Pumas top the standings, thanks to the play of their academy graduates like Javier Cortes
Cruz Azul and Monterrey have advanced in the Concachampions and will face each other in the semi final round. Both teams fielded a majority of starters for both legs, which is something I wish my Pumas would have done in the two previous editions of the CCL.
Then coach Tuca Ferretti did give a tinker’s cuss about the CCL and used the tournament (and an interliga) to give the Pumas youngsters some minutes outside of league games. As a fan, it was frustrating. It would have been nice to see Pumas playing in the Emirates, but short-term goals for Pumas aren’t the aspiration, but merely a consequence.
A few years ago, the front office announced that they would be moving toward fielding a team of 100% Mexican Nationals, just Chivas does. Instead of signing foreign players, they would prefer lean on their youth system, which has historically been Mexico’s best. The result has been that Pumas has left their roster intact over the past 2 years. Instead of signing high-priced reinforcements, they have buttressed their squad with those same kids that got all those minutes in the previous CCL incarnations.
Today, thanks in part to the youngsters, they are sitting atop the league and have yet to lose this season.
Tuca, you magnificent bastard!!
Tuca has since gone to Tigres, where they are enjoying their best season in years. To replace him, Pumas did what came naturally: elevate one of their own; Tuca’s former Assistant, Guillermo Vasquez. Vasquez came up through the same youth ranks that he is now happily using to his advantage. He has been around the kids since they were kids. Academy graduates Javier Cortes, David Cabrera, Emilio Orrantia and Oscar Rojas all got significant PT in those CCL games, and now are making key contributions. Cortes (who has been in the system since the age of 12), has been a real surprise, scoring spectacular goals like this one.
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CylsxiAeQ-c"]Cortes' Equalizer vs. Chivas[/ame]
As well as the kiddos have played, the veterans have stepped up as well. Martin Bravo has blossomed into one of the best foreign players in the league. He credits his coach for giving him the freedom to roam a little more than the predecessor, who favored a more rigid system. Tuca responded by saying that whoever signed Bravo must have been a genius. He turned out to be Pumas' last import.
In a league where patience and continuity are two of the deadly sins, Pumas has shown that long-term plans can and will work. Pumas has bet on the players they have now and that their youth academy will deliver polished products. And so far, it seems to be working.
So if they make it to the Concachampions again next year, and then trot out the teenagers in San Pedro Sula, I’ll understand.