Over the past few days, I had been mulling over how to write up a customary preview of the upcoming season in the Wild and Wooly Liga Mexicana. I am sure I would have included a line about how unpredictable it is, and how only a sick and deranged person would be crazy enough to get some action on the league.
Then I would provide a few capsules about the usual suspects before making a few bold predictions myself (usually involving either a dart board, picking names out of a hat, or both).
But then one of our colleagues here at Big Soccer, Martin del Palacio, made some of his own predictions for the upcoming season himself. So I thought it might be fun to compare Martin's predictions with mine. I hope he doesn't mind.
Let's start with the big 4.
Lately, the dawn of a new season at Club America means it is time to pass out the name tags for the all the newbies. This time around it is no different: as there are new players, a new coach, and a new front office. There was a lot of dead wood in Coapa. Martin and I both agree that the defense has been upgraded with the addition of GK Moises Muñoz (formerly from Atlante) and the Venezuelan international with the million dollar name, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo. Where I differ with Martin, though, is that he doesn't think the other new additions, Hobbit Bermudez and Jose Maria Cardenas will be any better than the players they replaced: Angel Reyna & Vicente Sanchez. The latter did next to nothing for their squad last season, so any production from the new signees should be considered a win.
Cruz Azul seems to always be in the hunt, and this season will be no different. Their big off-season move was to bring Omar Bravo back to Mexico, a move that MDP seems to think will backfire in the long run. Bravo or no Bravo, Cruz Azul has the players and the coach to win it all. Saying it and doing it, though, has been their albatross. Until they prove otherwise, there is no reason to think this year will be no different.
MDP and I both agree that qualifying for the post-season would be more than enough to consider Pumas' season a success. The team is saddled with too much inexperience, even moreso now that Paco Palencia hung up his tacos, presumably with his black nail-polished fingers.
As for Chivas, I had them tabbed to win the whole thing last season, but then they had the ignominy of finishing atop the table, which, as those who follow Mexican Futbol know, guaranteed post-season failure. They lost in the first round. Martin and I are both big fans of Erick Torres and Marco Fabian. Chivas will be a force.
So who makes the drop? Xolos spent a lot of money only to see their squad struggle for most of the season. They have to better than the 18 points they collected in the first half of the year. Nevertheless, the total was enough to squeak by Estudiantes Tecos. The Guadalajara team curiously shipped off two of their best players, Jorge Zamogilny and Hercules Gomez to fund a new batch of players.
One thing I have learned about watching Mexican futbol is that it takes a team with a bunch of new players about half a season to gel, which is about a half season too long for a team fighting to stay aloft. I have to agree with Martin, then, that Tecos will be saying goodbye to the first division after a 40ish year stint. And then there is the rumor that they will be re-located and re-branded Soles de Acapulco. Sounds like a great 2nd division team to me!
Another team fighting in the relegation fight, Atlas, is Martin's surprise team of the tourney. He makes a good case, but I am inclined to disagree with him, only because anytime I put a modicum of faith or credence in the roji-negros, they inevitably disappoint. For no other reason other than I have to pick someone, I'll go with San Luis.
So who wins the whole thing? MDP went with the chalk, and with good reason. Over the past two seasons, Tigres have not been the most consistent, but also the stingiest. It was never more apparent in the last liguilla, where they only allowed 1 goal in 6 games. If Tigres repeat, they will become only the second team to do so since the inception of the short season seasons (Pumas, 2004).
Tigres is a safe choice. But safe is a dirty owrd when it comes to making predictions for the Liga Mexicana. I was thinking Chivas, but will their commitment to the Libertadores interfere with the league pursuit. What happens if they have a liguilla match the same day as a Libertadores tie? That rules them out.
That leaves me with Santos Laguna. What's not to like? A strong foundation, a roster littered with difference makers, and a good coach. Moreover, the "warriors" got absolutely jobbed by Chiquidracula in the last final vs. Tigres, which should serve as some motivation to fight their way back to the final.
One would hope.
Like Martin, I also wished for a Pumas win in the Concachampions. Why not?