By Dylan Butler
With a dominant home victory in the opening leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals and a seven-game unbeaten streak, Monterrey heads to Mexico City with a three-goal advantage and a ton of confidence against Pumas UNAM.
The defending champion has won three straight, including Sunday's 3-2 win at America, where it rallied with Abraham Dario Carreno's and Angel Reyna's goals in in the final five minutes.
With only one loss in its last 14 matches, the Rayados have climbed within four points of Mexican Clausura leader Santos and a mere draw of the Champions League finals.
Having earned its first victory in Estadio Azteca in more than eight years, Monterrey manager Victor Manuel Vucetich feels the team is peaking.
"All the victories are always important. We were bringing this situation that we were not earning (respect in Azteca), but now we come in very good form," he said. "The team was very concentrated. The result a just award with regard to the effort of our group".
Monterrey has scored three goals or more in each of its last three Champions League Games, with Suazo accounting for four and Aldo de Nigris a pair in last week's first leg.
Despite a comfortable advantage, Vucetich said this isn't the time for his to rest.
"We have to keep doing the same, be a team persevering, patient, intelligent, waiting the time to match and then seek victory," he said.
Conversely, Pumas continues to slide. Since beating El Salvador's Metapan 8-0 in the second leg of their quarterfinal, Pumas has scored only one goal in its last four games - including none in the last three. It at least didn't allow any Saturday in a 0-0 draw with Atlas to remain in 13th place in the Clausura, six points out of the last playoff spot.
"It is difficult, but not impossible," Pumas midfielder Carlos Campos told Esto. "I have stressed on several occasions that while there is life going to be fighting, not lower the arms and this is case of those. We will fight with everything."
Pumas will be encouraged by returning to Estadio Olimpico Universitario, where it has won eight of the last nine in the Champions League.
"It's a great team, has very good players, they know what they play," Campos said. "But we, with good intensity and good tactics, can do some damage. There is nothing to lose and we must take risks."
The winner faces either Toronto FC or Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League finals. The two teams played to a contentious 1-1 draw in the opening leg in Canada.