by Kyle McCarthy
1. Is this showpiece fixture a chance to increase the profile of Copa MX?: This beleaguered competition returned after a 15-year absence in time for the Apertura, but it hasn’t captured much attention since its return to the scene. The absence of seven Liga MX clubs – including every entrant in the CONCACAF Champions League and the Copa Libertadores – and the prevalence of reserve and youth team players strips away most of the prestige. All hope is not lost yet, though. The presence of two Liga MX sides in the final offers a stark contrast from the Apertura edition (Dorados beat Correcaminos on penalties after a 2-2 draw) and supplies some hope that this match may provide a boost to the cup in the future.
2. La Máquina attempts to finally end its championship drought: Cruz Azul has not won a title since Victor Manuel Vucetich guided the club to the Invernio title in 1997. This proud Mexico City-based side has fared well enough during the past 16 years, but it has somehow managed to lose in seven finals during that stretch. Another setback at Estadio Andrés Quintana Roo might prove too much to bear.
3. Cruz Azul boss Guillermo Vázquez must choose his starting XI carefully: Copa MX regulations limit competing teams to three foreign players in each matchday squad. While the strictures aid development by forcing coaches to turn to domestic players to fill the void, they also prompt difficult decisions in the latter stages of the competition. Vázquez must choose between Nicolás Bertolo, Christian Giménez, Teofilo Gutierrez, Mariano Pavone and Luis Perea as he plots his lineup. Gimenez and Pavone look like certain inclusions (barring fitness concerns), but Vázquez must sort through the other three choices as he attempts to plot out a side capable of capturing an away victory.
4. A moment of opportunity in an otherwise forgettable season for Atlante: Daniel Guzmán’s outfit currently props up the Liga MX table after a tumultuous and unsuccessful campaign. Although Guzman and his players must still tend to some relegation concerns (seven points clear with four games left), they can afford to focus on this home match. It is tough to imagine a better opportunity for this downtrodden side to collect its first piece of silverware since winning the CONCACAF Champions League in 2008-09.
5. Neutrals will hope this one-off affair does not resemble the most recent league meeting: Pavone scored twice to inspire Cruz Azul’s 3-0 victory in Cancún last month. Although the visitors would welcome a similarly straightforward evening, the tournament as a whole would benefit from a more compelling conclusion tonight.