As wild and wooly as Mexican futbol has been over the years, there were still a few maxims that were steadfast. One of those was that despite the budget, the fans, and the stars, Monterrey will always be an underachiever.
Monterrey hadn’t done much in its history. It did win one title, but that was right before Mexico 86 when the national team trained for a full year before the tournament, thus watering down the best teams.
They did manage to eek out another title in 2003, but despite those, Monterrey, la Pandilla, was labeled as an over-priced, paper tiger. The only certainty was that their vast legion of fans would always end a season disappointed.
The front office always made big signings, but something would happen to those players once they made it up to la Sultana del Norte. Was it the tacos estilo pirata? The pretty Regias? The crazy night life? Fat cats came and fat cats left with a dump truck full of money, but no trophies.
Two people have effectively put an end to that particular universal truth.
A few years ago, a Chilean friend of mine here in Austin got word that Monterrey was going to sign Humberto “Chupete” Suazo. He was stoked because it would be an easy trip from Austin to go see him play. I warned him of the Rayados curse; the one that converts super stars into punchless check cashers.
I was very wrong. Suazo did what he was hired to do. Score goals. And he has scored more than anyone else in the MFL since he has been at Rayados. And that’s even with missing the Bicentenario on loan to Zaragoza.
The other guy, of course, is the coach, Victor Manuel Vucetich. Instead building a team through frivolous signings, Vucetich opted to build from within. The combination of the youngsters and solid base of veterans has rewarded Vucetich, the club, and the fans with two trophies in consecutive years. Exactly the same amount the club had won in the previous 50.
After a slow start in the league, Rayados have tacked to find some fresh wind. And they got a huge road win in the first leg of their Concachampions quarter-finals last night vs. Toluca, 1-0.
But now Vucetich has his toughest challenge ahead of him. His superstar goal machine is out for a month with an injured shoulder. Suazo will miss the second leg vs. Toluca and a possible 1st semi-final leg in the CCL. The local league sets up a little more favorably with games against Atlas, Necaxa, the White Roosters, and America.
Who will pick up the scoring slack? Aldo de Nigris is more than capable. He posts up well, is sneaky creative, but doesn’t have the individual flare that Suazo does. The opportunity belongs to Abraham Carreño, one of the youngsters Vucetich has brought into the fold. If the strikers falter, Vucetich can lean on the best midfield in the MFL.
Losing Suazo hurts, but Rayados have enough warm bodies to get through the next month relatively unscathed. The liguilla will be well within reach, and in the CCL, Monterrey should be considered a strong favorite to win the tournament.
And they’ll have their super star back in the fold. Just lay off those tacos estilo pirata.