Captained by a former MLS clubhouse cancer and backstopped by a blonde, blue-eyed goalkeeper with Texas roots, Club León won the Liga Bancomer MX Apertura title on Sunday evening with an emphatic 5-1 aggregate victory over Club América.
León took a 2-0 lead into the second leg at the Estadio Azteca and overpowered the favored reigning champion, which was gunning for a would-be record 12th domestic Mexican title. The visitors’ 3-1 coronation came courtesy of goals from Mauro Boselli (the league’s leading marksman), Nacho González, and Edwin Hernández, as well as 11 saves by William Yarbrough.
The 24-year-old netminder was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, to parents who moved there from Texas in the 1980s. He signed with Pachuca at 16 and joined León in 2012, first on loan and then permanently. Yarbrough emerged as Los Esmereldas’ starter in March.
"People think I'm German, I'm from the U.S. or they think I'm from anywhere but Mexico. The first reaction of everyone is, 'Oh, you speak Spanish,’” Yarbrough told MLSSoccer.com last year.
He’s as comfortable with Spanish as he is in net. Yarbrough wasn’t rattled by the América onslaught or the Azteca crucible, and his leaping denial of Miguel Layún’s late free kick was a signature save:
When it was over, León deservedly had claimed its sixth Mexican championship and first since 1992. The club was relegated in 2002 and returned to the top tier only last year. In December 2012, León signed Rafa Márquez, the Designated Player whose indifferent performances and unprofessional behavior caused so many problems for the New York Red Bulls. Those issues appear to be in the past, however, and it was Márquez who lifted the silver Liga MX trophy on Sunday night as club captain.
Both León and América have qualified for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League. They'll be joined by the finalists from the upcoming Clausura (spring) season. It’s possible that Márquez and the Red Bulls, who won the Supporters' Shield without him, could meet in the knockout rounds.
Here are the highlights from the Azteca: