Weekend at Joely’s

In the first of what will surely be a series of captivating installments, Soccerchronicle.com columinists John Jagou and Joel Aceves will publish their weekly conversation. The first of edition of this new feature, Weekend at Joely’s, expands on a topic that they both discussed on the dos a zero futbol podcast, the decision by FMF to limit Liga MX gameday rosters with only 8 Mexican nationals.

John Jagou:  Earlier this week, FMF decided to “limit” the number of foreign and naturalized players to 10 per convocación, which would only leave room for 8 natural born Mexicans to dress for a game. What do you think the motivation was for FMF to do this?

 

Joel Aceves:  It’s all about ratings. The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) is run by two competing media conglomerates whose main interest is selling the product of futbol. That said, the availability of football from the world’s top leagues makes FMF believe that in order to maintain fan interest they need to bring in high profile players.  That makes sense but the reality is for every Gignac we get 30 Fantiks.  FMF is foolhardy to believe that a Mexican kid will watch Champions League, La Liga, EPL, then go to Liga MX stadium and be bored. They completely overlook the cultural aspect of the sport and the fact that only a handful of Euroclubs play consistently exciting games. While that same kid can watch Barcelona on tv he still won’t get the excitement that comes with going to the stadium, being part of the club that represents your community and feel pride at their achievements.

 

JJ:  It doesn’t seem to make sense, though. Mexico’s structure, at least at the U-Level for the national team has enjoyed unprecedented success over the past 10 years.  It would seem logical, then that the FMF and the member clubs would give the youngsters as many opportunities as possible to see how much better they can become. Limiting the player pool to 154, while allowing 170 spots to foreigners or naturalized players, when we take it face value, seems to be a very quick way to throw away all the progress that has been made.

Now, there are some who will argue that you can’t just give a player a spot, he has to earn it. And there is plenty of truth to that. If a kid beats out the veterans and foreigners, then there is no question that he is a special talent. But there are so many who don’t really blossom until later in their careers – mainly because their limited opportunities stunted their growth. Oribe is a perfect example.  How many others make their top level debut after the age of 24?  Too many.

 

JA:  I absolutely agree with you that this new rule does not make sense but we have been seeing it since the 05 U17 World Cup win. Very few players since then have gotten opportunities despite the constant success at the youth levels. It almost feels like Liga MX despises their own talent. A few years back the league had implemented the brilliant 20-11 rule, which guaranteed youngsters playing time, and clubs fought tooth and nail to get it removed. It also becomes difficult for Mexican upstarts to compete for a first team place given the short season format that demands instant results. So, clubs would rather bet on a 2nd rate foreigner than nurture their own talent.

As a Chivas fan, I can already see some of the adverse effects the increased amount of foreigners in the league is causing. The club has a very difficult time in the transfer market as there are fewer quality local players available. Chivas desperately needs a striker for next season. A quick look at Liga MXs top 10 goalscorers shows us that there’s only one Mexican player, ironically its Oribe the late bloomer who plays for the dreaded rival, America. He is on the wrong side 30, so his career is winding down. Ideally there should be 3-4 Mexicans on that list and its worrisome that having very little presence is a non-issue for the league.

 

JJ:  Frankly, it is not surprising that there are so few Mexicans among the top scorers. Clubs tend to shop internationally for strikers almost exclusively.  But back to Chivas; the club has a small pool to pick from, and then also has to pay a premium for talent as well because of their personnel policies. The answer for Chivas, at a minimum, is to heavily invest in their youth system. But with Jorge Vergara changing coaches every time he feels a breeze cool his rosy cheeks, he continually sabotages his most sustainable method of talent acquisition.

A lot of this foreign influence also has to do with promoters (which I quite haven’t figured out how different they are from agents) who have embedded themselves in certain teams. They will make more money, no doubt. The bright spot, though, is Pachuca. Their youth system has become Mexico’s most productive. They won the U17 and the U20 Champs this season and are not afraid to give young players chances. There should be more like them, but with this new rule, the incentive is not to make the investment in the future. It is a shame, there are a lot of talented youngsters with nowhere to go.

 

JA:  Pachuca are indeed a good example that it is possible to nurture talent and have foreigners. In addition to their youth success, Tuzos finished the season 2nd in the table. But this is the exception, not the rule.  With the wheels are already in motion for most clubs to easily build up squads with foreign born players, Liga MX will soon mirror the English Premier League with matches having 1-3 nationals on the field.

 

JJ:  Exactly. I guess that is the existential question FMF needs to ask itself. “Do we sacrifice our own identity to make a move that we think will make our league better? Do we improve Liga MX at the expense of the Mexican player?”

England has a top flight, entertaining league that is popular all over the world. England’s national team has made 2 semifinals in international tournaments over the past 50 years. One would think that England would look to the Continent for inspiration, but why would the foreign owners of EPL teams care if the 3 Lions did well at a World Cup? What is their motivation?  On the other hand, Germany was humiliated in 2004 by crashing out of the group stage of the Eurocopa. They committed to overhaul their entire youth and development structure to limit the chances of a repeat performance. I say, so far so good. Italy did the same after their 2010 fracaso. It is true that the Italian league has suffered and may not be as strong as others in Europe, but they have also committed to strengthening the player pool. We will probably start seeing if they were successful or not soon.

One thing none of these countries have, though, is a rule that forces them to play locals like the new FMF rule. But they are also in the EU, so I guess it is moot. Nevertheless, Mexican players may need to start looking elsewhere to make a living.

 

JA:  On that note Major League Soccer must be licking their chops with all the possibilities that will open to them. They have always gone after Mexican talent given the large Mexican community in the U.S and for the most part have been unsuccessful. Either the aging star is burned out or the younger player never adapts. We’ve seen a shift in this however with Giovani Dos Santos joining the league in his prime. We’ve also seen relative unknown youngsters rise up to get called into the national team or return to Mexico with Erik ‘Cubo’ Torres and Carlos Salcedo being prime examples.

So, it is a very good possibility that we will see more and more young Mexican talent flourishing in MLS, being capped for youth national team, and then either going abroad or returning to Mexico.

 

JJ:  They should be licking their chops, and, coincidentally, MLS commissioner, Don Garber, spoke to the Mexican press about his desire to bring in more Mexican talent into the league. It makes nothing but sense. The demographics of the MLS fan base indicate as much. Not to mention the fact that MLS hopes to expand to 28 teams. 28 teams!  There are a lot of roster spots available to fill the 8 new franchises. I am not so sure the NCAA system can fill it all. The irony of a situation where MLS catches up competitively to Liga MX because of Mexican players would be at worst… delicious.

 

JA:  John, are you telling me that Liga MX is about to turn into a bargain bin of young talent for MLS and some of the Euro leagues?  And can such a move be a blessing in disguise provided many players go abroad and succeed?

 

JJ:  I certainly can envision a future where Mexican players can establish a beachhead in MLS. Colombians, Ecuadorians, and Paraguayans have done the same in Mexico for decades.  Mainly because Liga MX has always been an importer’s league. If you look at the historical superstars of most teams, a good chunk of them were foreign born players. There is nothing wrong with that. But with the new rule in place, I suppose Liga MX is trying to become more of a global brand. It would help immensely if Gignac has the Euro of his life.

But it will still be hard for Mexican players to make the jump to Europe from either MLS or Liga MX.  They are still, even today, unproven in the European market. Yes, there are a few players who are making a name for themselves. Compare a dozen or so Mexicans to hundreds of Brazilians, Argentines, even Uruguayans.

 

JA:  That’s the Tricolor fallacy right there; believing that having a dozen players in Europe is enough to truly compete against the top national teams. It is not.  Not by a longshot.  The one thing all of those countries have in common is a very strong and competitive domestic league where their players can flourish. Looking at the last 3 World Cup champions (Germany, Spain, Italy) they all had squads with a core group of players that play for the same home club. It is something we have talked about in the Dos a Zero podcast.

 

JJ:  Those three national teams benefited from having a strong base from 1 or 2 clubs. With the new regulations in place in Liga MX, it would take a very special group of players to even take the field, much less translate that on a national team level. Maybe Chivas will be the answer one day…

 

JA:  Hopefully someday soon.

 

JJ:  Well, don’t get your hopes up.  Haha!  It has been fun, Joely.  We’ll do this again next week.

 

JA:  Hasta la proxima

 

Be sure to tune in to the dos a zero futbol podcast special Liguilla editions.  Next one will be Sunday at the Conclusion of the Pachuca-Santos match

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@jjagou

@joelyaceves

Let’s Fix the Liguilla


It is something that has happened every year since 1970. That means that except for a small handful of people that are reading this, the only way you have ever seen Liga MX crown their champion is at the conclusion of the famous Liguilla. So for all the talk about changing the season format, and changing the post-season format, one thing is very clear. The Liguilla is just not going away.

Does not mean it cannot be tinkered with, though.

There has been some tinkering over the years. The best thing the string-pullers have done over the last few years is to eliminate the Repechaje (Wild Card round for the monolinguals). A 10 team playoff in a league of 18 was just silly. It was a move in the right direction. The other major modification that has had an impact was changing the tie breaker. It used to be that the first tie breaker was the seeding. In other words, the lower seeds had to win the series no matter what. The first year this new wrinkle was added, there was a major casualty. Can anyone guess who fell victim to the tie-breaker? If your first (and frankly, it should be your only) inclination was to say Cruz Azul. You are right! And you move on to the next round.

It happened in the C14 season. #8 Leon and Cruz Azul ended level after their tie, but Leon made it through to the next round because away goals became the first tie breaker. Ay ay ay, Cruz Azul! If it were up to me, I would set up the liguilla tie breakers in the following way:

1st round – Higher seed advances if tied on aggregate
Semifinals – Away goals
Final – No tie breaker – penalties decide champion.

Of course, I am making the assumption that there would still be 8 teams that qualify for the post-season. Which would be a good number if the season was not split in half as it is now. Which segues nicely into my next proposal: limit entrants to the fiesta grande.

If we have to deal with 2-season seasons, then 8 teams are too many. It cheapens (or chepoes, depending on how you feel about the man) the regular season. Not to mention, and I quote soccerchronicle.com regular contributor, Joel Aceves “it rewards mediocrity.” He is right. Now, I am also a realistic man. The reason there are that many teams in the post-season is that there will be more games to broadcast. I get that. So while my gut tells me that a 4-team post season would be best, the business man in me says a reduction to 6 teams would be the most palatable.

So the top 2 seeds would get a bye after the 3-6 teams play a one off over the weekend. Tie breakers would be the same as above.

1st round – Penalties after 90 minutes
Semifinals – Away goals
Final – No tie breaker – penalties decide champion

6 teams out of 18 would not cheapen the regular season as much, and would make for some very dramatic finishes over the last few weeks.

What are your thoughts?

Listen to the dos a zero futbol podcast at a special time Thursday at 11pm CDT and Sunday night at the conclusion of the Pachuca – Santos.  Catch all previous editions on itunes.

Follow me on twitter @jjagou

Giovanni scores 2 to lead the LA Galaxy past Houston Dynamo 4-1

This game started out quickly as Houston made a nice play off a corner kick which eventually ends up on the head of David Horst who scores the first goal of the game in the 1st minute. The Dynamo lead was not long lived as in the 4th minute a deep ball gets caught up between 2 Dynamo defenders and bounces off to Giovanni Dos Santos who puts it past goalkeeper Joe Willis to make it 1-1.

Later in the 21st minute a steal in the midfield leads to a run down the left flank by Giovanni who puts a nice cross that the GK Joe Willis fails to properly clear and it ends free, in the box for Husidic to put it in easily. The Galaxy were on fire and had all cylinders running at this point. The defense really shutdown all the spaces and did not allow the forwards to gain any kind of possession. The midfielders for Houston couldn’t maintain control of the ball or establish forward momentum as well.

In the 31st minute Gerard sends a nice long pass from right to left, and Giovanni has a nice 1st touch to setup his right foot for a shot and goal from just inside the box. Could Giovanni be back? All signs were pointing at a possible hat-trick, but it was not to be. The final Galaxy goal came from Zardes in the 48th minute, by way of a nice cross from the right side by Lletget’s cross.

Dynamo Coach, Owen Coyle would insert 3 subs in the 57th minute to change things up, one of them being Cubo Torres. The Dynamo would shift the game a bit in their favor later in the game. They would generate some good chances. Cubo Torres and Miranda were key in holding some good possession up top as well as getting some chances at goal. Unfortunately for the home crowd, a Dynamo goal was not in the cards.

I was able to ask LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena what he thought of the 3 simultaneous subs made by the Dynamo and he said it was a good move and that they brought some energy to the game and nearly made it an exciting ending.

In the locker room, Cubo Torres, gave some insightful comments on his play in the game, the National Team and his future activity with the Dynamo. ESPN FC’s Nayib Moran asked some good questions on his relationship with the Dynamo Manager and the possibility of future playing time, as well as his thoughts on the Mexico call up with the U-23 and Olympic team. I asked him how close he felt to scoring his first goal with the team and how he felt his movement was during the game going up against a tough and big defense in the Belgian center back, Van Damm. Listen to his comments in Spanish:

It was an entertaining match. Giovanni is making his way back and it will be exciting to see if he can regain his form to gain a spot with the Mexican National Team. Also, Cubo Torres, getting some playing time, even in defeat, is a good start and preparation for his U-23/Olympic squad participation.

Join us in further discussion on the Dos A Zero podcast, broadcasting live every Wednesday night at 9PM Central time. Follow us on Twitter for all the details to listen @DosAZeroPodcast!!!

Ep. 29: Dos a Zero Futbol Podcast – Chivas are back? Spanish Clasico and Ame vs Tigres.

necaxaCR7A fun show with some good talk on the state of Chivas and their recent success. Are they back and will they be a challenge the remaining of the season. America used to be in crisis, now they are in the final of the CCL. Tigres has been surpassed by rival, Monterrey, in league standings but proceed to CCL final in an impressive matchup vs America. We even talk about US Womens wage dispute and drama. Tune in for good footy talk and some fun moments.

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.

Read more

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.

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