It is back for 2017! In this edition of the Gentlemen’s agreement CantinaMX Podcast host, John Jagou, and CantinaMX Barfly & Futmexnation.com contributor, Joel Aceves return from the Delphic Oracle to give their interpretation of what they heard from Pythia about what to expect in 2017.
And when we say Pythia, we mean Paquita, the local bartender.
John Jagou: Quiúbole Joel, The new year is upon us. Along with all the proclamations and resolutions, there are players, clubs, and national teams that are at a crossroads. 2017 is going to be a critical year across the Mexican Futbol landscape.
Joel Aceves: Happy New Year Yon, 2017 could very well be a defining year for many clubs as they look to cement their roles within Liga MX. Defending champions Tigres is gunning for another League title in a serious bid to be among the league’s winningest teams. Not to long ago, Toluca filled their coffers with league titles and are looking to add another for this, their centennial season.
Chivas, in a bid to not be left behind, has gone on a spending spree in order to build a more competitive squad. We also have Club America which failed to add their 13th star but are still favorites to win the Clausura 2017 title. Aside from Ricardo ‘Tuca’ Ferretti the rest of the coaches and managers will be under immense pressure to succeed. Perhaps the most pressure will be on Cruz Azul, where a string of epic meltdowns has awaared us with the verb ‘ Cruzazulear.’ Many football fans have begun petitioning the Real Acedemia Española to include in the dictionary.
JJ: There is definitely a lot to chew on. As we expected in our last installment, Tuca did indeed lead Tigres to another championship, their 5th, and his 3rd with the club. It will be hard for them to keep it up with only 2 weeks to prepare for the Clausura. The media will call it campeonitis, of course, but the reality is they won’t be as prepared for the Clausura as other squads, and it will be at least 6 weeks into the season before they round into form.
Chivas has to pay a double premium for players: the local player premium that all teams pay, and then the personnel policy kicker that essentially doubles the worth of a player.
Rodolfo Pizarro is good player, but in no way is he worth what Chivas paid for him. Not to mention Pulido. The talented, but overpriced roster is bringing some serious expectations for Chivas fans. A good performance by the striped goats would bode well not only for their championship-starved horde of fans, but it would also be good news for Juan Carlos Osorio, as he can find a better balance of LigaMXers while not having to rely so much on the jet-lagged Mexpats. The Euro contingent has gotten better as of late, but they still have bouts of inconsistency.
JA: The expectations for Matias Almeyda to deliver will certainly be at an all-time high. When the Argentine coach first arrived, he had to contend with the relegation zone. And somehow fans forgot former coach Jose ‘Chepo’ De la Torre had reached a league semifinals under similar conditions. Almeyda has yet to achieve that, but because of Chivas’ heavy investment in players, anything less than a league championship will be seen as a fracaso. Mati has tried to lower expectations claiming that spending like drunken sailors doesn’t guarantee success. This sentiment isn’t shared by Jorge Vergara, who admitted in an interview with ESPN Deportes that ‘Chivas has no other option than to be league champions.’
I would like to remind readers that despite Matias’ 5-year contract with Chivas (most likely given to him to keep him from taking other offers) he was almost replaced on two occasions. Both times the coaches approached turned down the offer. The first was former Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli who had his mind set in Europe. The second one was Manuel Vucetitch who did not want to work with Vergara.
Chivas had even hired Jaime Ordiales, credited with taking Vuce to Queretaro, as General Manager to deliver King Midas, but then fired him when he failed to deliver.
JJ: I dont blame Vuce for rejecting Chivas’ advances. For a guy who preaches patience, Vuce knows that patience is not in the Vergara lexicon. Almeyda knows this as well. He knows his asentadera is firmly on the hot seat. He needs a solid season to turn down the flames.
One team that looks to make a move in the right direction is Cruz Azul. Like I have mentioned before, the league is better when the traditional teams are playing well. It is time for the cement mixers to lay a foundation from which to build.
JA: With Cruz Azul I am very interested in what Eduardo ‘Yayo’ de la Torre can do with the club. He had already held the GM position back in 2007 with the Cementeros reached two league finals and won a CONCACAF Champions Cup. Upon his return, however, he had to work with what had already been set up by previous administration and he ended up with his hands full dealing with Tomas Boy.
This season he will have a clean slate. His fingerprints are all over the reclamation project as he hand-picked the new coach, Paco Jemez. A move I criticized at first but I now feel was correct, given the CruzAzulear stigma. There’s talk of working with the youth set up, and the player transfers seem to be a step in the right direction.
One such move was the acquisition of Chilean upstart Martin Rodriguez, who could very well be a revelation this season. The 22-year-old attacking midfielder has already been capped to La Roja.
Also on my radar is the work Pumas UNAM is doing. Not only because they have shown faith in Francisco Palencia, but also because they want to reinvigorate their youth system. As you know, John, for many years the Pumas youth system set the standard for excellence in Mexican football. Their new 5-22 project sounds very intriguing. The goal is to place 5 players from their youth system in the national team for the 2022 World Cup.
JJ: It has been a good while since Pumas made the effort to allocate the necessary resources to the most crucial aspect of the institution that makes them great. The 5-22 project is ambitious, but pragmatic. And for the youngsters who may not know, Pumas canteranos had been mainstays on Mexico’s national team from the 70’s through 2010 – the latter of which was essentially a Chivas-Pumas academy reunion.
So everyone who is a fan of Mexican soccer should be pulling for Pumas to succeed in their project. The amount of quality players that have emerged from the Pumas academy in the last half century is staggering. Moreover, when Pumas takes the field at Chiverio this weekend, the teams with the most Mexicans on their rosters will be facing off. Chivas, of course, has the most, but Pumas has decided to limit the foreign influence and put their faith in their academy graduates.
Don’t feel too bad when Universidad leaves tierras tapatias with 3 points in their pocket, Joel.
JA: John, you have great faith in Pumas capabilities. This should be a great match up. UNAM is a team in transition while Chivas is a squad that should have already matured with the bulk of the players having been together over two years. Based on this will give the edge to my Goats to start the season on the right foot.
While we have teams gearing up for success we have others that seemed doomed to failure. Who do you see making the drop to 2nd Division?
JJ: It has to be Chiapas. They dug themselves quite a hole by only collecting 9 points in the Apertura. not even Dorados played that poorly. Not even freshly acquired Moises Muñoz will be able to save them. But if he does manage to keep them alive, it will be because Veracruz had a worse time of it.
Morelia is the other candidate for the drop. However, if Morelia survives the fight, their worst seasons will fall off the ledger; plenty of motivation to keep them afloat. The irony there is that while they have been all but ignored by their ownership group, the Salinas conglomerate, Atlas, their gorgeous new trophy wife, will be in the thick of the relegation fight next season.
JA: Well Yon, Chiapas (16th on the relegation zone) has a bit of an edge [percentage points] over Veracruz and last place Morelia. They will have to go on losing streak to be immediate danger and not paying players on time could very well do the trick.
I have faith in Veracruz coach Carlos Reinoso who has already saved the Tiburones from making the drop. He is back in the fold and can guide the shark into calm waters.
So, I reckon it will come own to Chiapas and Morelia. We are looking at two teams whose owners whose interests appear to lie elsewhere and will perhaps be re-branded. There are already strong rumors that Atletico de Madrid will partner up with a Liga MX club and either of these clubs would be bargain buys.
JJ: Like I mentioned earlier, Morelia’s really bad seasons would come off the ledger if they survive the drop this season. That would make them a much more attractive acquisition. Chiapas is the kind of club that Liga MX needs to eliminate altogether. They will make news later this season because they will have not met the payroll. Like you said, their interests lie elsewhere. Then sell the club and let someone else give it a go. Either way, the league won’t be damaged too badly if Chiapas drops or even disappears. And I am sure none of the league’s players will lose any sleep over not playing in a greenhouse like they do in Tuxtla.
Predicting the drop is a lot easier than picking a winner. Who gets Joel’s dedazo?
JA: Even though the Chivas comet has yet to be spotted, I will venture to say that this will be their year. Two of the top five strongest clubs, Tigres and America, will most likely suffer from no pre-season prep. Then we have Monterrey. Although they finished on a strong note, I suspect Antonio ‘Turco’ Mohamed has lost the locker room. So, that leaves my Chivas taking on either a Xolos or a Pachuca in the final.
JJ: You are right about the defending champs. Only 2 have repeated since the short season was adopted 20 years ago, and both Pumas and León did it as 8 seeds. The Chivas Comet’s appearance window is set to every 9-11 years, so there is still hope there. Chivas has a lot of talent, but they have a lot of pressure to perform, and not much time to mesh. How they handle it will determine their fate this season. I concur that Xolos and Pachuca will contend again, and I would add a couple of dark horses: León, Santos, and Cruz Azul.
Funny, isn’t it how Atlas never seems to make the “who you got” final cut.
But Pachuca will get a spring double, winning the CCL and Liga MX – beating Tigres and Chivas respectively. A good season for Chivas and Pachuca would bode well for Mexico’s national team.
Mexico will have another full calendar year of events. At what point will FMF blow up the whole thing and call in the firemen? Or do Osorio and his men acquit themselves respectably in 2017?
JA: FMF has proven to be very unpredictable and will sack a coach regardless of how things are. I still remember Bora Milutinovic being released, after a tie at the Azteca stadium, despite having qualified for the World Cup. His replacement Manuel Lapuente guided Mexico to a Confederations Cup championship and he too was sacked because the squad wasn’t performing up to standard! So, Osorio could be doing everything well and still get sacked. One of the goals set for FMF is to qualify in first place of the Hexagonal. I believe it is very possible but the team’s performance at the Gold Cup and, more importantly, at the Confederations Cup will be analyzed with a magnifying glass. A bad showing in any of these three contests could be enough to send the Colombian packing.
JJ: He has been on thin ice since la boda roja, and only series of good results will help him get stable footing. He got them in November with wins in Columbus and a draw in Panama. But there are many treacherous pratfalls ahead, and one of them could lead to his demise. Mexico plays 3 of the next 4 qualifiers at home. Conceivably, they could have qualifying wrapped up before heading to Russia, but Mexico’s results at home are not guaranteed anymore. That is a big problem for Osorio.
The Azteca has lost its mojo – and with the base of the national team playing their club ball at or near sea level, the altitude is as much a hindrance on the home team as it is on the visitors. Moreover, the puto chant has not gone away. And Mexico risks playing a game in an empty stadium as well as losing points. Instead of pleading to the masses to stop the chant, FMF has decided to try and convince FIFA that “the chant doesn’t mean what you think it means.”
Good luck with that.
The real reason they have gone down this path is that FMF knows it cannot control the crowd from screaming it. Appeals to stop have only made it louder. It will be a real problem in 2017, and it could cost Mexico a spot in Russia18.
JA: Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that. Regardless of sanctions I am very disappointed at Mexico fans for their lack of creativity. There is this norteño style band called Los Tres Tristes Tigres and they reworded Cielito Lindo to make fun of America not winning anything on their Centennial.
That is the type of creativity I expect from my fellow Tri fans instead of juvenile chants.
JJ: Juvenile is the key word here. We all had a laugh when we heard it the first time. It has run its course. Time for the puto chant to go.
Time for us to go too. See you on the radio, Joel.
JA: Hasta la próxima, Yon.
Catch John and Joel every Wednesday on the CantinaMX Podcast live on youtube at 9pm CT, or on itunes.
Follow Joel on twitter @joelyaceves
Follow John on twitter @jjagou