By Alberto Urueta

Juarez opened up the season this Friday at home against an Atlas FC team that just last season finished penultimate in the table. Hopes were high going into the game after a preseason that saw the Bravos get into a groove offensively and several players speaking about their eagerness to make up for lost ground with the fans.

The game was statistically even in everything except corners, Juarez getting just two compared to the five from the visiting side. The teams exchanged goals and Bravos held the lead until the 81st when Moises Mosquera committed a foul on Eduardo Aguirre and Atlas converted on the freekick. Despite the offensive improvement provided by the substitutions of Aviles Hurtado in the 65th and Aitor Garcia in the 77th, the team was not able to find that third goal to seal the win. Combined, the two accounted for 6 of the 19 goals (31.5%) scored last season.

Just to reemphasize, the Bravos started this season with 31.5% of the goals from last year on the bench.  

After the first 90 minutes of the season, the team shows strides in the offensive department but this area, while there is need for improvement in all other areas.   

Slow Offseason 

After finishing last season 12th in the table and eight points behind a playoff spot, FC Bravos had a relatively slow offseason in the player-market but was able to counter that with a solid string of both public and private preseason games.  

Bravos had a busy last two weeks of June, facing New Mexico United away on the 19th, America in El Paso on the 23rd and Deportivo Cali at home on the 29th. Juarez scored 6 goals in the three games, winning two and drawing one. The close, hard-fought games with America and Deportivo Cali showed the team's ability to compete with high quality opponents. The four-goal performance against New Mexico United showed that, in theory, the offense had improved even without huge marquee signings.  

The Juarez offseason saw the arrival of forward Cesar Lopez (22 year old) from Necaxa and Midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez (25 year old) from Monterrey. The pair reinforce the attacking factions of Bravos that last year finished with a minus-seven goal differential in the Clausura Tournament, scoring only 19 goals over the course of 17 games.  

Players That Impressed 

Angel Zaldivar entered the season red hot, having scored in every single Bravos preseason game, including a brace against New Mexico United. In this one he opened things in a very familiar way, finding the net from outside the box after putting a move on a defender to create space. Barbieri places Zaldivar at the top of his 4-1-4-1 formation (or the slight deviations of this formation) so that he can be the centerpiece in attack and it has paid dividends.   

Aviles Hurtado subbed into the match in the 65th minute and was able to create chances but in my opinion he would've been more productive given more playing time. He was given the opportunity to take the penalty awarded to the team and took care of business.  

The 25 minutes of playing time for him, and roughly 13 minutes they gave Aitor Garcia, are criminally low. The team will not win many games if the playing time for those two stays the same. Hurtado, Zaldivar, and Aitor all on the pitch at the same time is what you want, Barbieri has a way to make them fit tactically. Failing to do so means decreasing the offensive prowess of the team.  

The road ahead for the bravos is far from easy. Looking ahead makes the failure to pick up the three points sting even more.  

What's Next After Game One

The upcoming games can determine which way this season swings.

On Friday, only 7,046 people attended the match in Estadio Olimpico Benito Juarez, that's only 35.7% capacity. To tap into the mind of the average fan all you must do is see what they comment under the different Bravo Fan pages.

Fans' complaints typically range from waning interest following a lackluster offseason, to the high cost of season tickets and individual game tickets, making it difficult for families to attend. Coupled with a generally poor quality game-day experience and a series of disappointing results in league play, many find it hard to justify spending $250 pesos (approximately $15, the price of the cheapest ticket).

The friendly at home against Deportivo Cali from Colombia saw an attendance of roughly 2,000 fans. These back to back low attendance games can and should serve as a wake up call for the entire program. How the team reacts to dropping points at home is going to be key in the weeks to come and how they play against well formed teams that have playoff experience and on short rest will spell out how the next six months go.  The team has to give the city a reason to come out and support.

The coming weeks will set the tone for the rest of the year, failure to find their groove could prove disastrous.  

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