As we wrap up 2012, let's take a look at who had the best year in the world of futbol Mexicano
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Oribe Peralta - Santos, Mexico
Loney oversaw a great discussion about who should be the CONCACAF player of the year. Over in this space, there is no doubt. "El Cepillo" wins, and it's unanimous. Great players rise to the occasion in the biggest games, and this year, no one came up bigger than the Santos and Olympic striker.
He got a late second half brace to propel Santos past Tigres in the C2012 semi-finals and again in both legs of the final vs. Monterrey, including the trophy winner. He also tallied goals in every stage of the knockouts of the CCL, but it was ultimately not enough, though, as Santos fell to Monterrey.
It was no surprise then, that he would be chosen as one of the three overage players for the Olympic Games. The payoff was late in arriving, but when it did.... Peralta did not get his name on the scoresheet until the third group game vs. Switzerland. But he added three more goals in the medal round, which included the game winner against the Japanese, and that memorable double in the Gold Medal Match vs Brazil.
When play in 2012 came to an end, Peralta had added 30 "dianas" to his personal account in all competitions, won the league title and was an Olympic Champion.
In short, no Mexican player had a better 2012 than Oribe Peralta.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Luis Fernando Tena, Olympic Team Coach
Imagine being a coach of a side who just had his team gutted a few days before the start of a major tournament. That is exactly what happened to "Flaco" Tena's U22 Copa America side, as more than a handful of players were kicked off the squad in response to a prostitution scandal. It was no surprise, then, that Mexico went 3 and out with 0 points. Flaco, of course, was not to blame for his players' indiscretions. Nevertheless, the bullseye had been painted. Was this the coach to take Mexico to the Olympics? The chants for his ouster grew louder after losing a friendly to the US in Frisco right before the qualifying tournament. The always pessimistic Mexican press were already penning Tena's eulogy. A lot of them seemed to be certain that Mexico would fail to qualify for the Games for the second straight time.
It turned out, however, to be the exact opposite. Mexico completely dominated the qualifying tournament, and then went on to win the Toulon tournament.
Maybe this Tena guy knew what he is doing after all. The expectations for a solid performance grew, especially considering who could join the team in London: the Dos Santos brothers, Carlos Vela, and the overage reinforcements. Jona and Vela said no, however, and SAF put the kibosh on Chicharito's Olympic experience. The expectations were tempered, but Tena didn't see why. "Those are great players, but we already have great players on the squad. In other words, no one is indispensable." Tena said. The Mexican press didn't seem to think so.
He was right.
Tena's boys started slowly, but ended up winning their group and, ultimately, the Gold Medal. Not only did Tena throw strikes with his tactics, his subs had tremendous impacts on the matches. We also cannot overlook the great camaraderie and chemistry that he and his staff helped forge on the team. The end result was Mexico's 1st ever Olympic medal in soccer, and the only Gold Medal the country won in the Games altogether.
TEAM OF THE YEAR
Club Tijuana Xoloscuintles de Caliente
Xolos' meteoric rise in Liga MX has been nothing short of remarkable. The club qualified for the Liguilla in only their second short season in the top flight, and by their third, they had won the league title, qualified for the Libertadores and the CCL. Their coach, Antonio "Turco" Mohamed has only lost a half a dozen times in 50 outings, and his team gives up goals so infrequently, they they rarely have to score more than once to to lock up a match.
Their closest rival is 1,200 miles away, yet they never complain about their travel schedule. And it did not take them long to make the Caliente one of the toughest places to play on the continent. One of the few settings in Mexico where home field advantage really means something.
As great a year as Xolos has celebrated, their toughest task awaits: maintaining that level of excellence. Liga MX is notorious for seeing one team crown themselves champion one season, only to see themselves slip into the doldrums of mediocrity the next. One only needs to see their closest neighbors, Santos, as an example of that.
As for 2013, futbol mexicano has an abundance of opportunities to make significant impacts.
Provided we all survive the weekend, of course.