Santos is a relative newcomer to Mexican Football, as the club was founded only 30 or so year ago. It is based in Torreon, Coahuila - in the heart of the Chihuahuan desert. Or as a snobby Chilango would say - in the provinces (as in anything outside of Mexico City). When most clubs outside of Mexico City and Guadalajara are thought of as modest, equipos chicos. Santos was anything but.
For most of its history it was owned by the same folks who brew Corona, Modelo, and Negra Modelo. They flourished with great crowds, great players, championships, and a shiny new stadium. But things changed when the Belgian giant, ImBev bought a controlling share in Modelo. The club was no longer going to be as big a priority as it was under Grupo Modelo. The club's GM (and Modelo employee at the time) Alejandro Irarragori did not want to see Santos become an afterthought, so he went about to secure funding and purchase the club outright.
After finalizing deals with the club's principal sponsors, he used them as leverage to secure the funds he needed to buy the club. He also unloaded some very popular players - Oribe Peralta and the Goal Scientist were shipped off to America. But the one move he didn't make, a coaching move, is a big reason why Santos won their 5th title last night 5-3 on aggregate over Queretaro.
Portuguese coach Pedro Caixinha was not your typical Liga MX coaching hire. Most Liga MX coaches have punch card that entitles them to a free sundae once they get all 18 punches. Some coaches are getting close. Caixinha, though, spent most of his career in the Liga Sagres. Normally, outsiders have a hard time adjusting to Liga MX's peccadilloes. Not a problem for Caixinha. He also made the refreshing decision to field his best players. And if that included fielding a bunch of youngsters, so be it.
It is not as if Santos didn't struggle, though. A poor run in the middle of the season had Caixinha's job on the line, but he survived. They belly flopped into the Liguilla as the 8 seed.
And that is when the fun began.
They knocked out top seed Tigres and did the same to Guadalajara in the semis where they chased Chivas fans out of the Omnilife before the game was even over. The goals made the scoreboard look better, but the real hero of the liguilla is Argentine import - goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin. His performance in the liguilla could very well earn him a spot in Argentina's starting XI in Chile.
The final was thought to be a foregone conclusion after Javier Orozco scored 4 goals in Santos' 5-0 rout of Queretaro in the first leg. But after 40 minutes last night, Santos was only up 5-3 on aggregate. Caixinha subbed out Orozco to settle down the midfield. Queretaro did not threaten much the rest of the way.
As the Santos players were in full celebration mode at the end of the match, something strange and wonderful happened in Queretaro. The sell-out crowd paid tribute to their side by chanting for a few minutes. A far cry from the idiot Atlas fans who could not handle losing to their cross-town rivals and took to the pitch. You would think that since Atlas has not won a trophy in 60+ years, losing would be very familiar to them.
It is rare to see a club in Liga MX whose owner does not have a huge business to fall back on. No surprise, then, that Irarragori has a very hands on approach to the club's management. It paid off with a trophy. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that Santos is the youngest team in Liga MX.
Not bad for a modest club from the province.