Queretaro claims Copa MX title with Volpi's help and aspire to greatness
QUERETARO, Mexico -- In the early morning hours on Wednesday, at the hotel where Queretaro spent the night before its Copa MX final clash against Chivas, Gallos Blancos' goalkeeper Tiago Volpi penned his signature on a contract extension that prolonged his stay at the club for at least three more years.
Queretaro's Estadio Corregidora would be shouting "Volpi, Volpi, Volpi!" just a few hours later, but for a different reason, as he helped the club win its first major title in its 66-year history.
Queretaro beat Chivas 3-2 on penalties and the hero in the shootout was none other than Volpi, the 25-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper who has become the idol of the club and the city of Queretaro.
"Queretaro has everything to be an important team," said Volpi on Wednesday morning. "I feel I'm a part of the project and I'm very happy to say that I will stay here for a while. I'm well aware of the affection the fans give me and it gives me confidence. I know that the best is yet to come."
He was right to suggest that "the best is yet to come," as thousands of Queretaro fans, who had been waiting for years to see their team lift a first-division title, saw their players win the 2016 Apertura Copa MX despite the sending off of Andres Renteria following a 0-0 draw after normal time.
After the match, Chivas' head coach Matias Almeyda stayed cool in spite of the fact that he had lost the chance to win another cup with El Rebano Sagrado. Wednesday's cup final was the club's 11th, and Chivas have only won three of them. The Argentine coach made it known that Volpi's performance played a significant role in taking the game all the way to penalties.
"I think he gave an excellent performance, not only in the shootout, but in the entire game, he made important saves," he said. "He's another footballer on the pitch, but he had a lot of confidence. His two penalty saves were amazing."
Queretaro played the last 20 minutes of the match down a man after Renteria was sent off for head-butting Chivas' left-back Miguel Ponce. However, the visitors were unable to take advantage, allowing Volpi to showcase all of his repertoire during the shootout.
"He made one really, really big save around the 70th minute on a corner kick. I thought the ball was in, but he came up with the save, so it was pretty impressive," Queretaro defender Jonathan Bornstein told ESPN FC. "But then again, I have a lot of confidence in Tiago because in practice we train penalty kicks and he stops a lot of our own guys' shots, so I had so much faith in him that he was going to stop at least two or three, and that's exactly what he did."
Bornstein is a regular starter in Victor Manuel Vucetich's XI, and although he had already won a league title with Tigres in 2011, the win with Queretaro feels different because he's an integral part of the team; he's one of the leaders of a club that has the ultimate goal of becoming a powerhouse in Liga MX.
"With the new owners that took over the team like two-and-a-half years ago, right when I got to Queretaro, they've made a lot of changes in the club," he added. "They've made the facilities a lot better, redone the locker rooms, we have a better gym, better training facilities, so I think what they want is to compete with (Club) America, Chivas, Tigres, Pumas and Cruz Azul.
"Winning tonight is really special for our club because we haven't won anything in 66 years. It's definitely special to give it to the fans, to the institution, more than anything, the new ownership, and all of us who are part of this team. It feels nice to be notched in history for Queretaro."
In order for Queretaro to win its first ever Copa MX, it had to beat teams like Cruz Azul, Toluca and Chivas. The task wasn't easy, and even though Los Gallos Blancos' season in Liga MX has been turbulent, they have laid the foundations for the future.
"I feel like this is the foundation for what a club should be," Vucetich told ESPN FC. "What do I mean? I feel like this is a beginning and we should continue it because there are institutions that after winning, they stop doing the right things and stop looking at the important aspects that matter. These teams tend to fall off.
"So that's why I believe that the foundation should keep growing, we have to make it stronger so the institution can keep fighting for titles. Thankfully, we have an institution that is greatly supported and we have visionaries from our ownership group, Grupo Angeles, and these benefits allow us to become better."
The next step for Queretaro will be to return to a Liga MX Liguilla and try to reach the final. And why not? After Wednesday night, many Queretanos will hope to see Volpi, Bornstein, Vucetich and others help the club to reach new heights.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.