LEON, Guanajuato -- Dario Benedetto's grandiose finish sealed it off for Club America, where Las Aguilas lost 2-1 against Leon. The visitors may have suffered a loss, but they still advanced to the Liguilla semifinals after finishing with an aggregate score of 5-3.
The inclusion of Javier Guemez in the starting XI permitted America to close all of Leon's attacking spaces, frustrating Leon's Carlos "Gullit" Pena, Luis "Chapito" Montes and Elias Hernandez.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday night's clash between America and La Fiera:
1. America earn a good enough result to progress
America's starting line-up included four natural midfielders -- Rubens Sambueza, Jose "Chepe" Guerrero, Osvaldo Martinez and Javier Guemez. The other midfielder, who happens to also play as forward, was Michael "Miky" Arroyo. Ignacio "Nacho" Ambriz's plan was to block the passages in the midfield for Leon footballers such as Montes, Pena, Hernandez and Gallito Vazquez, and for almost the entire first half, it worked until Dario Burbano's right-footed shot finished in the back of the net.
It was a daring tactical decision to hand the ball to Leon and let them captain the game at a place where they had lost only once in the 2015 Apertura. Not including forwards such as Darwin Quintero or Dario "Pipa" Benedetto was surprising. But by not including either of the two in the starting XI, it allowed Guemez to impress with Las Aguilas.
Each time a Leon midfielder received the ball, there was Guemez, doing a wrestler-like stance, ready to fight the opponent. The message was clear: He wasn't going to permit the opponent to pass around the ball smoothly. Every connected pass by Leon's attackers proved to be an intense task because of Guerrero, Guemez, Martinez and even Sambueza's movements. Every challenge Los Azulcremas confronted was treated as if it was the last one.
Ambriz's tactical decision to play a lot of midfielders proved to be risky, but at the end, the team earned the favorable result.
2. Martinez is becoming an idol for America
The intermediary between Oribe Peralta, America's sole striker, and the rest of his teammates was the Paraguayan midfielder. In a game in which lots of calmness was required, he was the one who stood out the most.
Alert at all moments, keeping his eyes close to the ball, he waited for it to arrive to his control so he could send the right pass to the open teammate. What he brings to the table is totally different from what the captain Sambueza offers, which leans toward rebelliousness. As a result, he has missed a couple of games due to red cards.
Martinez pacifies America's game and gives it some type of shape whenever the team starts to fall short of ideas. On Saturday, the team in charge of creating most of the plays wasn't America, but every time Los Azulcremas had the ball, there had to be a player who would be able to make the best out of them. Between "Sambu" and "Osvaldito," they made more than one Leon supporter worry as America played near William Yarbrough's goal.
3. Leon's time to renovate
On Saturday, media outlet Peridico AM published an interview with Mauro Boselli. In the interview, the Argentinean confirmed that he wants to stay in Leon for many years to come. He adores the club and hopes to become the team's all-time leading goal-scorer (he is 77 goals short of reaching Adalberto Lopez's 136 goals).
In the return leg against America, the skeleton of that bicampeon Leon -- 2013 Apertura and 2014 Clausura winners -- was still present. Montes, Burbano, Yarbrough, Gonzalez, Pena, Montes, Gallito and Boselli -- but the result wasn't a positive one.
Undoubtedly, the past three years for Leon have been worthwhile -- from being a Second Division club to ultimately one of Liga MX's powerhouse clubs. In Leon, some of Mexican football's brightest, and most entertaining, football has been put on display, but the team should start considering a serious renovation because players such as Pena, Montes, Gallito and Gonzalez will not be at their finest for long.
At least Leon knows it can built its team around a quality forward such as Boselli, who still wants to achieve more in Liga MX.