This time of year, there are no shortages of top ten lists, year’s best, worst, exceptional, sexiest, forgettable, mundane, maudlin, terse, curt, and on and on and on. So I thought, why not add to it. So I present to you the 10 best moments in Mexican footie for 2009 (and then also the not so good moments later this week).
Indios – The team from Ciudad Juarez took out America, Guadalajara, and Toluca out of contention for the Clausura 2009 crown. Not bad for a team in their first year in the top flight. They came awfully close to doing the same to Pachuca before finally bowing out. The Apertura wasn’t so kind to them, though. They did not win a game, and are now practically glued to the drop zone. ow they have made an uneasy amount of roster moves to save them from relegation. It will be tough to stay aloft.
Puebla – They have the most entertaining coach in the league: Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, the Lex Luthor look-alike, spares no one in his animated tirades: the refs, his bosses, the FEMEXFUT, CONCACAF. To his credit, though, he admits when he is wrong and takes his appropriate lumps. He also gets the most out of his team with limited resources and the occasional dried out payroll.
Dario Veron’s goal – Puebla had overcome so much in the first half of 2009, including a goal deficit in the first leg of their semi-finals with Pumas. They were set to make their first final in over 10 years until Dario Veron scored in the 90th+ minute to advance to the final. Pumas went on to win their 6th title by defeating Pachuca in extra time.
America 7-2 Toluca – America had been mired in the doldrums for the past few years. Wholesale changes to the roster and coaching staff did little to disguise the fact that the team just was not very good. Once the coaching staff was stabilized with Chucho Ramirez, the team started to turn things around. They trumpeted their comeback with a resonating 7-2 thumping of the most consistent team of the oughts, Toluca. America made the post season for the first time in since Temo had left, but were ousted by Monterrey. But for one day at least, Americanismo and all of its glorious arrogance was in prominent display.
Landin’s scorpion goal -- Luis Landin is a poster child for the unrealized potential of a talented striker. The Houston Dynamo striker, did, however, score this beauty. It was even nominated for FIFA’s goal of the year. Here’s hoping that Landin can regain his scoring touch in the oppressive heat and humidity.
[ame="ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3v_yPMVcoM&feature=player_embedded"]Landin's Scorpion Goal[/ame]
5-0 – The Gold Cup was a perfect tonic for what had ailed Mexico in the first half of the Hex: a cure for their inconsistency. Things had gotten so bad for the Tri, that so called experts were even predicting a Mexico loss to Guadeloupe in the group stage. They didn’t, and they advanced all the way to the final against the US. The game at Giants Stadium was tense affair, but once Mexico got the second goal, the floodgates opened. Mexico won the Gold Cup, but more importantly, they found a nucleus of players from which the team would build around. Giovani Dos Santos went from potential to playmaker. Mexico also exorcised some demons that had plagued the team for a decade.
Aldo de Nigris – Only a week after he had learned of his brother, Antonio’s, death, Aldo de Nigris scored a brace to advance past America. He added to his tally in the semi finals vs. Toluca, and finished off his post season with a goal and an assist as Monterrey won their third title. A bittersweet moment for Aldo, to be sure. If Aldo can maintain his scoring touch, he can continue to honor Tano’s memory during an African winter.
Giovani in Costa Rica - Dos Santos carried the momentum gathered in the Gold Cup all the way to the Saprissa, where he single-handedly lifted Mexico into the World Cup window and pushed Costa Rica further into also-ran oblivion. It was a virtuoso performance.
Blanco back with the Tri. He unretired when Javier Aguirre assumed the reins of the Tri for the second time. It was his goal versus El Salvador at the Azteca that assured Mexico’s place in the world cup and finished as Mexico’s top scorer in the hex. One has to wonder how much he has left in those magic 37 year old legs, but one thing I will cease doing is doubt his abilities.
Javier Aguirre – Mexico may have qualified to the World Cup without him, but no one is really sure. He is ten times the coach he was the first time he pulled Mexico out of the fire. If you don’t believe me, then I present Atletico Madrid’s current place in the standings as exhibit A. Their loss is Mexico’s gain. And if Mexico wins a knockout game or two in June, then el Vasco will have some offers to mull over. He has said he wants to go to the EPL. He’ll be there this fall.