Pumas Secures Top Seed, Libertadores Berth

It is not that they came out of nowhere, or that they weren’t on anyone’s radar. Frankly, anyone who tries to make pre-season predictions on the outcome of Liga MX should probably have their head examined. The only sure thing in Luga MX is that there are no sure things.

But, there they are, the team no one saw coming, taking the top spot in Liga MX with a game in hand. Pumas will be the top seed in the Liga MX playoffs. A curse more than a blessing really, as Alberto “Chiquis” Campa noted earlier.  The bigger prize, though, is a ticket to Copa Libertadores. A tournament where Pumas has not distinguished themselves at all. And now they get another shot.

How did Pumas, a club that had spent 4 years in the wilderness, manage to turn it around? It is simple really. Continuity. Pumas only dabbles in the transfer market, and the players they do cherry pick tend to stick around. This is not a team that reshuffles its roster every six months. The one time the did try it recently, under Alberto Garcia Aspe (another prodigal son), it failed miserably and is the main reason Pumas nearly slipped into the abyss.  It also didn’t hurt that they brought back two lifetime Pumas to run the squad: Memo Vazquez, former Pumas player and last title-winning coach, was brought back after his inexplicable exit. Antonio Sancho is in the front office.

This year, they only collected 3 new players before the season. Two of them have had a major impact. Fidel Martinez, el Neymar Ecuatoriano has solidified an attack that has scored the most goals since C2011, which conincidentally, was the last time Pumas won a title. The other is Alekandro Castro. The former Cruz Azul holding midfielder has had an exceptional campaign which even warranted a call-up for the upcoming qualifiers.

The Mexico City side started slow, which was a problem: a few more losses and they would have slipped into the relegation fight. Instead, a 6-game winning streak catapulted them away from the drop zone and to the top of the table. They haven’t looked back. No team has scored more and only one team has given up fewer — Tigres (coached by another Pumas disciple, Tuca Ferretti).

But there is that whole top seed curse thing. It is very real. In the last 10 years, more top seeds have fallen in the first round than have won the title by a 2.5:1 ratio. Only 4 have won the title outright. If Pumas crash out early, so be it. But they have only partiacpted in the Copa Libertadores twice, and only got as far as the round of 16 in 2003. That should be the focus in 2016. Do they have a roster that can compete in the two tournaments? Tough to say. They play well together and have decent depth, but they need some youth players to step up. Which should never be a problem at Pumas.

So for the first time in 24 years, Pumas will enter the post-season as the top seed. What happened the last time they were the #1 seed?  Funny you should ask…

Is the curse of Super Lider, legit or rubbish?

Veracruz Super LiderIf you are familiar with the Mexican League and the Liguilla/Playoff, then you know of the “Super Lider curse”. Being at the top of the General Table usually is a good thing. In La Liga, it means you are the champion. Not in the Mexican League. It just means now you have to go into the playoff and win the Championship in a series of home/away games.

The curse is that throughout history it is percieved that the team at the top of the table (aka #1 seed) always fails to win the Cup via playoff and bows out early in quarterfinals or Semis.

So I went back 10 years to get a look at how legit this is. I know as far as my memory goes, the teams that I recall being Super Lider always would fail in the playoffs. My first memories were back when Cuautemoc led lowly Veracruz to an excellent season, only to bow out early in playoffs. This year, Pumas is at the top and being a fan of UNAM I want them to do great. However, I have seen this curse take effect and bring teams down. Or have I?

Going to the cold hard stats, lets look at the past 10 years. In 21 seasons (Apertura/Clausura) the Super Lider has won the Cup 4 times. That is a 19% success rate, not very good, but surprising. I was thinking it would be more like 0%. Maybe some exageration on my part regarding this so called curse? Not even very far back, America beat Tigres to win the Championship in Apertura 2014. Further back in Clausura 2012, Santos did it vs Monterrey. Then we have a gap until we get to Clausura 2007 where Pachuca beats America to win it all. Then just a year passes and we have Pachuca beating San Luis in Clausura 2006.

So as you can see, it can be done, and it has been done. Pumas is now the determined Super Lider in this Apertura 2015 playoffs, so we will see if it can be done again. Can a #1 seeded team take on playoffs and win the Tournament?

On a side note, should the playoffs even exist? Should Mexico go the way of La Liga and crown the team that ends season at the top of the table? We’ll save that topic for another post.  😀

 

Here are the stats I looked up on the Super Lider from each season:

Clausura 2015 – Tigres lose to Santos in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2014 – America beats Tigres, is Champion.
Clausura 2014 – Cruz Azul loses to Leon in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2013 – Amercia, loses to Leon in Final.
Clausura 2013 – Tigres lose to Monterrey in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2012 – Toluca loses to Tijuana in Final.
Clausura 2012 – Santos beat Monterrey in Final.
Apertura 2011 – Chivas lose to Queretaro in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2011 – Tigres lose to Chivas in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2010 – Cruz Azul lose to Pumas in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2010 – Monterrey lose to Pachuca in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2009 – Toluca lose to Monterrey in Semis.
Clausura 2009 – Pachuca lose to Pumas in Final.
Apertura 2008 – San Luis lose to Santos in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2008 – Chivas lose to Monterrey.
Apertura 2007 – Santos lose to Pumas in Semis.
Clausura 2007 – Pachuca beats America in Final.
Apertura 2006 – Cruz Azul lose to Chivas in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2006 – Pachuca beat San Lus in Final.
Apertura 2005 – America lose to Tigres in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2005 – Morelia loses to Estudiantes in Semis.

Mexico finishes 4th in U17 tournament

Arteaga greets Belgium's Browaeys.

Mexico and Belgium meet for 3rd place

Vina del Mar, Chile — Mexico earned 4th place in the FIFA U17 World Cup Chile 2015 as they fall to Belgium 2-3. Ending what had been a promising run in the tournament.

El Tri Coach Mario Arteaga expressed his disappointment at not achieving his tournament objectives. “Our goal in Chile was to win the championship and of course we’re not happy with the fourth place but that is football. After the semi-final the disappointment was big but today we wanted to win the medal.”

Belgian U17 coach Bob Browaeys stated “And now it is for the first time a bronze medal. Thanks to Chile and the organisers. It is an amazing moment for us”

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Episode 6: Los Cachirules podcast -Honduras Fan Interview

Los Cachirules PodcastOn Episode 6 of Los Cachirules Big Soccer Mexico’s ‘Catrachito’ joins the cast to talk about all things Honduras and lets listeners know what to expect from the Tricolors fourth round qualifying group rivals. Joely laments the demise of Chiva~Cola as Goat sympathizers Christian and Juan praise coach Matias Almeyda’s influence in the club’s Copa MX win. The always mysterious John Jagou talks about pointy ball, Albert is not impressed with Cortes ‘Maradonian’ goal, Fernando drops Zingers, and Rony finally stops talking about lose balls as the group tries to forget Mexico’s U-17 Bullying by Nigeria.

Chicharito Unvarnished

Most interviews with star athletes don’t ever amount to much.  In fact, they are usually a a raging torrent a cliches, flooded with rivulets of emptiness cascading into a waterfall of nothing.  Zero. Why did I just watch that?

Enter Leon Krause. Univision 34’s news anchor got a sit down for his “la Mesa” segment with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and then proceeded to do the impossible:  He got the Bayer Leverkusen striker to open up about his struggles, concerns, and even shed some tears.

Truth be told, Chicharito is not your average everyday professional athlete.  On the rare occasion when he grants interviews, he is almost always forthcoming and honest.  He saves the stream of consciousness cliches for the post-game mixed zones.

This interview was a little different, though.  He spoke of his struggles as a professional and how hard it was not only for him, but for his family.  And it seemed to helped liberate Javier in some way.  Is it a mere coincidence that Chicharito has gone on a massive scoring spree since he had this chat, starting with Mexico’s 3-2 win over the USA?  Hardly.

On a lighter note, the interview did remind me of the long gone but never forgotten Larry Sanders Show.  An episode where Larry also opened up.

Look out, Leon.  Seeing how well Javier has performed after sitting down with you may mean that you will have more athletes beating down your door to be the next subject in your “la Mesa” segment. Why send players to Colombia when you can send them to LA?

Since his sitdown on “La Mesa”, Chicharito has outscored his former side, Manchester United.  The whole team.  You are going to need a bigger table, Leon, cuz they are going to come calling.

 

 

 

Is Copa America Centenario Worth the Trouble?

Late last week, it was made official.  CONMEBOL, the South American soccer confederation that was the first to organize a national team level competition, will pay homage to its considerable history by commemorating the Copa America Centenario with a tournament… in the USA.

It goes without saying that after all the indictments that the FBI handed out like a gangsta dropping hundies at the titty bar, this tournament was in serious jeopardy of even being played at all.  But in the end, profit always wins, and CONMEBOL and its marketing partners are set to make a pile of cash with their tournament next June.

The Stadiums will be packed, the temporary grass-fields in field-turf stadiums will try and stay alive, and for the weeks that this tournament coincides with Euro 2016, there will be wall to wall footy from 7am to midnight.  Sound great, don’t it?

But how excited will fans really be when slowly, but surely, South American sides will announce that they will be playing with alternate sides, or U23 teams?  Lionel Messi will obviously be a huge draw, but how excited is Barcelona going to be watching his Messiness dig up Texas-size divots on the less than ideal surface at AT&T Stadium?  Not very. And coming off a knee injury, less so.  Chances of playing CAC – less than 50%

And what of his Barça buddy, Neymar?  Well, he has a score to settle this summer. But at the Olympics in Rio.  So, don’t expect to see him either.

How many of Chile’s Copa America heroes will be State side?  What about James and his band of Cafeteros? Remember, they will be in the throes of their insanely long and emotionally draining World Cup qualifying.

Some National teams, like Mexico, will playing a Summer tournament every year this World Cup cycle.  And some players did the same last cycle.

Venue selection will be interesting.  The most logical host city, Miami, the unofficial Capital of South America in the US, will not be available because the Dolphins Stadium will be undergoing a renovation. Too bad.  It would seem like Miami would be be the epicenter of such a tournament.  For it to not even be involved is really unfortunate.  A long list of attractive cities have great stadiums, but will need temporary fields.  Ugh!

But those gate receipts will be so appealing, so the show must go on.

It is a great idea, one that a lot of folks had been advocating for years, but greed has been at the heart of the execution and organization. It is a cynical way to celebrate 100 years of soccer.

 

Juan Carlos Osorio’s European Adventure

He has gone a long way from being a Manchester City cone-setter to coaching Mexico’s national team.Newly minted coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, fresh off a weekend of seeing a handful of Liga MX games, has jetted of to the Old Country to have a chat with the players who will likely form the Tri’s base as they take the field in a game that really matters next month.  Mexico will open Russia 2018 qualification with a home game vs El Salvador before traveling to San Pedro Sula a few days later.

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Los Cachirules: A dos a zero podcast. Episode 2

Our 2nd Episode is in the books. We had some good discussion on the US vs Mexico game that took place for the CONCACAF Cup. I was in attendance along with 93,000 others and enjoyed the great atmosphere and an even greater Golazo by Paul Aguilar.

We discuss the USMNT a bit more that you would originally think a Mexican podcast would, but we would like to get a good amount of US fans as listeners as well, even if some may just be haters. Come one, come all and enjoy the fun.

Another big topic we have discussed is the new Mexican NT coach, Juan Carlos Osorio. Will he succeed, will he last for 6 months, and will he even make it to the World Cup in Russia? Only time will tell, but qualifiers are coming, so he has 1 month until his first game.

Finally we talk the Olympic squad and their success in qualifiers and who will be the 3 overage players that Mexico will take to the Olympics. We even mention the dream scenario of beating Brazil 7-1 in the Maracana!

So take a listen to the podcast below, or on itunes. We also just created a twitter account for the podcast, so follow @los_cachirules.

DCIM100GOPRO

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