The Gentlemen Break Down the Liguilla

In the latest edition of the (and freshly rebranded) Gentlemen’s agreement, (nee Weekend at Joely’s) futmexsource.com correspondent Joel Aceves and soccerchronicle.com writer, John Jagou take a look at the 3 big mid-week fixtures, including Pumas’ Libertadores quarterfinal.

 

John Jagou:  I felt bad for Gullit this weekend. He could have increased his hit points and attained legend level status with Chivas fans, but the cross bar said otherwise. And then our friend Oribe scores another huge goal to add to his legend.  It is why Osorio has to take him to Copa America. There is no Mexican player who has come up as big and as consistently as Oribe over the past decade.

 

Joel Aceves:  Gullit has gained a reputation for lacking testicular fortitude.  It is the alleged he lost his starting spot in Mexico’s World Cup squad.  Agreed on Oribe, he even has shown to have the quality to bench Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez! In any case the Horrible One should be a welcome addition to either Olympic or Copa America squad.

 

JJ: I do recall hearing the same thing about Gullit, that he did not deal well when the pressure was ratcheted up, and it cost him in Brazil. You saw some of that when he first played with Chivas, but it seemed like Almeyda had gotten him to calm down and not press. Regardless, the season overall was a good turn of events for Chivas. If they can manage to avoid a slump in the coming Apertura, they can finally, after 3 years, exorcise the relegation fantasma. That should help them play with a lot more confidence. It has been a while since I have said this, but I am bullish on Chivas, provided they find a goal-scorer.

 

JA:  Mexico Boss Juan Carlos Osorio claims that it was his call to Gullit that set the player straight. He is on record saying that he talked to el Lagrimas Esmeraldas and told him to set aside his personal problems and that if he regained his level he would be called up to the national team again.

Next season will be key for Chivas, which have already climbed to 13th place of the relegation chart. Below them are Atlas, Morelia, Puebla, Veracruz, and whichever team gets promoted (either Necaxa or Juarez). As for finding a goal-scorer, Chivas’ best bet will be their Cantera,

 

JJ:  Over to America. As much as it pains you to admit, you have to be really impressed with the job that Ricardo Peláez has done at Club América several years ago. The club was in complete disarray, even flirting with relegation before he took over. Since then, they have become the model club in Liga MX.

In a sense, he has made America hated again. 4 titles with 3 coaches, but with essentially the same base of players. If they manage to win the title this season, it will be even more impressive because they will have defeated 3 of the 5 best teams in the league this season.

 

JA: On the contrary John, I’ve actually been an advocate for Peláez as it was a welcome change in Liga MX. Nestor de la Torre had been doing a similar job at Chivas. Granted not as successful but the team was very consistent:  won the league title, then played two semifinals after that, in addition to a Copa Libertadores final.  It is no coincidence that the club fell apart once he left.

With Peláez, I like that America’s board of directors have given him complete confidence to run the club.   In the past we have seen coaches come into a club like a snake oil salesman, making big promises.  The club would then supply Mr. Snake Oil a brand new roster of players, and when that coach’s fails to meet the high expectations he had set himself,  it’s on to the next quick fixer.

Peláez has shown that long term planning has its merits. He sacked coaches that were not willing to be part of the club’s process. Those were risky moves on his part as was hiring the low profile Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Ambriz but the club’s success has shown that Peláez has been right all along. My hope is for more Liga MX clubs to take this approach as I feel it will lead to a more competitive league.

 

JJ:  I am not so sure your fellow Chivas compatriots would understand or appreciate your healthy respect for Club América’s recent fortune. Some maybe asking to revoke your credentials. But there is something to be said about continuity. And it makes much more of an impact when a club with America’s pedigree succeeds because of it. If Liga MX turns into a copycat league, then, as you stated, the league will become more competitive.

A certain degree of continuity also be used to describe how Pachuca and León have worked themselves into the top echelon of the Liga MX as well. Both of them had good wins to advance to the Liguilla semis, where they will face each other. Pachuca’s kids are fun to watch, but Leon’s Elias Hernandez has been spectacular this season. He deserves a chance to play in Copa America.

 

JA:  No need to revoke my Goat creds.  I’m about to hand them in myself. Chivas CEO (Jose Luis Higuera) and General Manager (Jaime Ordiales) are known Americanistas. And the club owner (Jorge Vergara) is rumored to be an Atlista. His first foray into Liga MX was to sponsor Atlas and then even tried to buy them. I maintain hope that Vergara’s ex wife Angelica Fuentes, who owns 49% of Chivas, will sell her shares to a proper investor that can then buy out Jorge. Cough Slim Cough

While Leon and Pachuca have been on the right path it is America that has taken the spotlight. For the greater good of the league, America’s success in Concachampions, and even at the Club’s World Cup can influence other clubs to take the same approach:  having a set of goals to reach instead of betting on a coach and mid-season transfers to turn things around.  Last season Cruz Azul brought in Eduardo ‘Yayo’ de la Torre as GM, so it will be interesting to see how much freedom he will have to shape the club. As we can see Yayo has bet on continuity with Tomas Boy remaining at the helm. In the past he would of been gone once the final match-day whistle signaled the Maquina’s latest fracaso.

 

JJ:  Pumas did the same with Antonio Sancho. And they also were judicious in their recent acquisitions — most already Liga MX veterans.  They may not be in the liguilla, but their season is not over yet.

And we can also say that this season was one that was not pockmarked by coach firings. In the not so recent past, it was normal to have 6-10 coaches given the boot at midseason. Some teams would have 3 coaches for the 17 games. So maybe this is the new normal in Liga MX.

The king of continuity is Tuca Ferreti.  Tuca has coached Tigres for 6 years, which is incredible for Liga MX. It is unfortunate that the series with Monterrey was marred by bad officiating and then baiting Tuca into one of his classic eruptions. What the press won’t show, though, is Tuca going back and calmly answering questions.

 

JA:  Well then, I guess we can say that the trend is catching on. We can add Toluca to the list who under Jose Saturnino Cardozo played two Liguilla semifinals. And like Pumas dominated the Copa Librtadores group stage. Unfortunately, Toluca had one bad game against a Brazilian giants Sao Paulo.

That said both Pumas and Toluca failed to make the Liguilla, which I blame on the short season which, ironically, has been one of the most influential factors in Liga MX club owners’ erratic behavior in their quest for instant results with the quick fix.

 

JJ:  I don’t mind that Pumas didn’t make the liguilla. I would much rather they focus on the Libertadores anyway, which they can do now without any distractions. A few years ago when Monterrey won their first title under Vucetich, they chose to play the Libertadores with reserves. The reigning champions at the time had an opportunity to measure themselves against SA’s best, and they play with reserves.  Baffling!

Take the shot when you have it because you never know when you’ll get another chance.  Pumas has a legitimate shot at the semis after a 10 year absence in the tournament. It is a busy midweek schedule. Pumas vs Independiente del Valle (ECU) on Tuesday, América-Rayados Wednesday, and Leon-Pachuca Thursday. Who you got?

 

JA:  I’m going with Pumas over Independiente not just because they represent Mexican soccer but because I’d like to believe we have a better league than Ecuador.

In my opinion America-Rayados is the final adelantada and the winner should lift the Liga MX title. I got the sense that Rayados showed some weakness against Tigres in the quarterfinals that America can exploit. So, I will side with the Wilas on this one.

Leon-Pachuca is the Grupo Pachuca Clasico. We’ve all seen what happens when teams owned by the same owner meet: the main club gets favored and in this case it’s the Tuzos.

So, we can be seeing an America vs. Pachuca final: two clubs that have bet on a long term project and continuity. Maybe this is becoming a trend. Latest news is that Vergara offered Matias Almeyda a five year coaching contract.

 

JJ:  I also hope to see Pumas through, but it will be a lot tougher than people expect.  Independiente did just bounce none other than the defending champs, River Plate.  So they are no pushover by any means.

Monterrey’s discipline will make Club America unravel, and Pachuca will prevail over Leon because the last time they played in the liguilla, Leon won.

It’s daddy’s turn.

As always a pleasure, Joel.

 

JA:  Same here.  I am really enjoying these chats.

 

JJ:  As am I.  Hopefully the readers are as well.

 

Catch John and Joel every Wednesday on the Dos A Zero Futbol Podcast live on youtube at 9pm CT, or on itunes.

Follow Joel on twitter @joelyaceves

Follow John on twitter @jjagou

CCL Week 1: The MLS vs LigaMX gap

When talking Soccer in the US and referring to Mexico, the phrase “The gap is closing” many times comes up. Meaning the MLS is catching up to the Mexican League, or MLS teams are beating LigaMX teams and challenging them more than in the past. Well at least after weak one of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, this does not seem to be the case. There still seems to be a gap of sorts.

Stats for this week are that 2 LigaMX and 2 MLS teams played at home. The MLS home teams were able to obtain two ties (0-0 and 2-2). The LigaMX home teams were able to both obtain wins (2-0, 2-0). LigaMX teams defended their home turf advantage. The return leg will now decide who goes through to the semifinals.

Last night Tigres played Real Salt Lake in Monterrey. It seemed like a typical away game for an MLS team as Real Salt Lake seemed to play defensive and Tigres could not find the net until the late stages of the game. Damian Alvarez and Gignac had cold games and missed some good opportunities to score. “La Palmera” Rivas participated in the two goals, scoring one and providing the opportunity for Damm on the 2nd.

The final and big game of the night was to be the LA Galaxy vs Santos Laguna. This game took place in front of a home crowd for the Galaxy. Giovanni Dos Santos needed to prove his worth and give Juan Carlos Osorio reasons to call him up to the National Team. It didn’t play out as expected. The game resulted in a 0-0 tie. There were some heated moments during the game, some fouls, some acting and even some insults. Santos goalkeeper Marchesin, apparently insulted Gio by calling him “borracho” and making gestures with his hands as if he was drinking a beer. This of course is in reference to previous occasions where Gio was recorded drunk in a car, while partying.

Giovanni showed passion and urgency, but could not lift his team. Nor could his star teammates, Steven Gerard, Ashley Cole, Nigel De Jong or Robbie Keane. Juan Carlos Osorio was surely watching Gio in this game to see how his form would be. Luckily it is still early in the MLS Season.

So back to “the gap” talk. My impression is that the gap is still there. Sure the MLS is in preseason form, however to me the MLS seemed more dangerous to LigaMX teams in years past. MLS teams have even beat LigaMX teams in Mexico, which took them a while to do, but they did it. This year, I predict all four MLS teams will fail on the return leg to come back and we will see an all Mexican semifinals.

Cheers!

 

Queretaro beats DC United, Aguilas tie Sounders.

Queretaro, playing at home defeated DC United 2-0 with goals from Candelo and Benitez. In a game that wasn’t as exciting as one would hope, it ended with a bang. Queretaro fans had reason to celebrate as the two goals came toward the end at the 70th and 83rd minute.

The America – Seattle game was a bit more exciting. It took place in Seattle’s Century Link field before what i believe was 40,000 fans approximately. Seattle has been a team with the loudest and most active Support groups in MLS. Although some might call them corny, you could hear their chants on the Univision broadcast toward the end of the game. The scoreline went back and forth and ended up in a 2-2 tie. Seattle demonstrated a weak back line that got beat on multiple occasions. On the opposite side, Seattle exposed America on set pieces, both occasions capitalized by Clint Dempsey.

It’s not over yet, return legs take place in March and will finalize the series winner and who will advance to the next round.

CONCACAF Champions League Battles begin today

Santos's Hercules Gomez (L) and Darwin Quintero (R) celebratestheir first goal against Seattle Sounder during their CONCACAF Champions League first leg semi-final match in Torreón, Coahuila state on April 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO/VÍCTOR STRAFFON (Photo credit should read VICTOR STRAFFON/AFP/Getty Images)Heated competition between MLS and LigaMX teams is upon us. USA vs Mexico. The alleged retirement league vs a Mexican league riddled with mediocre South Americans. Most likely insults will be hurled on the field during this battle of pride. MLS has always fared poorly compared to their Mexican counterparts. Could this year be different?

 

Mexican-American, Hercules Gomez thinks that MLS can do it. Herc, of course, played in Mexico and beat MLS teams in this very tournament. He even got into heated smak talk and rough play with his American opponents. Now he is in MLS himself, although not in this years tournament. He is quoted as saying, “I hope they(MLS) smash them all” on the mlssoccer.com website. The MLS teams will certainly get their chance.

America vs Seattle Sounders

The Aguilas have been playing decent in LigaMX, but not necessarily lighting it up. They are still a very talented team and could end up causing big problems for Seattle. They may be without Dario Benedetto, one of their offensive players, as well as their starting goalkeeper, Moises Muñoz.

Seattle will have the services on new superstar Jordan Morris, who didn’t believe the “yo estoy en Europa y tu no” hype and signed with the MLS team. Dempsey is another player who could be a difference maker.

Queretaro vs DC United

Queretaro hasn’t been great of late. Look out for their goalkeeper, Tiago Volpi, who has been playing especially bad. On the bright side they do have newcomer, Carlos Fierro, who has been scoring goals since coming from Chivas. Emmanuel Vill will also have to step up.

DC United has always been a CCL contender. They have challenged many Mexican teams in the past, including Pumas and have even won the tournament once before in 1998.

Excuses

The reasoning for the results, be it bad or good, in this tournament is always interesting. For MLS, they are still in preseason form. Herc mentioned that injuries play a part in past MLS failures. Mexican altitude as well has been stated.

For LigaMX teams, Soccer is their sport, the US/MLS has baseball, pointy ball and basketball. There is no reason they should lose to MLS teams. LigaMX teams also have local Clausura tournament to think about. Do they have the roster to double up tournaments? Another reason LigaMX has the upper hand on MLS was mentioned in the same article by Hercules Gomez. LigaMX teams have more depth and talent. Herc says players 1-10 on MLS teams can play against any team in the world, but after that the talent level drops.

Tune in tonight for the start of some potentially entertaining and fiery Soccer.