IT'S BEEN A MONTH SINCE LIGA MX STARTED, and it has been a month since I have occupied this space. As is the norm, I had a serious case of World Cup withdrawal, and frankly, watching Liga MX or the World Series of Guinness or anything else was not going to be a methadone strong enough to get me out of the funk. Oh, I watched, but only through a glassy gaze. What was I supposed to do? Get back into baseball?
Despite the lack of interest in what I was seeing, it did not mean I was not paying attention to the bigger picture. Even through my stoic stare, it is hard to ignore the early season performance of a team like Club America. A team that finally, finally, has a front office that is worthy of leading a team. Ricardo Pelaez, a former player, former champion, former World Cup veteran, and member of the Necaxa dynasty of the mid '90's, has made the guy who chose him, Yon de Luisa, look great. Pelaez hired Miguel Herrera, the academy has generated enough top flight talent that two of their players were sold to European clubs, and have made shrews purchases themselves. The club has won 5 in row to start the season, and their current coach says the team is nowhere near mid-season form.
It wasn't long ago that Club America was run by a guy whose only tie to the sport was his certification from the Cruyff institute. De Luisa is a Televisa guy who has a proven track record, his current decision making has been stellar, and his future is even brighter. He headed the Organizing Committee for the U17 World Cup in 2011, and is a shoo-in for the FMF top job when it becomes available. Hopefully sooner than later. For now, the club has taken full advantage of the resources he has put in place. It does not happen often in Liga MX, but when capable people are put in positions of influence, the results speak for themselves.
And then there is Pumas and Chivas. Both are stuck in the mud, and both need only look in the mirror for the reasons why. Chivas has been a dumpster fire ever since Jorge Vergara sold off Chicharito to ManU. Coaches have come and gone, as well as players, player personnel execs, Cruyff, and La Volpe. Vergara often complains that he pays premium for talent because of their "nationals only" philosophy. He is right, so he ignored the market as mush as possible and relied on his youth system, which was a short-term fix. It was only a matter of time before a roster with little veteran experience would crack. And with no veteran leadership for the kids to lean on, not to mention a coaching carousel that spun out of control, solid prospects have been playing with little to no confidence. Chivas is running out of time before they burn the youngsters out.
They in real danger of dropping out of Liga MX entirely, but Vergara doesn't seem to think so. His belief is that Cruyff damaged Chivas more than anything or anybody, and is still cleaning up the mess. He expects to be at Americas level sooner or later. Good luck with that, but there is hope. He hired Albert Benaiges, the guy who ran La Masia, and the organization's best player just got called up to the national team.
Too bad for Guadalajara fans Cubo Torres plays in Carson, and not in the cavernous Omnilife.
Hands up those of you who had "Pumas" in the pool as the first team to show their coach the door. Pumas, a club that has long relied on nourishing their roster from within, appears to have a well that has run dry. Aside from that, their problems started in earnest when the front office refused to give coach Memo Vazquez some new faces for the roster. He walked, and the suits have tried a litany of front office and coaching combos, brought in veteran players (ironically, apparently), younger players... none of it has worked. The big, big, reason, though, is that the academy has not been producing the quality players to which we have grown accustomed. So things have come full circle. Memo Vazquez has been brought back -- the classic Liga MX short-term patch. However, Pumas is looking long term as well, bringing in former player, now executive, Antonio Sancho. Probably hoping to use the same blueprint that has brought America back among the Liga MX elite.
Why not? Everything else they have tried has been an unqualified disaster.