Santos a Worthy Champion, Cruz Azul Honorable in Defeat

I am not at all a fan of the Mexican "Liguilla." I have no issue with having a post season, I just don't like a post-season that rewards mediocrity. 10 teams of 18 qualify? Who does the Mexican League think they are, the NBA? The watered down playoffs help a mid-table team emerge as champions. It is just as common to see 7, 8, and 9 seeds lift the trophy as it is for the top seeds.

Yesterday, however, justice prevailed. The team that had played the best, scored the most, and won the most was rewarded by hoisting the trophy for the third time in their history. It is a pretty amazing accomplishment considering that Santos were in a relegation "play out" in last year's final week with Queretaro.

Santos Coach, Daniel Guzman, is a rarity in Mexican soccer: a young Mexican coach who now has a title on his CV. He didn't do it all himself, though. In a league that allows 5 foreigners on the field, Santos' collection of ex-pats ranks among the best in the league. I have long considered David Ludueña to be the best foreigner playing in Mexico, and it was the "achita's" unstoppably crafted goal that proved to be the game winner.

This team had more pedigree than just the foreigners, though. Oswaldo Sanchez made his claim as the Tri's starting keeper with a terrific post season, including several key saves in the second half. But the revelation has to be Edgar Castillo. The New Mexican "carrilero" seems to be destined for a very productive career, and he could be the next player to join the growing legion of Mexicans playing in Europe.

I congratulate Santos for their deserved championship, but I also have to acknowledge Cruz Azul for their fierce determination and unwillingness to throw in the towel. It had to be tough playing in 100+ degree heat, but la maquina showed no signs of quit. I was most astonished by their display of sportsmanship by both the players and fans. They may not have won the championship, but they showed more honor in defeat than most show in victory.