Tigres Storm Toward an Apertura Title With Jürgen Damm’s Attacking Power

Lead Photo: Adrian Macias/MEXSPORT
Adrian Macias/MEXSPORT
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From the opening minute of Liga MX first-leg final action last night, it was clear that Tigres was operating on another level. “Damn,” I thought, jaw-dropped and eyes glued to the TV as I watched André-Pierre Gignac skillfully smash through Pumas’ defense and effortlessly slam Darío Verón to the ground. It’s no wonder that this is the team’s third final this year.

Fifteen minutes of Tigres’ pressure and class from Pikolín was all it took for the hometown boys to get the show on the road and leave Pumas’ fans feeling some kinda way about their team’s chances at an Apertura title.

It was in the 15th that Tigres was granted the softest penalty, perhaps in the history of anything ever – so soft, in fact, that even Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti was giggling on the sidelines.

It would be remiss to suggest that Tigres didn’t deserve the goal, or that it wasn’t bound to come sooner or later (as it eventually did), but it’s always disappointing to see such a poor and decisive decision affect the outcome of a big game. Gignac blasted home from the spot, his 17th goal in 20 games.

Tigres struck again before the half hour mark, this time a culmination of a stunning Jürgen Damm give-and-go to cross down the right flank, setting up Javier Aquino for a two-touch golazo struck with great gusto into the opposite corner.

Twenty-three-year-old Mexican international Damm – the only player on either side’s starting lineup under the age of 25 – was pivotal and simply ruinous from his spot on the right wing. Along with his club and country teammate Aquino, he forced Pumas to defend the flanks, freeing up space in the center of the pitch to devastate his opponent’s backline.

While players like Fidel Martínez and Ismael Sosa seemed adrift in a sea of yellow, Tigres proved (for probably the millionth time this year) that it is an attacking power to be reckoned with. Damm alone became a defensive priority for multiple defenders – Luis Fuentes and Verón – the former often obliged to assist his teammate in the difficult task of containing the young midfielder.

If you’re in need of concrete evidence to back up any debate regarding Tigres’ attacking prowess, check this: at the time of the third goal (which Rafael Sóbis scored off a rebound in the 59th), the Nuevo León side had converted three of its 12 shots. That’s pretty damn solid.

Damm played his part – a big one, to be sure – despite not being 100 percent; he completed 30 passes (93.3 percent precision, 81.5 percent in the attacking third), won four duels and made six recoveries to boot. Pure class down the right side:

It is worth noting that he – similarly to Fidel – was the culprit of a terrible piscinazo (can we maybe consider not doing this please?):

But that simulation doesn’t take away from his import as a key element to his side’s formidable attacking quadrant.

Real talk though – what’s up with Pumas?