Ol’ Ugly is Better than Ol’ Nothing
Full disclosure: The title is not one of mine. I wish. No that belongs to Darrel Royal, Texas coaching legend, and a man with a long list of quotables. Pumas coach Memo Vasquez would also be happy with the title. But he did not take to heart with one of Darrel’s most famous axioms:
you dance with who brung you
You can understand his motives to playing with 3 holding midfielders vs America in their second leg of the Liga MX semis. 3 away goal advantage, the stiffest defense in Liga MX. They had the chops to bend and not break for 90 minutes. So why did they break after 20 minutes and 2 goals from Darwin “the Goal Scientist” Quintero?
There was plenty of disconnect. And Complacency? Oh yeah? Add to that a Club America team that was hellbent on scoring the 4 goals they needed to advance, and it was very nearly a historic, calamitous, unforgivable collapse.
Luckily for Pumas, Memo Vasquez moved quickly to start dancing with who brung him to this point, and the team settled down enough to squeak through to the final. It wasn’t the prettiest way to go through. Their performance was awful, actually. The worst they played all season. But in the end, the result is what mattered.
But not in Mexico.
In a league where style and spectacle is almost as (and in some cases more) important as the result, Pumas committed a mortal sin: they played to defend a result, not to look for one. The post game presser was a somber affair where the underlying tone was one of defeat, not making their 13th final since being promoted in the early 60’s. As coach Royal said
I learned this about coaching: You don’t have to explain victory and you can’t explain defeat.
The reporters were baffled as to why Pumas betrayed the 3G philosophy that all teams, championship or otherwise, are apparently obligated to adhere to in Mexico: ganar, gustar, y golear.
Did Pumas play badly? Of course they did. But their 3-goal lead gave them the luxury of rolling out a real stinker and still eliminating their cross-town rivals. In other words they had their worst performance of the season, and in the end the result was what mattered.