Aventuras Américas | Part 27 | Puebla FC #5: Homegrown Hero Ramón Rodríguez

Puebla FC had safely made it through to the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League despite a relatively disappointing campaign in Liga MX Apertura. However, manager Robinho Lazaró was very much focused on continental football as he extended his stay in México.

The end of 2033 saw 21-year-old, still uncapped Daniel Aguilar come second in the North American Goalkeeper of the Year, only behind Porto and Mexico number one Alexis Montano. Speaking of awards, defender Alan López came third in the NxGn 2034 award, which is the first time one of Lazaró’s players has made the list!

The mid-season break saw Lazaró strengthen his squad with two exciting Mexican additions in striker Francisco García and midfielder Norberto Garza, who both cost £3 million from Guadalajara and Pumas. He also added a much-needed ball-winning midfield option in Célio Carlos, who came in for £400,000 from Ceará. Then, on deadline day, they snapped up an exciting attacking midfield option in 21-year-old Matías Gutiérrez for £2 million from Estudiantes.

Liga MX Clausura

The Clausura stage began with Aguilera showing why plaudits were coming his way as he made 11 saves to inspire a 2-0 win over Xolos. They also won three of their first four games before a 3-0 loss at Atlas, which was followed by an exciting 3-2 win at home to Tigres. But that was nothing compared to a 6-1 thumping led by a hat-trick from in-form attacking midfielder Ricardo Páez.

A fully rotated side managed to beat Club América 2-0 then lost 5-1 at Guadalajara! But the first team returned to thump Pumas 4-0 away and beat Atlante 4-1. And, despite a pretty up and down campaign, Puebla managed to finish second behind runaway winners Monterrey.

Striker Ramón Rodríguez was the second top scorer in the league with 18 in 26 and had the best average rating of 7.59, followed by Ferrari (7.41) and Páez (7.30).

CONCACAF Champions League knockouts

Lazaró’s bid to win the Champions League began in the second round against El Salvador side Isidro Metapán. Puebla started the first leg terribly, giving away a penalty after eight minutes. But they eventually responded through Rodríguez and Gutiérrez’s first for the club. But Lazaró was unhappy with the wasted chances in a 2-1 win. The second leg was much more comfortable as a Rodríguez brace, a Páez header and Garza and García’s first goals for the club earned a 5-0 win.

That took them through to the quarter-finals, which was comprised of eight Mexican sides!, with Pumas. The home leg was again up first and Puebla came out flying, hitting the woodwork twice before Ferrari fired them in front after 26 minutes only for Pumas to go down the other end and score their first shot. But undeterred, they continued to dominate after the break as Ferrari wrapped up a hat-trick and García bagged a brace off the bench. And Lazaró was far much happier with a thumping 5-1 win. Pumas had the better of the second leg and eventually made the breakthrough after 63 minutes but Puebla defended well and Ferrari nicked an injury-time equaliser for a 6-2 aggregate win.

The semis saw Puebla take on Monterrey, against whom they’d won one of five during Lazaró’s reign, and only one in 21 meetings through this entire save! The away leg was up first and that trend continued as they got battered by 26 shots to nine but only lost 2-0. They were much improved in the second leg and Ferrari gave them a deserved lead after 52 minutes. But yet again, missed chances came back to haunt them and they exited 2-1 on aggregate.

Regardless, Rodríguez won the Champions League Golden Ball with five goals in eight games at a 7.66 rating and was named in the Dream Team.

Clausura playoffs

Puebla’s bid to defend their Clausura crown began against FC Juárez in the quarter-final. A Ferrari goal nicked a 1-1 draw away, which was Lazaró’s 600th match in management, before a Rodríguez goal snuck a 1-0 away in the second leg.

They then faced Toluca, who caused a massive upset by defeating Monterrey. The away leg was first and both sides scored ther first shots, including Célio Carlos getting the equaliser with his first Puebla goal. But Puebla took control after the break with goals from striker Alexander Ferrari and centre-back Andy Bradley followed by Rodríguez bagging a late fourth. The second leg took place the day before Lazaró’s 50th birthday and los chicos helped him celebrate in style as Ferrari fired a quick double to put it beyond doubt and midfielder Aurélio hit a late third.

That sent Puebla back into the final against last year’s Apertura champions Tigres, who finished ninth in the league. The away leg was first again and they started poorly, conceding to Eder Altamiranda, Lazaró’s former striker at América de Cali. And they got battered by 28 shots to six but somehow held on for a 1-0 loss.

That gave Lazaró a chance to lay into the lads and fine eight players for poor performances. And it got the desired result as García opened the scoring on 37 minutes then López’s first of the season put them ahead in first-half injury-time. Tigres offered absolutely nothing until a disgraceful decision to give them a penalty in the fifth of four minutes of injury-time. That sent it to a dull period of extra-time, then the dreaded penalties. Heroic goalkeeper Aguilar came up big to save Tigres’ first two penalties, then Gutiérrez missed Puebla’s third. But Aguilar also saved Altamiranda’s spot-kick and Ferrari stepped up to cooly slot home and win the title for Puebla.

Puebla FC defended their Liga MX title!!

Season Review

This was a strange season, in which Lazaró largely prioritised continental competitions. But that meant the squad was fresh for the important end-of-season playoffs and stepped up to defend their title, which wrapped up a treble alongside the Champions Trophy and Campeones Cup.

The star man this season was Rodríguez, who scored 29 and got nine assists in 44 games at a 7.59 average rating. That saw the homegrown player become the record league scorer in Puebla history with 80 goals, while he was also named fans’ player and young player of the season. He also earned his first call-up to the Mexico national team for the 2034 World Cup! Ferrari bagged 18 in 35 in an injury-hit season and Páez scored 14 and got 13 assists in 44 games, while new signings García and Gutiérrez largely impressed.

Aventuras Américas next steps

Lazaró was now more than happy to look elsewhere after a very successful time at Puebla. However, come the end of the 2033/34 campaign, there were no jobs available in his remaining targets of Argentina, Brazil and Canada and only a handful were even insecure. So, rather than leave the club and sit on the job centre door, he decided to stay at Puebla in the hope that a big job would eventually pop up.

Join us next time to discover if Lazaró stays on in México or if he gets an opportunity elsewhere!

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