Soccer fans in South Florida are pumped for Friday’s inaugural Leagues Cup match for Inter Miami at DRV PNK Stadium.
A group that may not be as exuberant is Inter Miami’s opponent … Cruz Azul.
Yup, this is the side that may get to experience the first minutes by Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets for the Herons.
Let’s take a look at the first team on deck for the Messi-infused Inter Miami.
Not a Great Start for Cruz Azul
The Mexican side is one of two clubs that play home matches at the iconic Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
And that’s been about the most excitement surrounding this team outside of being the first opponents for Inter Miami since signing Messi and Busquets.
Inter Miami vs. Cruz Azul
2023 Leagues Cup
DRV PNK Stadium, Ft. Lauderdale
8 p.m. ET
How to Watch
Apple TV MLS Season Pass
Los Cementeros are currently 0-0-3 to open the Liga MX Apertura which puts them at the bottom of the league with a goal differential of minus-5.
Manager Ricardo Ferretti was appointed to the job in February of this year and the team has struggled to find any positive form.
The team is coming off a 2-1 loss to Club Tijuana where two players picked up yellow cards.
Midfielder Ignacio Rivero scored the lone goal for Cruz Azul — which also happened to be the first goal for the club this season.
Needless to say, Cruz Azul has struggled to find the back of the net so far this season.
Winger Uriel Antuna led the team with eight goals total last season with forward Santiago Gimenez adding another five. Gimenez isn’t even on the roster, but Antuna is back after working with the Mexican national team.
In their first three matches this season, the defense allowed six goals in one match and Ferretti walked out of a press conference after another
Cruz Azul Has Rich History
While the team has struggled this season, it is one with a strong presence in Liga MX.
According to ESPN, from 1969 to 1980, the team won seven league championships and won the Liga MX Clausura title in 2021.
For clarity, Liga MX plays two annual tournaments rather than one long season.
The Apertura tournament runs from July to December while the Clausura tournament is from January to May.
After each tournament, the top 12 teams advance to the liguilla of each tournament with the top four teams qualifying directly.
Yeah, it’s a little complicated but a long season.
Back to Cruz Azul…
Lately, the squad has made a name for itself for its inability to finish matches and failing to show up (not literally) in big clashes. It’s gotten so back that there’s even a word for it: Cruzazulear. It is used to refer to a mistake made.
Yup, it’s been that bad.
The Matchup: Inter Miami vs. Cruz Azul
Of course, all the hype will be around when Messi and Busquets will take the pitch.
The Herons have a massive opportunity here playing against a defense that leaks worse than bad plumbing.
Not that Inter Miami doesn’t have defensive problems of their own, but Josef Martinez and the Inter Miami front line — even without Messi — have the opportunity to feast on Los Cementeros’ defense.
If Messi does play, it is possible he runs circles around the defense that will already be mesmerized to be on the same pitch as him.
That doesn’t mean it will be a cakewalk for Inter Miami.
While Cruz Azul has a struggling defense, the Herons aren’t much better. If a player like Antuna gets space, he will make Inter Miami pay.
Another player that can cause headaches for the Herons is 19-year-old midfielder Rodrigo Huescas. He is adept at playing in the center of the pitch and can serve as a strong option on the wings and up front. He’s fast and can be a potential playmaker.
If Inter Miami can jump in front early, it is possible Cruz Azul won’t be able to answer, considering their run of not being able to finish big matches.