As the Bicentenario 2010 season reaches its midway point, it’s hard not to focus on anything but how Chivas has started out the season. Their 8 game winning streak out of the gate broke an 80+ year old record in the MFL. Impressive? Oh, yeah. Contrary to my previous posts, this isn’t all Chivas (or Chicharito) all the time, so I have chosen to exclude Chivas (at least until the end) and discuss some other equally compelling (almost) storylines that have shaped the season so far.
Salvador Cabañas’ absence from Club America’s has been devastating to say the least. But the team has not completely fallen apart, which is a testament to the work of their coach, Jesus Ramirez. Of course, why let such an insignificant little incident like losing the heart and soul of your team to a gunshot to the head get in the way of the criticism. “He’s not an americanista.” “they won, but not how America teams are supposed to.” “The team is too big for him to handle.” Of course, chatter like that is comical to civilians, especially when the team in question has won an intimidating 2 titles in the last 30 tournaments.
Someone who is well versed in the Americanismo is having a terrific, relegation saving start. America legend, Carlos Reinoso, has his Queretaro team near the top of the table, but more importantly, farther away from the relegation zone. It is not unusual for recently promoted teams to have a roster full of untested nobodies with a few veterans sprinkled in. But Gallos Blancos are the opposite; they have a roster that qualifies for early bird specials and movie discounts. So far, the strategy has worked. Queretaro has to keep it up, though, because if losses start to mount up, then they will be right back in the drop zone thanks to the weighted percentage system used to calculate relegation.
One team that continues to confound their fans with their high level of ineptness are Tigres. The team from Monterrey has a star studded, expensive roster. Their coach, Daniel Guzman, is an expert at saving teams from relegation. But they have yet to win at home. If it wasn’t for Indios’ goose egg in the win column so far in 2009-10, Tigres would be in serious, serious trouble. Much to the delight of their cross-town rivals.
Last years champions, Monterrey, have not allowed the loss of their terrific strker, Humberto Suazo, cast a shadow on the defense of their title. Rayados trail only Chivas in the table as a group of players, led by Aldo de Nigris and Abraham Carreño, have picked up the scoring slack. Monterrey are also in the Libertadores, one the few times the defending champs are playing in the South American showcase.
Chicharito Hernandez has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention for his hot start, but he is not the only local boy having a good season. 5 of the top 6 leading goal scorers are locals. One of those players is Pablo Barrera, who has almost single-handedly carried Pumas so far this season. The midfielder leads the team with 5 goals, which is very fortunate as the front line has taken their sweet time in thawing out. Pablo Dinamita will not be at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, but summer (winter) duty in South Africa will be in order as long as he continues to carry the load for Pumas.
And then there is Chivas. It is no wonder they are in the midst of a historic run. No one has scored more goals, and only one team has allowed less. What can we attribute their success? Stability, for one. Chivas’ current coach, Jose Luis Real, has been with the institution as the youth team coach. Real was the last one in line of a ridiculous coaching carousel which had left Chivas in a hot mess.
Real plugged all the holes by relying on players he had coached from the lower levels and installing the system in which they had played. The chemistry these players had developed was evident, and it didn’t take long to adapt. Combine that with veterans that have thrived in the Chivas system, and you get a team that is playing as well as any MFL team in recent memory. Perhaps a lesson to the other teams in the league to be a little more patient with their farm system and coaching.
Chivas can qualify for the post season with a few more wins and can have a spot locked up by the time they lose their national team players after matchday 13. They stand to lose 3 for sure: Luis Michel, Jonny Magallon, and Javier Hernandez. Pumas will also likely three cogs in Efrain Juarez, Israel Castro, and Pablo Barrera. It is very unlikely that any other team will lose more than two players to national team duty.
But regular season success doesn't necessarily translate into the liguilla. And that means that the liguilla, as always, will be its wild and unpredictable self, only more so.