By MARK LORENZANA
Powerhouse Club América, which had been making life miserable for the rest of the Liga MX teams in this current tournament, was booted out by lower-ranked Deportivo Toluca FC on the night of Saturday, Oct. 22, while playing no less in its own home territory — Mexico City’s famed Azteca Stadium — in front of thousands of disappointed fans.
The packed stadium was witness to a 1-1 score all throughout the match, which would have spelled doom for América had the team not “scored” a last-minute goal courtesy of forward Henry Martín, which resulted in pandemonium when the ball hit the net. Minutes later, however, one of the officials — in a gutsy call — invalidated the goal due to an offside violation.
In the end, the aggregate score of 3-2 — after Toluca managed to win the first leg, 2-1, at the Nemesio Diez Stadium in the State of Mexico (Edoméx) on the night of Wednesday, Oct. 19, which put pressure on the Mexico City-based club going into the second match — was enough to propel Toluca to the finals, and left the erstwhile prohibitive favorite América searching for answers to an unceremonious exit.
Several players from both clubs figured in heated exchanges and shoving matches in the middle of the field when time expired, underscoring the sense of disappointment by América on one hand, and the confidence gained by the underdogs on the other, after slaying what soccer experts were eyeing as the eventual champion of this Apertura 2022 Liga MX final phase.
Club América has won more titles to date than any other team in Mexican soccer, with a record 13 league titles. It was no surprise, therefore, that América’s fans were looking forward to the team winning its long-awaited 14th Liga MX title. But that was not to be, thanks — or no thanks — to sixth-place Toluca, fondly known by its own fans as “Chorizo Power,” which proved that winning as underdogs is always sweeter.
This is not by far América’s biggest and only heartbreak. In the 2019 Apertura, the team lost in the finals against the Monterrey Rayados, and in the 2016 Apertura — which was the club’s 100th year anniversary since its founding — it succumbed to the other finalists, Monterrey-based team Tigres UANL.
Perhaps the team’s biggest disappointment, however, came in the 1982-1983 season, when América was booted out in the semifinals by its staunch rivals Club Deportivo Guadalajara, more popularly known by its nickname Chivas. América won the first leg of that series by a score of 2-1, only to lose the second match, 0-3.
Meanwhile, in the other semifinal, the Rayados lost 1-0 to CF Pachuca at the BBVA Stadium in Monterrey on the night of Sunday, Oct. 23, for an aggregate score of 6-2 in favor of the Hidalgo-based team. Pachuca is set to meet Toluca for a finals showdown.