Santos get the best of Puebla to win Copa MX final
On Tuesday night, Santos Laguna hosted Puebla in the Apertura 2014 Copa MX final. Santos, who were seen by many as the favorites, lifted the Copa MX trophy after the end of the competition for the first time in the club's history. It was no surprise that Los Guerreros defeated Puebla, but the visiting team was just a couple of penalty kicks away from making their own history.
Santos easily had possession of the ball for most of the match and had little trouble pressuring their opponents. Puebla, who valiantly defended as they slipped across the wet pitch, must have known that they had little chance of winning anything else this year. They are a club that haven't won a league match since August and have also put most of their faith on the feet of a cantankerous veteran in his 40s, namely Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
Although Puebla made it to the Copa MX finals, it was through the skin of their teeth. In the group stage of the tournament, the club only averaged one goal a game but were able to secure four slender victories out of their six matches total. Defensively the club did very well, which was enough to help them qualify for the next stage of the competition.
The club advanced through the quarterfinals and semifinals of the tournament after narrowly beating their opponents in penalty kicks. The matches could have easily gone either way but La Franja powered their way through and somehow found themselves on the rain-soaked pitch against Santos, just 90 minutes away from their likely only chance at some hardware.
Los Guerreros had some trouble as well, but the club looked much more confident on the pitch against their second-to-last-in-the-relegation-table opponent.
Puebla eventually lost in extra-time penalty kicks 4-2 and missed out on a championship by just a couple of shots. The narrative would have been perfect for the club as well if they had won it. It would have been beautiful to see Blanco celebrating a win in almost certainly his final season as a professional player. The blunt and emotional head coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, or "El Chelis," would have likely cheered and yelled in a way that only Miguel Herrera could recreate.
A trophy would have been fantastic for the Puebla fans too. Fans of La Franja seldom see their team at this stage of any competition. With the threat of relegation a stark reality for the club, the Copa MX trophy could have been a perfect consolation prize.
The "Cinderella team" had their chance, and were so very close to making history. For now, the club must redirect its energy back to the league and focus on avoiding relegation.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.