Tigres, Santos Vie for the Prize

It’s been a long time comin’ for some of the most loyal and passionate fans in the world. They want to party like it’s 1982. Back then, Tigres were in position to match dynasties with the more accomplished teams in the league, winning two titles in 5 years.

They haven’t won since.

30 years is long time to wait for any fan base to see their team hoist a championship trophy, and that is exactly what Tigres fans are hoping will happen Sunday night at the Volcan.

I know what some of you are thinking – “30 years? Amateurs!” English fans have been waiting almost 50 for any kind of trophy. Around here, the Orangebloods went 35 years between mythical national championships. We won't bring up the Cubs, or the Lions, or....

Tigres fans have had to endure the ignominy of relegation, the euphoria of promotion, and the promise and expectation of a ridiculously high payroll for both players and staff. They can tell you first-hand that money does not a championship buy. In fact, the can probably give you a quality dissertation. They have seen high-priced players and coaches come and go, and none have delivered on the promise of that championship. Yet the fans still came out in droves.

No team has a bigger payroll than Tigres this season. They have talent to spare. Nevertheless, their coach, Tuca Ferretti, has been very reluctant to take any risks at all in the post-season. It’s not the most watchable footie, but it has proven effective. Tuca is a stern believer in the “you can’t lose of no one scores on you” philosophy. His teams are usually among the stingiest in the league, and this year in no exception. His Tigres have yet to see their nets breached in the liguilla. Their offensive output has been scarce, though. So scarce that they somehow convinced Queretaro to score for them in the semi-finals; the own goal was the only one of the tie. Complain about the ugly, but not the results.

Tigres’ final opponent, Santos, has no problem scoring goals. Preventing them is their bugaboo. They reached the finals by out-scoring their opponents. Santos was one of those teams that made a mid-season coaching change. The new guy, Benjamin Galindo, has gotten the most out of his squad, most notably Oribe Peralta. The Mexican striker has done so well in replacing Chucho Benitez, who had moved to America for a record transfer, that he has even earned call-ups for the national team.

Since their top-flight debut in the late 80’s Santos Laguna have done very well for themselves in Mexican futbol. Like Tigres, they also have a loyal fan base. Santos, though, has given their fans many reasons to cheer over the past 20 years. In a league where inconsistency rules, Santos Laguna has been the exception. They have been a post-season fixture since they made a run to the final in 1994 (a loss to Tecos, led by el Chicharo the elder), and won the whole thing in 1996 (with Benjamin Galindo was on the roster). They have collected two more titles since, and have also been runner-ups twice.

The big questions as we head into the Apertura 11 finals are will Tigres’ defense quell another strong attack? Can they muster enough offense to make the difference?

We’ll know the answer Sunday night, when Tigres get the razor out and shave off Tuca’s soup strainer.