Pumas, Toluca Poised to Make a Libertadores Run

A quick look at the Liga MX table would tell one very obvious story:  both Pumas and Toluca are not having very good seasons.  They currently sit in 12th and 13th place – both out of the liguilla.  For Pumas, a stark contrast to their last campaign, where they finished the regular season at the top of the table.  Toluca, easily one of the most consistent teams since Liga MX halved their calendar, is also in a zone they are not particularly used to either.  On the outside looking in.  Normally, sluggish results like that would not just raise pundits’ eyebrows, they would also sow seeds for a fan revolt, and have coaches’ termination papers filled out.  In triplicate.

But, when we roll in what they have been able to accomplish in the group stage of the Copa Libertadores, this season has been an unqualified success… so far.

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Mexico Breeze Past Canada

VANCOUVER, BC – It was a bit of a surprise to see Hirving “Chucky” Lozano in the starting line-up for Mexico in front of the largest crowd to ever see the men’s national team play at BC Place.   Mexico coach, Juan Carlos Osorio deliberated up until the last minute.

Chucky or Marco Fabian?

Osorio went with Chucky, who took the field along with Jesus Corona and Javier Hernandez to make up Mexico’s line of attack.  The move paid off as all three were able to find the back of the net in Mexico’s 3-0 victory over Canada.  Lozano, in particular, was especially devastating. If it was not his speed, it was his ball control.  If it wasn’t his darting runs, it was his defense.  And when he dispossessed Canada late in the first half, all Javier Hernandez had to do was send the ball into space like a bucket of chum ready to be gobbled up by a lethal shark. Read more

Ep. 27: Dos a Zero Futbol Podcast – Canadian Guest, Grant Surridge and more.

Mex v CanWe had the honor of having a Canadian guest, Grant Surridge on the show. Grant writes at http://canadiansoccernews.com, so be sure to check him out. He is also on twitter @SCGGrant. Grant gave us some good insight on the Canadian coach and expectations of the team in the upcoming qualifier vs Mexico. Our own John Jagou will be in Vancouver covering the game and action live. We also discuss the Mexican options and potential impact players in this coming up game. We end the show sharing some Press experiences at the recent MLS games in Philadelphia, Dallas and LA.

Ep. 26: Dos a Zero Futbol Podcast – Post Clasico discussion, Pre El Tri list and more

In this Dos A Zero podcast, episode 26, we discuss what happened with the Clasico Nacional and the good effort put on by Chivas. We also discuss El Tri and the upcoming Qualifiers with Canada. John Jagou will be in Canada covering the game and I will be in the stands in the Estadio Azteca. Saludos!

Los “4 Grandes” All Win… Really

With a name like the “4 Grandes”, one would think that news of them winning should not be something to write about.  Well, they did win.  And they all won on the same weekend.  Again, you ask “what’s the big deal?  These are the premiere teams, the flagship clubs, the most powerful and popular clubs in Liga MX.  They are used to winning and winning championships.  So WTF, John?”

Well, let me tell you.

Yes, the big 4 won this past weekend.  America dispatched Leon at the Azteca 2-1

 

while Guadalajara surprised league leaders Monterrey in the tamalera 3-1.  A guy by the name of “la chofis” scored a riveting brace.

Cruz Azul made Atlas look so bad, favorite son Rafael Marquez begged forgiveness from the largest RednBlack supporters group, Barra 51 (named after the last year they won a league title).

After giving up an early goal, Pumas put together a 4 goal spurt to down Monarcas.

 

causing a butterfly to cry in a post-game TV interview.

The big deal is not that they won.  It is that they all had wins in the same matchday.  Something that had not happened in 4 years.  4 years.   Not very big 4-like.  We have to go back to Matchday 9 of the 2012 Clausura to see the last time this happened.

In those 4 years, Club America has certainly had the best run.  A couple of League titles and a CONCACAF trophy have restored order (if you ask any Americanista) to the world.  Cruz Azul and Pumas each have lost a final in that time frame, while Chivas has been in the wilderness, losing games and going through coaches and front office types like a tourist who eat too much street food goes through a roll of toilet paper.

 

The current table has them in the following positions:

  • 3. America       21 pts      +7
  • 5. Cruz Azul     18 pts      +7
  • 9. Pumas         15 pts      +2
  • 12. Chivas       12 pts        0

The 8th place team, Tijuana has 16 pts, so it is conceivable that with 6 dates left, all four sides could make the post-season.  When was the last time that happened? The 2011 Clausura, which coincidentally was won by Pumas – another opportunity to make the Butterflies cry…

Listen to the dos a zero podcast every Wednesday at 9:00PM CDT.

Follow me on twitter @jjagou

Copa America draw: Mex and US National team overview

copaAmericaCentThe Copa America draw took place and groups are ready and in place. Mexico is in group C with Uruguay, Venezuela and Jamaica. Chilean coach Noel Sanvicente, stated Mexico can be considered a favorite. Of course he also praised his team as one not to be underestimated. Psychological warfare may be taking place here, when calling Mexico a favorite. Not that they are in a group of death or anything, but this is a South American tournament including the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Chile. One of the El Tri opponents, Jamaica, is a CONCACAF team that is beatable, Venezuela is not usually a top South American team. Uruguay will be the biggest challenge in the group, on paper.

We know that Mexico plays better when they are considered the underdog or are forced to elevate their play to take on giants like Brazil or Argentina. We have also seen Mexico struggle vs CONCACAF teams that they were supposed to handle without major problems. This tournament is an excellent opportunity for Mexico to shine and show their worth versus the powers of CONMEBOL. Also any type of beating given to Uruguay is a good thing.

The US National Team is also in this tournament. It will take place in the US after all. So Mexico and the US will essentially be the home teams. The USMNT are in group A with Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay. We have seen many “Molero” games with the US and Mexico vs Paraguay, so many would see them as a beatable opponent. Costa Rica has been a top team in CONCACAF, and could pose a challenge for the US. Especially at a time where it may be thought that the US is at a low level of play recently. Consider the US already losing the CONCACAF cup as well as the Gold Cup prior, not even making it to the final. Is this the worst US team to be put together for a long time? Also is this Copa America the toughest tournament the US will participate in since the World Cup? Not a good time for the US to come in at a low level of play.

There is always the fighting spirit that the US can rely on. The underdog grit. The “dig deep” attitude that could lift the US up to Copa America glory. On the other hand, I have seen many US adversaries say the US will go “3 and out”, or even chant “I believe that they will lose!”. It should be an exciting tournament.

¡Ay Chivas!

Chivas is in no danger of being relegated… this year.  But the toxic cloud of dropping to the lesser divisions has inexplicably spilled into next season as well.  And there is no guarantee that the newly promoted team next season will be as awful as Dorados has been this season.

And that means that Chivas might actually have to show  a real sense of urgency to avoid the most humiliating of fates:  becoming the most popular team in Liga Ascenso.

That sense of urgency that one would normally expect to find when a traditional power finds itself anchored down by the spectre of relegation has been MIA at Chivas central for the better part of the last 3 years.  It was front and center for former Mexico coach, Chepo de la Torre.  He knew how high the stakes were and managed risk accordingly.  He got Chivas to the semis in the C15 liguilla, but started slowly in the A15.  Too slowly for Vergara.  maa¡¡So he brought in an Argentine relegation “fixer” in Mathias Almeida.  The results have actually been worse.

There have been some interesting player additions, including a couple of members of Mexico 2014 World Cup side. But neither Isaac Brizuela or Carlos “Gullit” Peña have made the impact one would expect for the transfer fees Chivas paid.  Gullit has become the latest scapegoat for Chivas’ woes.  He had a bad game against his former team, Leon, yesterday in Chivas’ 1-0 loss;  the same Leon team that Gullit never wanted to leave and had to be dragged away kicking and screaming.

“We’ve bottomed out,” a beaten down Almeida said yesterday in the post game presser. If dropping points at home is the cardinal sin of a team in the drop zone, then Chivas has been a staple a the weekly confessional because they have not won at home since September.  How can that happen?

Teams don’t fall apart overnight, and Chivas is no different.  So how did this happen, Chivas fans?  I have my theories…

  • No stability or continuity in the coaching ranks or front office. 

How many coaches and or general managers has Chivas trotted out over the past few years?  Exactly

  • Selling Chicharito without a back-up planchich manu

It may have been good business, and Chicharito has taken full advantage of the opportunity afforded to him.  But Chivas is still paying the price for not having an adequate plan to replace their homegrown superstar.

 

 

  • Omnilife Stadium construction drained the club’s cash reserves

A lot of people, me included, poked fun at Vergara for his avarice in not signing players even with having to pay a premium.  Turns out he may not have had the cash to spend anyway. If you believe the rumors, budgeted costs severely underestimated the actual costs.  And you wondered why the first playing surface was made of plastic.

  • Le divorce

No need to explain this one

  • Swinging and missing on player movement

CHIVAS-LUIS-PEREZ-Y-MARQUEZPlease name a player that has been brought in in the past 5 years that has made a significant impact on the side.  When you do, ask for the blue guy, you know, the one holding his breath.

  • Terrible PR moves

Granted, this really does not have that much bearing whether or not Chivas drops, but here are just 2 brilliant PR moves that Chivas has made over the past few years.

Announcing a press conference to introduce a newly signed player — you the fan.  Denying FMF access to Chivas players for a non-sanctioned friendly only to lose anyway.

  • Vergara’s arrogance and unrealistic expectations

This always gets play in the press, but it is more of a deflection of Chivas’ current state than anything else.  His team has proved over the past 10 years that it is mediocre at best —  so why pretend like it is better than it really is?

Chivas will not be relegated this season, but instability in the front office, poor personnel moves, a coaching carousel, and uncertainty of team ownership, and a consistently under-performing roster of players means that Chivas may be looking at one maybe 2 more seasons of walking the tightrope.

Next season, they may not have a Dorados to break their fall.

Liga MX at a Crossroads – Whether They Know it or Not

ligaMXA FEW YEARS AGO, the string-pullers in the Mexican soccer business decided to re-brand their top flight as Liga MX.  New logo, new theme music, new cup tournament – it was quite a show.  The newly branded Liga MX was positioning itself to make a move on the global stage.  The cynics, and there are a lot (too many, really), who make it their business to follow and report on Mexican soccer responded they only way they know how:  cynically.  It is nothing more than just a fresh new color of lipstick for the same pig was the general consensus.  And why not?  The string-pullers of Mexican soccer have long had the reputation, whether justly earned or not, for not being the most transparent when it comes to league business.  The problem is, while these reporters, columnists, pundits, bloggers, beat writers, and pretty TV people are all at the ready to fire the most tired of criticisms, they are not talking about what is happening on the field.  As it turns out, they quality of play on the field is pretty good.

Instead, we hear incessantly that Liga MX is nothing more than mediocre.  Are they paying attention?  The league promotes itself, or at least tries to.  But their positive spins are lost in translation when it goes through the media middlemen.

That’s a problem.  And it is something that Liga MX needs to solve in the very near future.  So me of it is self inflicted.  There is a reason the press is so jaded.  Some of Liga MX’s existing policies are, well, baffling.  Take, for instance, coverage.  Here in the US at least, when watching Fox Deportes, or ESPN, or Univision Deportes, when they talk about the league, the networks may not have the right to show highlights.

Highlights!  It is not a good look.  Not in these times, when all it takes is a tap of the finger to see a goal scored from anywhere in the world.

Liga MX needs as many outlets as possible, and it certainly doesn’t help that the ones who talk about it the most spend a good deal of their time trashing it.  Some of that can’t be helped; it is what sells, after all.  So find new outlets.  Buy time on Eurosport and produce an hour-long weekly recap of the league. Or a couple of 60 min condensed games.  The point is:  get more exposure.  Andre-Pierre Gignac has been the best story of the season.  Why isn’t there a French page on the Tigres website, or at the very least a Twitter account in French?

Their website could use a face-lift, but, truth be told, it has improved dramatically from its initial launch. However, there is no English language version of their website.  Or any other, for that matter.  Their social media can also use a boost.  Again, this is a rights issue, and I get that. But it would be a smart move to have a video available minutes after someone scored, or a great play, etc. Liga MX’s official twitter is somewhat informative – but again, there is a lot of room to improve.

Why the need for all this?  Beacuse Liga MX is not just competing against MLS, but also La Liga, The EPL, Bundesliga, NFL, NBA, Ligue 1, and the Chinese League that has tapped into a seemingly endless pool of funds.  Liga MX has the structure, the funding and the stability to do well in this New World Order.  Their biggest obstacle, however, is for them to prove (to themselves as well) that they belong.  One step to clearing the obstacle is to get the word out.  Hey, everyone!  Liga MX is pretty good.  It is!  Really.  Here watch these highlights.

Instead of doing little to shake the reputation the league currently has, it can rewrite the narrative with an introduction to each new market.  In other soccer loving countries, Liga MX could become a solid, entertaining league that has some quality players.  Players could see a league that pays well, and is extremely competitive.  Other clubs around the world could see a league that is well financed, and open for business.

But this is entirely up to Liga MX.  If they continue to believe that the status quo has worked before and will do so moving forward, then they are missing out on a huge opportunity.  If the only market outside of Mexico that matters to Liga MX is the Mexpat one in the US, then they are selling their own league short.

The String-pullers decided on the name Liga MX for a reason.  Now it is time to let the rest of the world in on it.

Ep. 21: Dos a Zero Futbol Podcast – Mexico vs Senegal – Molero

MexVsSenThis episode we talk about the recent Mexico “molero” vs Senegal. We discuss the flops and stand out players from the game. We also have sound clips from Osorio and Pikolin from post the game press conference and mixed zone. Osorio answered a question from the Senegal press on the reason why Mexico gave Senegal a few good scoring opportunities during the game.

We also discuss the Chicharito injury and his career in Europe. As well as some Libertadores talk and LigaMX. A bet was also taken between two of our panelists on the winner of the Santos vs Monterrey game from tonight.

Tune in!

There will be Haters: Mexico vs Senegal

Tomorrow evening the Mexican national team will take on Senegal in Miami, Florida. The players called up for both Mexico and Senegal, are not be 1st string National team players. No Chicharito, No Andres Guardado. We do get to see some young and up and coming players. The two goal scorers vs Honduras Jurgen Damm will be there but Javier Aguino, will not due to injury.

Some good young players will get to show their worth. Chucky Lozano, Carlos Salcedo, Erick Gutierrez and others will get a chance. So while many say that a visit to the Mall will be among one of the highlights of this visit to Miami, some of these players will be fighting to impress. They will be looking to show Osorio that they can “aprovech” their opportunity with El Tri and deserve a future call up in a more critical game.

There will be haters, however. Many call this game a waste of time. They question the Marlin’s Park promotion, as one in particular has pictures of 1st team players such as Chicharito, Guardado and Oribe. It is hard to think that Mexicans will go to the stadium to watch this game not knowing that it is not a FIFA date and these players will not actually be there. Futbol passion is strong, however, so the fan showing may still be solid. However, I am not sure how big a Mexican community exists in the Miami area.

The epic hater award for this particular game, goes to the great Carlos Albert. Formerly from Futbol Picante, he gives his take on the FMF and the use of the national team. He calls it straight up prostituting the National Team, for financial benefits. The FMF being the Pimp daddy counting the dollars after the players attract the fans.

Have a listen to his take, and sorry for the vertical video. 😀

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