Bryce Dunn –
Yes, it’s that time. Time I don my rolled up trousers, braces, thick frame glasses, twiddly moustashe and blasted out some God Speed! You Black Emperor. But why, I hear you ask. That is because I’m clearly a hipster. Ok, maybe I do not like or have any of the above but I do like the latest football trend that is Liga MX, and therefore I bring you the all important Liga MX club guide.
As stated brilliantly by Manuel Veth in a prior article, there are many reasons to tune into the Liga MX games like the amount of goals, crowd attendances or the way their league operates. I tune in for the simple reason that it is fun. End to end football that seems to have a sprinkle of WWE.
One of the issues is finding somewhere to watch games. Online you can find a way to watch any team in the world and this will be made easier next year when Liga MX games are broadcasted on Facebook. Now that this issue is resolved, the next is which team to support. Here’s where we shall briefly breakdown each of the sides in our Liga MX club guide part III:
Liga MX Club Guide
If you thought Queretaro (read more about them in Part II of our Liga MX Club Guide) were a new club, then you will be surprised to hear Club Santos Laguna are only 33 years old. In this time, the club has grown a strong support—the fifth best in the league according to a recent survey. Their rapid popularity amongst football fans can largely be attributed to their on-field success. Five league titles and five runner’s up medals is impressive even for sides established twice as long. Previous championship-winning sides had plenty of fire power up top and, this time round, they will need more of the same. Too many draws have seen them mid-table. Cape Verde striker, Djaniny, will have to turn into the late Christain Benítez for them to challenge local rivals, Monterrey, for a sixth domestic league title.
Sticking with the theme of newer clubs, we move on to Club Tijuana who formed in 2007. Although there has been a long line of clubs in the city over the years, President Jorge Hank Inzunsa has stated that having a big stadium and playing in the top flight is not where plans stop. He wants success. Lively ex-Mexico manager, Miguel Herrera, is the man in charge of this task, and the club has started positively in 2017. Goals from striker, Milton Caraglio, and midfielder, Aviles Hurtado, have seen them flirt with success. Playoff qualification is looking likely for Xolos as they attempt to win their second title after the 2012 Apertura. Expect more on field excitement to match that of their coach before the end of the campaign.
Los Diablos Rojos are in the their centenary year and they are going about in style—sitting in the top three with 19 points. Nothing could make the Estadio Nemesio Diez faithful happier. Toluca already have a rich history; boasting 10 titles and this year they stand a strong chance of adding to that tally. Former goalkeeper, Hernan Christine, was released by Toluca when he had a knee injury but, after a stint in charge of Tepic, he is back as the head coach and getting the results required for the play-offs. At both ends of the pitch the side have players performing above their expect standards. Goalkeeper, Alfredo Talavera, must be taking inspiration from his boss’ former glories, as he has been a rock at the back, while, at the opposite end, the field attackers, Fernando Uribe and Pablo Barrientos, have contributed seven goals between them. In the Apertura, the side failed to qualify for the play-offs but, this time round, I think things will be different.
The Monterrey side are experiencing a difficult time in the domestic campaign, especially after winning the previous two Apertura titles. But, on the continent, it is a different story. In the CONCACAF Champions League, they are currently in the semi-finals with a 2-0 lead after the home leg to the Vancouver Whitecaps. It would appear the side like to do their domestic business before Christmas, then sacrifice the league for the international competition—they were runners up to Club América in 2015-2016. Fans outside of Mexico may be familiar with Tigres due to striker, André-Pierre Gignac, after his move in 2015. But if we look past the goal scoring heroics of the Frenchman, and the recent purchase of Chilean, Eduardo Vargas, from Hoffenheim, there are plenty of other players that catch the eye—speedster, Jürgen Damm, winger, Javier Aquino, and defensive midfielder, Jesús Dueñas, have all shown outstanding form in recent times. While I would advise tuning into the second leg of their semi-final Champions League clash with the Whitecaps, there is a fixture closer to home that should be circled on the calendar, Los Clasico Regiomontano, the Monterrey derby. It is known as one of the most intense and important derbies in Mexico. How close the head-to-head is, is demonstrated by the statistics—Tigres have 38 wins and Monterrey 37 (more on them in Part II of our Liga MX club guide). If April 22 did not have importance for you in the past, it does now.
The Coyoacan club have one of the most iconic football shirts in the world, with the Puma logo of their badge printed largely on the front of the shirt. That is not the only flamboyant aspect of the club; young coaching talent, Francisco ‘Paco’ Palencia, resembles a rockstar rather than a sportsman. At the age of 43 he is seen as one of Liga MX’s most exciting coaches with his direct-attacking approach. On the field, the exuberance continues with Nicolás Castillo who is the currently the league’s top scorer. His volley against championship rivals Tijuana is possible the best example of his talent. The last time the side added to their trophy cabinet was back in 2011, but this year sees them as real candidates for the title. If Los Pumas are to make it all the way, a hotly contested Clasico Capitalino, a derby against América, might just be a possibility (read more on Club América in part I of our Liga MX club guide series). Though missing such an occasion should not be entertained by any football fan.
Los Tiburones Rojos play their football out of the Estadio Luis ‘Pirata’ Fuente, and I am sure you can probably guess they are based on the coast. The side were founded in 1943 when two of the local amateur sides joined forces and experienced relatively quick success, as the first side based outside of Mexico City to win the Championship. In 2004, the side came close to repeating this accomplishment for the first time 54 years (with a squad that included Mexican legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco) after finishing first in the league but falling to eventual Champions, Pumas, in the play-off quarterfinals. This season, unfortunately, the port city side has been shipping goals on the road and struggling to score home or away. Another record they hold is the highest number of relegations from the top division and it will be down to Carlos Reinoso, one of Mexico’s most experienced and successful managers, to prevent this from happening again. An event that still burns in the hearts of the Veracruz fans is the relegation at the hands of their closest rivals, Puebla. A winless run of five games in recent weeks will be have these fans worried that they are experiencing deja vu.
Bryce Dunn is a Northern Irish football writer and Podcaster. Bryce hosts the popular Bundesliga – Gegenpressing Podcast, which is the most in-depth English-speaking Bundesliga Podcast available and Golazo an English-speaking Podcast covering Mexico’s Liga MX on the Futbolgrad Network. He is an avid Liverpool FC supporter, who enjoys researching German and Mexican football clubs whether they are part of the elite or the lower divisions. Follow Bryce on Twitter @BryceDunn11.