As Liguilla Looms, Some Teams are Scrambling to Find Replacements

Monterrey is in great position to repeat as champs

As the Torneo Bicentario plunges into its last month, several of the league’s top teams will have to rely on depth to make a deep liguilla run. The 17 man call up for World Cup training has depleted Chivas of half of their starters. Pumas will have to make do without 3 key players. Other teams will also have to find able substitutes for their national team attrition. Some teams, though, did not lose any players and are great position to capture the league flag.

If the tourney ended today, the following 8 teams would advance to post season play: Chivas (already qualified), Toluca, Monterrey, Morelia, Santos, Cruz Azul, Pachuca and Pumas.

Chivas – 1st , Group 1. 31 pts. Qualified. Games remaining: Morelia (H), Indios (A), Atlas (H), Cruz Azul (A)

Guadalajara will have to replace 5 players for the rest of the season and post season. The biggest losses on paper appear to be Luis Michel and Javier Hernandez. Also tagged for Tri duty are Jonny Magallon, Alberto Medina, and Adolfo Bautista. Usually a personnel loss like this would be devastating, but Chivas look to be surprisingly prepared to fill the voids. Victor Hugo Hernandez has not minded the net for nearly 2 years, but when he did, he did OK. In 8 games he only allowed 6 goals and had 3 clean sheets. He can ably fill in for Michel, who will be making a push to be the Tri’s starting keeper on June 11.

Omar Bravo may have seen his best days, but he can move into a more comfortable, complementary role to Omar Arellano, who looks to have finally put a rash of unfortunate injuries behind him. The two do have a very tough task in replacing players who were responsible for more than half of Chivas’ goals so far.

With Chivas qualified, they can afford a few losses and still maintain the top seed advantage.

Monterrey – 1st, Group 2 (30 points). Games remaining: San Luis (H), Santos (A), America (H), Morelia (A)

Monterrey are the defending champs, are playing as well as Chivas in the local league, but they did not lose anyone to national team duty. And it is very likely that will not lose any of their foreigners either. This makes them one of the favorites to take the title and repeat as champs for the first time since Hugo Sanchez’ Pumas did back in 2004. What is the Pandilla’s secret to their success? They have a terrific head man in Victor Manuel Vucetich for one, and they have opted to rely on their home-grown talent instead of bringing in pricey names.

I was very surprised when Monterrey sold off Humberto Suazo even with the Libertadores looming on their schedule. Instead of finding another foreign goal scorer, Vucetich stayed in house. Local product, Abraham Carreño leads the team in goals scored. William Paredes, Severo Meza, Hector Morales, and Jonathan Orozco are all graduates as well. Orozco, in particular, has been outstanding. He deserved a call-up to the national team.
The foreign investments they have made had paid big dividends. Oswaldo Martinez (PAR) is as good as any foreigner in the league and may get to go to South Africa.

Their schedule is not easy, but they have their full complement of players. Barring a complete collapse, there is no reason to think they don’t have the other top seed wrapped up with games to spare. It is a shame they did not perform well in the Libertadores. A team this good should have excelled. Their fans deserved better.

Santos – 1st, Group 3, (24 points) Games remaining: Pumas (A), Monterrey (H), San Luis (H), America (A).

Santos coach, No long ago, Ruben Omar Romano was best known for a 10 game+ losing streak. His hiring at Santos was a surprise to say the least. But his talented team has responded to him, and they have no Tri losses. Add that to their tough home field edge (a great crowd and stifling heat), and that makes Santos another favorite to win the crown. Daniel Ludueña has recovered from his slow start, and his partnership with Carlos Darwin Quintero (el cient