On Wednesday night, the champions of MLS and Liga MX will face off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the second annual Campeones Cup, featuring Atlanta United vs. Club América (8 PM ET | ESPN2, Univision, TUDN, TSN 1/4). It’s a clash of giants, two of the most ambitious and well-funded clubs in North America, and the latest proving ground in the ongoing duel for bragging rights between the continent’s two largest nations.
So just who are the Five Stripes up against?
Based at the famous Estadio Azteca and owned by entertainment conglomerate Grupo Televisa, América are a timeless titan in Mexican soccer. They’ve won a record 13 league championships, have hoisted the Copa MX trophy six times and have conquered Concacaf’s top club competition – first the Champions Cup and more recently Concacaf Champions League – on seven occasions, more than any other team.
Here’s a rundown of the current state of Las Aguilas, who’ve raced out to a 3-0-1 start in the new Liga MX Apertura season, which began last month.
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Giovani dos Santos: The Mexican international’s contract buyout by the LA Galaxy earlier this year made him a free agent, and the Mexico City side signed him to a three-year deal last month – handing him their No. 10 shirt as a statement of their belief in his quality despite his indifferent form in the latter stages of his time with the Galaxy.
Guillermo Ochoa: One of the most accomplished goalkeepers in Mexican history, “Memo” has finally returned home after a long, winding journey across Europe. Freshly arrived, he’s not yet ready to take part in Campeones Cup but in the longer run represents a top replacement for departing starter Augustin Marchesin.
Fernando Gonzalez: The 25-year-old isn’t quite a household name yet, but America believe he can be, citing data that ranks him among Liga MX’s top ball- and duel-winning central midfielders when they signed him earlier this summer. A product of the youth system at their hated rivals Chivas de Guadalajara, he never found a place with the Goats, but showed his potential with a successful stint at Necaxa before becoming an Aguila.
Leonel Lopez: With Edson Alvarez and Mateus Uribe crossing the Atlantic to join Ajax and Porto, respectively, America needed reinforcements along the spine of the team. Like Gonzalez’s, Lopez’s arrival from Club Leon signaled manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera’s hopes of doing so with domestic talent. Also 25, he adds to the stiff competition for minutes in a loaded midfield.
Augustin Marchesin: The Argentinean ‘keeper won Liga MX titles with both Santos Laguna and America during his impressive stint in Mexico, and duly drew the attention of Portuguese heavyweights Porto this summer. "Marche" leaves big shoes for Ochoa and Oscar Jimenez to fill.
Mateus Uribe: The Colombian box-to-box midfielder was a sturdy and steady engine-room performer in his two years in Mexico City, and Porto reportedly paid America a transfer fee of upwards of $10 million to acquire him earlier this month.
Oribe Peralta: The longtime Mexican international made nearly 200 appearances for Las Aguilas and scored plenty of goals in that time. Now 35, the strapping No. 9 moved across the Super Clasico divide this summer to sign with Chivas.
Edson Alvarez: One of America’s proudest products, the 21-year-old is a local boy who rose through the club’s academy quickly with his imperious center-back play (though he’s also capable of working as a d-mid or fullback). His international career developed nearly as quickly and now he’s with Ajax after the Dutch giants paid a hefty fee last month.
Nico Castillo: America’s Chilean striker has been one of their more dangerous attacking weapons since his arrival in February, but he suffered a broken leg in their match vs. Club Tijuana earlier this month and faces a long recovery stint.
As you can see, Piojo & Co. have experienced lots of comings and goings this summer, but it’s hardly shown on the field – not yet, at least. His aggressive style of play emphasizes width, pressing and getting numbers forward and has been a good fit in the capital city.
Las Aguilas are undefeated over the opening weeks of Liga MX and have conceded just three goals in their first four Apertura matches. A 4-2 defeat of fellow elites Monterrey on opening day was a statement of intent and the club will, as usual, be expected to vie for top honors in all competitions.