Cuauhtemoc Blanco farewells Club America, Estadio Azteca in style
MEXICO CITY -- Thirty-six minutes. That's how long head coach Ignacio "Nacho" Ambriz granted to Cuauhtemoc Blanco in his farewell game against Morelia. The final result read, 4-1 to Club America. Since Ambriz took over as America head coach, there hadn't been so much joy present at Estadio Azteca like it was the case on Saturday evening.
Blanco left bits of his class on the field, and his presence in the team had a positive effect on Las Aguilas. Here are three takeaways after Blanco's last official football game in Mexico:
1. America plays exciting football against disconsolate Morelia
America had only one thought in mind on Saturday night: attack. It was difficult to decipher if America was just too good in offense, or Morelia came to Mexico City to part of the spectacle and only be remembered as the team that Cuauhtemoc Blanco played against in his last game at Estadio Azteca.
In the first 35 minutes, the man of the hour was Blanco. All of the plays had one finishing target in mind -- Blanco. But even though the 43-year-old hadn't taken part in an official game since April of last year, he provided sparks of greatness. One of his shots outside the box rattled the crossbar, and almost made the stadium go into mayhem. One of the biggest club idols was a crossbar away from scoring a floater in his last official game with Las Aguilas.
The likes of Oribe Peralta and Rubens Sambueza would always arrive to the final third with a lot of space in front of them, allowing them to create dangerous scoring opportunities. Morelia looked lifeless on the field, while America wanted to score a goal while Blanco was still on the pitch. The goal didn't come, but America looked like solid team, working as a single unit and making Monarcas' time in Mexico City miserable.
Once Blanco stepped off the pitch, Ambriz sent in Darwin Quintero to the pitch. It was a significant scene -- Blanco, a talisman of Club America, gave his place to Quintero, a footballer who came to America with an astonishing curriculum but who hasn't been able to find ways to become a key America player.
Quintero was baptized again in that moment when he took Blanco's place on the field. After that, he flew from flank to flank; he wanted to prove a point on Saturday night in front of a packed Estadio Azteca. He finally found the net in a season he hadn't scored a single goal after eight games, and even went on to score another and provide an assist to Peralta.
America's all-attack mentality left Morelia unable to respond. It was a beating where America's players wanted Blanco to leave with a win in hand. Blanco took himself with a lot of seriousness; he interpreted the game like any other game, not like a goodbye.
2. Blanco makes the evening memorable
March 5 will be a date a lot of America fans will remember -- young and old. When Cuau stepped off the team's bus, he showcased the same demeanor he demonstrated before important World Cup bouts or Liguilla games. Blanco played every game as if it was his last, and always attempted to leave something on the pitch worth storing in one's mind.
He moved on the pitch like a rookie, of course without the blazing speed that once characterized him. His legs didn't provide speed, but his mind was way ahead of the other 21 players' minds. Blanco was a player who would see plays no one in the stadium was capable to foresee.
Against Morelia, no one saw the floating shot coming, nor saw his very own cuauhteminha being used one last time. The crowd will miss him exactly for that, for taking the extra-mile and always leaving the fan with a memorable play to talk about after the 90 minutes had been long gone.
The crowd at Estadio Azteca said goodbye to one of its biggest idols, to one of the best Mexican footballers to ever play the game. The "Ole, ole, Temo, Temo," chants rained down from the stands, while Cuau gave a last run around the Azteca. America's birthday is in October, but on Saturday night, the centennial celebrations reached a climax that would be hard to repeat.
Weeks before the matchday, Blanco said: "I didn't just want a plaque, and that's it. I can get those at El Zocalo; I wanted to play with America."
Blanco, who wore the No. 100, got his wish granted and on top of it, America got a convincing 4-1 result.
3. Morelia has yet to win an away game in the Clausura
Before the initial whistle, head coach Enrique Meza received an effusive hug from Blanco, who came directly to Morelia's bench to greet him. That moment would be the remembered as the only happy moment for a Morelia member on Saturday as the team from Michoacan hasn't been able to get an away win in the current season.
Meza unconvincingly declared after the game that his team didn't feel uncomfortable taking on a game of these sorts, which included the presence of 43-year-old Blanco.
Against America, however, Monarcas showed that it's not a team built for postseason football.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.