacy that perhaps only a string of titles would succeed in vanquishing cruzazulear for good.
The long and winding road
How long has it been since Cruz Azul could celebrate? Well, back in 1997, the No. 1 movie at the box office in the United States was "Flubber," the family-friendly comedy starring Robin Williams that went on to gross over $178 million worldwide. Meanwhile, Elton John's tribute for Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind," topped the pop music charts.
As for Liga MX, 1997 saw former Real Madrid star Emilio Butragueno suit up for now-defunct Celaya, while Tigres, who recently made a splash by signing former Marseille forward Florian Thauvin, celebrated promotion after a year in the second division.
Then and now for Reynoso, Pérez
Manager Juan Reynoso made history as Cruz Azul's first foreign-born manager to win Liga MX on Sunday, a fact made even more satisfying for fans due to the Peruvian serving as a bookmark of sorts for the team's last two titles.
As club captain, Reynoso lifted the trophy in 1997. Also on that squad was Oscar Perez, then a 24-year-old getting his first taste as Cruz Azul's first-choice goalkeeper. After retiring in 2019 at the age of 46, Pérez took a role as the club's goalkeeping instructor.
Corona finally gets his crown
In a career spanning nearly two decades, Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona had won nearly everything in the Mexican game, including Copa MX, Supercup, CONCACAF Champions League and Leagues Cup. Further, as a member of Mexico's national team, Corona has a Gold Cup title, a Pan American Games first-place finish, and was part of arguably El Tri's biggest triumph, gold at the 2012 Olympics.
But the 40-year-old had never won a Liga MX title, despite several opportunities. On Sunday, he finally filled in his resume and, like Reynoso 24 years prior, Corona fulfilled his duties as captain by raising the trophy in front of a raucous crowd.
Another unlikely champion
Though it finished first during the Guardianes' 2021 regular season with an astounding 41 points from 17 games, Cruz Azul's place in the history books was far from a certainty, considering its own history and Liga MX's infamous unpredictability in the playoff stage.
As such, Cruz Azul certainly deserves a place alongside the other clubs that shocked the football world in 2021, joining the likes of Lille (France), Atletico Madrid (Spain), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal) and Villarreal (UEFA Europa League) as unfancied teams that went all the way.