Checking in on Liga MX

Looking at how the Apertura 2013 is shaping up in Liga MX
by Brendan Doherty   |   Saturday, August 24, 2013

 MEX Matters - column on Liga MX, El Tri & Mexican futbol.

As dull as El Tri has been in 2013, Mexican club futbol has been even more exciting.

Club Tijuana Xolocuintles de Caliente were 1 Duvier Riascos penalty away from knocking out eventual champions Atlético Mineiro in South América's Copa Libertadores.

Monterrey again defeated Santos Laguna in a thrilling 2-legged CONCACAF Champions League final series.

Chuy Corona led Cruz Azul to victory in the Copa MX final penalty shoot-out, making a number of saves against Atlante.

Club América played loose with my emotions in the league final by going down a goal and down a man before rallying to a memorable victory in penalties against none other than Cruz Azul. In that match, goalkeeper Moisés Muñoz scored a diving header in stoppage time and the late Christian "Chucho" Benítez played his last match for América.

There have been several high profile player transfers, in addition to the ever present manager merry-go-round in Mexican soccer.

Before the season started Toluca, Tijuana, Atlas, Atlante and the reincarnation of Jaguares all appointed new managers. Puebla F.C. suffered a rough start and released Manuel Lapuente after matchday 5 when La Franja had yet to win a match.

Chivas de Guadalajara sacked Benjamín Galindo and announced his replacement earlier this week. Former Chivas player Juan Carlos Ortega becomes the 17th managerial appointment in the last 10 years for one of the country's most popular teams.

Notable Apertura 2013 transfers

Mexican national team forward Aldo de Nigris has made the switch from the Rayados of Monterrey to Chivas. After scoring 141 league goals for the Rayados, de Nigris hopes that he can score some much-needed goals for the struggling Goats.

Dorlan Pabón has one of the oddest transfer histories I've come across in recent years. He excelled with Atlético Nacional in his native Colombia before signing with Italian side Parma in 2012. He didn't carry over his success in Italy, and this past January, Monterrey announced they had reached a deal with the player for a summer transfer. Shortly thereafter he was loaned from Parma to Real Betis for the rest of the European season.

Over the summer he arrived in Monterrey and began playing with the team in Liga MX's Apertura before he started attracting European suitors again. Pabón  transferred to Valencia this week after only playing 6 matches with Monterrey. The Colombian forward cost Monterrey around $6.5 million and Valencia paid Monterrey more than $10.5 million for the same player a month and a half later.

U-20 Mexico Men's National Team standout Jesus "Tecatito" Corona has been attracting attention of several European teams and will likely be announced by FC Twente of the Eredivisie in the Netherlands.

Pachuca used the money from selling star midfielder Héctor Herrera to FC Porto to purchase Duvier Riascos from Tijuana and Walter Ayoví from Monterrey. Cruz Azul lost Teófilo Gutiérrez to River Plate of Argentina and Javier "Chuletita" Orozco to Santos Laguna but hopes that recently acquired Argentine Mauro Formica can fill some of the attacking void.

American fans were pleased to learn that U.S. National Team forward Hérculez Gómez left Santos Laguna to join the growing contingent of Yanks at Tijuana. Once he recovers from his knee injury, he will play alongside Edgar Castillo, Greg Garza, Joe Corona and emerging star 18-year-old Paul Arriola. Michael Orozco Fiscal joined his American national teammate DaMarcus Beasley at Puebla.

By far the most effective transfer in Liga MX so far in Apertura 2013 has been Ángel Reyna. The 28-year-old Reyna has been absolutely on fire since transferring to the Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz, scoring 7 scoring in just 6 appearances this season. Reyna has been instrumental in Veracruz's undefeated record and has grown into the leader that he briefly was with América. If the Mexican international can keep up this sort of form, Veracruz might be on their way to a first-ever top division title.

Other competitions involving Liga MX teams

Copa MX is running again this year with the same format it did in the 2012-13 season. Most of the teams from the 1st and 2nd divisions of Mexican futbol were drawn together into 7 groups of 4; CF Ballenas Galeana were recently promoted into the Ascenso MX and all of América, Cruz Azul, Tijuana and Toluca have commitments in the Champions League.

Because there is a cup coinciding with each torneo, there are a lot of matches to be played among the 28 participants. This leads to a front-loading of group stage games at the beginning of the season. With games coming fast and thick in the month of August, only the bigger teams with the deepest squads can compete realistically on both fronts.

Add to this the element of continental competition. This season's CCL features Mexican sides Club América and some other scrubs. The format for the CCL is the same as last year's, which features 8 groups of 3 instead of 6 groups of 4. Only the group winners advance to the knockout round which in effect insulates them and cuts down the number of matches played. All 4 Mexican sides are on top of their respective groups and should be favorites to qualify for the quarterfinals.

On Tuesday night, Tijuana overcame torrential downpour and a vicious lightning storm to push past host Victoria in El Salvador and young American attacker Arriola scored a goal.

In the league itself, Morelia, Veracruz, Santos Laguna and América are on top. Americanistas (such as myself) will revel in the fact that Chivas are wallowing at the bottom of the table, in turmoil having just dismissed their head coach and Marco Fabián entertaining the idea of leaving.

América is in the strange circumstance of having played 2 fewer games than most of the teams in Liga MX. Club officials successfully lobbied the league to reschedule the team's 1st 2  matches of the season because they had 5 players involved with the national team's efforts in the Gold Cup: Raúl Jiménez, Moisés Muñoz, Miguel Layún, Adrián Aldrete, Juan Carlos Valenzuela.

If the first 6 matchdays are anything to go by, this Apertura 2013 season will be exciting throughout. 

Brendan DOHERTY

Nationality:
USA
College:
Hamilton College
Club Domestic:
Rochester Rhinos, RBNY
Club Foreign:
Tottenham, Club América
Household Jeopardy champion from a small town in Upstate New York. Simultaneously brought to Tottenham Hotspur by a youth coach & given a copy of FIFA 2004. Enthusiastically pragmatic & a student of the game. Covering the Mexican National Team & Liga MX.
BRENDAN'S SPONSORS