Household Names Switch Sides Ahead of Clausura 2014

Several big names in Mexican soccer switched clubs after the Apertura
by Brendan Doherty   |   Thursday, January 02, 2014

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

Liga MX is known for heavy turnover among players and coaches between torneos and this offseason was no different with a handful of high profile players transferring to different teams in Mexico.

On top of the list of transfers probably has to be Marco Fabian moving from Chivas de Guadalajara to Cruz Azul. The right midfielder/second striker has been highly touted for years and many thought that he would already be in Europe at this point in his career. After a potential move overseas flared out in the summer, Fabian was unable to produce for Chivas as they floundered in 16th place in the Apertura.

Recent finalists Club America managed to move ill-fated striker Narciso Mina and diminutive attacking midfielder Christian "Hobbit" Bermúdez to Atlante and Queretaro, respectively. The club has brought in former Tijuana manager Antonio "Turco" Mohammed to replace current Mexico Men’s National Team manager Miguel Herrera, and Mohammed has raided his former club for defensive reinforcements. The 26-year-old Paraguayan central defender played every minute of the Apertura campaign for Tijuana and will slot into America's defense in a starting role for the season opener.

Tijuana also wasn't very active in the Mexican transfer period. Xolos only brought in Argentine defender Hernán Pellerano to replace the outgoing Aguilar and returns former Pachuca forward Jaime Ayoví from his loan at LDU Quito in Ecuador. With the club continuing to bring up talented youth players from the academy, perhaps Tijuana doesn't need to break the bank as new head coach César Farías settles in.

Despite lifting the Apertura title, León continued to strengthen in the off-season. León has added former Morelia/Chivas forward Miguel Sabah as a capable poacher and ex-America José María “Chema” Cárdenas as a utility attacking player ahead of its debut in the Copa Libertadores.

Teams with something to prove

It is fair to say that Chivas de Guadalajara are in yet another rebuilding-year. The organization parted ways with sporting president Dennis te Kloese at the end of 2013 after 364 days on the job. In addition to the front office shake-up, Chivas cut ties with 6 players, 5 of whom were regular starters over the last torneo. Marco Fabián, Luis Michel, Miguel Ponce, Giovani Casillas, Miguel Sabah and Héctor Reynoso all left as the club yet again tries to find success by starting over.

Around Thanksgiving the organization announced that José Luis Real would leave Chivas USA of MLS to take over as head coach of Chivas de Guadalajara in Liga MX. The Goats' replacements for Clausura 2014 include former prolific forward Omar Bravo, national hero of the 2011 U-17 World Cup Julio "Momia" Gómez, Francisco Flores, Israel Castro, Gerardo Rodríguez and Jair Pereira.

Pachuca's front office showed its displeasure at finishing in 14th place in Apertura 2013, transferring as many as 12 players away out of Hidalgo, including the youngster Momia Gómez.

Santos Laguna said goodbye to longtime central defender Felipe Baloy, replacing the Panamanian international with Uruguayan defender Jonathan Lacerda who's been playing at Puebla. Baloy was one of 6 additions made by Copa MX winning Monarcas Morelia, which include Duvier Riascos and Héctor Reynoso, while Lacerda was one of 8 players moved by Puebla.

Puebla FC initially transfer-listed DaMarcus Beasley and the left-winger appeared close to signing with Queretaro. In an odd turn, fans of La Franja made their voices heard to demand that the team re-sign the American, clearly a favorite around Estadio Cuauhtemoc.

From MLS to Cruz Azul

Cruz Azul has made some big moves in this offseason. After finishing in 4th place in the Apertura, the Mexico City club brought in former national team assistant and interim coach Luis Fernando Tena. Xavier Baez returns to Cruz Azul from a loan spell to Toluca and former player Fausto Pinto comes back to Estadio Azul after a permanent move from Toluca.

La Maquina made waves in MLS circles by signing 3 players from around the league and even introducing the players before MLS released any statement on the subject. San Jose's Rafael Baca is a Mexican national who has featured 79 times in the league over 3 seasons, mainly as a central midfielder. Michael Farfan joins Cruz Azul after 3 seasons and 82 appearances with Philadelphia Union, where he played as a rightback, a leftback, a right midfielder, a left midfielder, a central midfielder and a forward.

Jose Villarreal moves to Mexico on a year-long loan deal from Los Angeles Galaxy. The highly touted youngster was a member of LAG's academy side in 2011 and was signed by the Galaxy as a Homegrown player on Dec. 22, 2011. A regular with US Youth National Teams, Villarreal has featured 44 times in MLS, U.S. Open Cup and CCL for the Galaxy over the last two seasons, largely as a substitute. While Baca and Farfan were regular contributors to their teams, Villarreal is a promising player who has buried behind Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes (who is more suited to the physicality of MLS) in the depth chart.

It will be interesting to see how all of these players fare with their new clubs when the Liga MX Clausura 2014 kicks off. While America is still trying to finalize a deal for a forward, León seems to be cementing itself as a major player in Mexican soccer.

Clausura 2014 kicks off on Friday, Jan. 3, with Morelia hosting Queretaro at 8:30 p.m. EST.

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.
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