Club America’s Leagues Cup journey took a disappointing turn as they suffered a 4-1 defeat against Columbus Crew. The loss raised eyebrows as America looked a shadow of themselves in this game. A lot of criticism and questioning fell on head coach André Jardine’s rotation to the squad. His experimental approach in rotating was considered by many the cause for such a poor performance. Jardine made a total of three changes to the starting lineup that secured a convincing victory over St. Louis City SC. In this analysis, I delve into the costly rotations and its implications on the team’s performance in the Leagues Cup.
Club America Rotation Mistakes Against Columbus Crew: Leagues Cup Analysis
The Initial Success
In their opening Leagues Cup fixture Club America put on a show. Displaying their attacking prowess and tactical discipline which secured them an emphatic 4-0 win over St. Louis City SC. The cohesive performance and individual brilliance showcased by the starting lineup left fans optimistic about the team’s potential in the tournament. The striker duo of Henry Martin and Julian Quiñones came to life in that game looking threatening in every attack. Hopes were high after that first game in seeing that partnership flourish. However, the following match against Columbus Crew revealed a different narrative, one that questioned the effectiveness of Jardine’s rotation strategy.
Club America Rotation: Jardine’s Costly Mistake
Against Columbus Crew, Jardine opted for a considerable shakeup in the starting lineup. Making three changes to his previous starting lineup. Key players like Henry Martin and Sebastian Cáceres saw the bench for this game. While a lesser-favored player like Miguel Layun was given the opportunity to prove their worth. Jardine also opted to switch formations from his 4-3-3 against St. Louis to a 4-2-3-1. Playing players out of position like Leo Suarez at CAM and Layun on the left wing. Managing player fitness and maintain freshness was always going to be tricky. Rotation can be a viable strategy but it can also disrupt the rhythm and chemistry of the team. It was understandable for Jardine to make these switches seeing as how the team was already through into the next round. Although testing your strongest lineup against a very good tactical opponent could of gone a long way.
— Club América (@ClubAmerica) July 31, 2023
The changes to the starting lineup were evident throughout the match against Columbus Crew. Even though Las Aguilas where able to score first they didn’t look like the side seen last week. Prior to their goal Columbus had hit the post and blew a close shot over the goal. Once the equalizer came from the Crew it seemed that the team just looked deflated. Club America appeared disjointed and struggled to find their rhythm in lapses of the match. They found it difficult to break down a well-organized Columbus team who left very few spaces in between. The fluidity in passing and attacking combinations that were prevalent in the previous game seemed absent.
Wasteful Finishing Condemns Attack:
The attacking fluidity that was evident in the previous game was noticeably absent against Columbus Crew. With the likes of Henry Martin on the bench, Club America’s attacking prowess was blunted. Julian Quiñones seemed to struggle as the lone number 9 when it came to retaining the ball. His burst of speed was still there but his clinical finishing seemed absent in front of goal. Even though America created clear cut chances, their lack of finishing is what did them. The lack of finishing up front seems to be a trend for André Jardine’s side. Since the start of the season America has been wasteful and it has cost them yet another game like against FC Juarez. For this game the forwards lacked the sharpness and synergy that can only be developed through consistent game time together.
Lack of Midfield Control Lead To Defensive Vulnerability:
In the match against Columbus Crew, the midfield failed to exert the same level of control as the previous game. With the absence of Jonathan Dos Santos the midfield looked exposed. Richard Sanchez and Alvara Fidalgo were caught countless times in transition. As a result, Columbus Crew found space to exploit and put pressure on Club America’s defense. With no actual anchor present in the middle, the defense scrambled to cover as much ground as possible. With no ability to dictate the tempo of the match America, look short of ideas and stagnant. One of the most glaring consequences of Jardine’s rotation experiment was Nestor Araujo. The once Mexican national team center back appeared uncertain and struggled to cope with the attacking threats posed by Columbus Crew. Defensive lapses and miscommunication cost the team dearly, as they conceded four goals, a stark contrast to their previous clean sheet.
Lessons for the Future:
Jardine’s rotation experiment in the Leagues Cup provided valuable lessons for the Brazilian manager. Yes, player rotation is essential for managing fitness and squad depth. But also comes at the risk of tainting the cohesiveness of the squad. When you manage the biggest team in North America you get very little room for error. Especially after losing by a margin of four goals. It’s clear that going forward Jardine will have to think twice before making any big change to his squad. When asked about why he rested key players, he responded “We’re entering a period in which the games are coming fast, every three days. We thought this game would be perfect to rest some of our key players ahead of the knockout stage seeing as how we already qualified into the next round.”
¿POR QUÉ NO JUGARON HENRY MARTÍN Y JONATHAN DOS SANTOS?
— Gibrán Araige (@GibranAraige) August 1, 2023
Club America’s 4-1 loss to Columbus Crew in the Leagues Cup serves as a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of excessive rotation and changes to a winning starting lineup. André Jardine’s experimental approach exposed defensive vulnerabilities and disrupted the team’s attacking fluency. The defeat how ever comes as a learning experience for the Brazilian manager. Club America will have to shake themselves off and shift focus onto their next rivals. Las Aguilas will travel to the Windy City of Chicago to face off against Chicago Fire in the Leagues Cup Round of 32. Where the team will have the perfect opportunity to bury this loss and get back to winning ways.
Jul 31, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Alexandru Maţan (20) and Club America midfielder Richard Sanchez (20) battle for the ball during the first half of the League Cup group match at Lower.com Field. Credit: Kyle Robertson, USA Today via Columbus Dispatch.
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