Pumas win their 7th League Title

Francisco Palencia had 2 of Pumas' 3 goals in the 2-legged final

Futbol finals are not for the faint of heart. Fans of the beautiful game are rarely treated to a beautiful final. They are usually terse, conservative affairs and are rarely the ideal representation of the sport.

I know if a team that I am following is in a final, I want them to score… by any means necessary because the chances come few and far between. I don’t care if it is a header, a tap-in a volley, a half volley, an own goal, an accident, a deflection of the post, a player, or the ref. Players can score with their feet, their head, their chest, their ass, or their face; I don’t care. Just get it in the net. Anything to avoid the spot kicks.

It was no different in the finals for the Mexican Clausura. Pumas and Morelia were more content playing not to lose in the first leg, hoping the other would make a mistake. They both did, and the opponent made them pay. It ended 1-1.

After two first half penalties were converted at either end, the second leg fell back into the predictable mire. No team was willing to risk much. Penalties loomed.

There is a saying that finals are played to be won, not to be pretty. But it doesn’t hurt if the play that ends up winning the final is a real beauty. And that is what happened today at Ciudad Universitaria.

Pumas midfielder, Javier Cortes, who just minutes earlier cleared a goal bound shot with a header, slithered his way through a handful of Morelia defenders and fired his final winning shot past Federico Vilar. It was a goal that was worthy of the final it won, but rarely are finals worthy of such goals.

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4mK6AyQ5LM"]Javier Cortes' Golazo[/ame]

The 21 year-old Cortes has made of habit of scoring spectacular goals this year, but none was bigger than the one that clinched Pumas’ 7th league championship. His year is not over. He will likely be called to the squad that will play in the Copa America.

In a league where stability is the exception rather than the rule, this trophy is a validation of Pumas’ philosophy to build from within. They haven’t ventured into the transfer market for a number of years. And while some teams use the notorious “draft” to renovate their squads, seemingly every year, Pumas rarely participates.

Even after Tuca Ferretti was tempted by the dump-truck of money that Tigres left on his driveway last year, Pumas chose to promote from within. They elevated Memo Vasquez, an assistant with no 1st division managing experience whatsoever, but a lifetime Puma.

And they prefer to elevate their kids. Kids like Cortes.

The kids blended seamlessly with veterans like Francisco Palencia, who has never looked better, even in the gloaming of his career. And Alejandro Palacios, the 30 year old keeper who waited patiently for his turn after his 20-year veteran predecessor finally hung up the gloves.

They were the most consistent team of the 2011 Clausura and the worthiest of champions. Cortes’ goal will be remembered not just for what it meant, but how he scored it.

When was the last time you could say that about a final?