On August 8th, the team had just returned to Coapa after a 0-0 draw with Dorados in Copa MX, the team’s fourth consecutive match without a loss in all competitions. Looming just three days away was a league match against Monterrey, a team then unbeaten in Apertura 2018 (all competitions). After the match against Monterrey, the team had to turn right around to fly to Veracruz for the next Copa MX match on August 14. All together a nightmare for roster management as you try to balance fielding a competitive team with making sure players are well rested for every match.
Miguel Herrera sent out a squad against Monterrey with just enough tweaks from previous matches to earn a 3-0 win over the yet-unbeaten Rayados and repeat the result on the road in Veracruz just days later.
To look at how Herrera’s roster management has helped lead to the six-match unbeaten streak, let’s go back to the start on July 28th at home against Atlas. Herrera deployed a 4-4-2 featuring Oribe Peralta and Roger Martínez up top, a midfield of Andres Ibargüen, Guido Rodríguez, Matheus Uribe, and Renato Ibarra, and a backline of Luis Reyes, Bruno Valdez, Edson Álvarez, and Paul Aguilar. Marche was in net, and that’s the one thing that hasn’t changed over the streak. Guido scored twice, Matheus added another, and after a 3-0 win the team’s attention immediately turned to the next match.
Just three days later, América hosted Veracruz to start Copa MX play. With the chance to play the kids in a competitive match, all but one outfield spot in the 4-4-2 was rotated. Henry Martín and Fernando Gonzalez took over up top while Antonio López, Joe Corona, José Guillén, and Diego Lainez played in the midfield. Carlos Vargas, Ema Aguilera, Edson Álvarez (the only field player also in the lineup against Atlas days before), and Jorge Sánchez made up the backline. Ema scored twice, Henry added another, and after a 3-0 win (what would become a theme in the coming matches) the team’s attention turned to the next match.
With five days without a match, and nearly all players from the original lineup versus Atlas rested against Veracruz, the 4-4-2 against Pachuca (August 4th) would look similar to that July 28th match against Atlas, but with two big changes: Joe Corona joined the defensive midfield in place of Matheus Uribe, and Diego Lainez played right wing in place of Renato Ibarra. Lainez scored two historic goals, Oribe added a third, and the team’s attention turned to a Copa match just three days away, also on the road.
This is where things started to get tricky. The club’s fourth match in less than two weeks, second consecutive on the road, and the next league match (just four days away) is against a yet-unbeaten Monterrey team. A tricky situation calls for a creative solution, and Herrera delivered. For the first time this season the club switched the formation, deploying a 4-3-2-1 with Henry Martín as the lone striker. Cecilio Domínguez played on his left wing (now back from his broken jaw suffered in preseason) and Iván Moreno was on the right wing, with Antonio López, José Guillén, and Joe Corona in the defensive midfield. Carlos Vargas, Ema Aguilera, Daniel Zamora, and Jorge Sánchez made up the backline. The new lineup did what it needed to do, and the club came back from Sinaloa with a result and one more point in Copa MX.
This is where things start to get really fun. For the second match in a row, Herrera changed up the formation, now deploying a 4-2-3-1. Martínez was the target man up top, with an attacking midfield of Ibargüen, Peralta, and Lainez behind him. Yes, Peralta dropped back to the CAM position. Guido and Matheus manned the defensive midfield, while Reyes, Valdez, Álvarez, and Sánchez filled in the backline. The match was nearly flawless as Roger scored early, Monterrey went down to 10 in the first half, and Valdez and Ibargüen finished them off in the second half.
The changes allowed for a near-full rotation for the match away at Dorados three days later. The 4-2-3-1 remained, but Lainez moved from right wing to CAM, and Álvarez moved up from CB to CDM. Henry Martín was up top, with Cecilio Domínguez on the left wing and Renato Ibarra on the right (Lainez between them). Joe Corona joined Edson in the defensive midfield, and the backline consisted of Carlos Vargas, Ema Aguilera, Daniel Zamora, and Jorge Sánchez (the only player to remain in his spot from the Monterrey match). Another match, another 3-0 win.
Over the six matches, Herrera used six different lineups in three different formations, starting 23 total players, and the team scored three goals in five of the matches and earned four clean sheets. Players were rotated in and out, and played different roles as well. Peralta started twice as a forward and once as the CAM, Lainez started three times on the right wing and once as the CAM, and Álvarez had four starts at center back and one as a defensive midfielder. Some players only saw action in league play, some only in Copa matches, and some put in double duty. But from large changes with nearly completely different starting lineups and different formations to small tweaks like moving Peralta back a row to CAM, or Lainez from right to center, Herrera has managed to keep the team fresh, competitive, and most importantly successful over a tough stretch.