The Best and Worst of Mexican Soccer 2013

It was a great year if you support Mexico's most popular club team. It was pretty terrible, otherwise. El Tri was an abomination. Club America were the most successful club team and then managed to parlay that into a national team coup d'état. It was ugly.

Yet, it's the time for reflection and glossing over the past twelve months in a holiday cookie-fueled haze. So without further ado, I give you the best and the worst of Mexican soccer 2013 ...

Best transfer acquisition: 

Mauro Boselli (Leon)

Leon captured the Liga MX title after just their third short season in the top division following a ten year absence. They could not have accomplished this without the summer signing of Mauro Boselli. Prior to his arrival, Leon was an offensive power, but one that lacked finishing. The emergence of Carlos Peña and Luis Montes ensured that the team was a force in the midfield and generated shots, but more often than not, wildly inaccurate attempts. The questionable shot selection of Matias Britos only amplified this.

Boselli showed what a true and accomplished striker could do with all the forward momentum of this team. The Argentine led the league in scoring and was vital through Leon's most important games of their winning campaign.

Honorable mention:

Angel Reyna (Veracruz)

The phenomenon was short-lived, as it always was going to be. It was over-hyped in the media and made to be more than it was in reality. However, there's no denying the impact Reyna had on the newly-promoted Veracruz. It was a disjointed and thrown together squad. Reyna brought experience and a knack for finding the tough goal. Did it fade? Sure. But this team probably should have been much closer to the bottom of the table.

Omar Bravo (Atlas)

His move from MLS to Cruz Azul raised a few eyebrows. His move from Cruz Azul to Atlas was met with no reaction. Bravo had all the signs of a washed-up former star. His play had slipped dramatically. A move to seemingly-relegation bound Atlas was more a move of desperation than any real answer.

Yet, Bravo led a resurgence that propelled Atlas to third in the table in the spring's Clausura tournament. More importantly, his goals helped ensure Atlas's place in Mexico's top division. It's hard to be more vital than that.

Rafa Marquez  (Leon)

It feels so very wrong including him in this list, but omission would be laughable. Marquez brought all the things you would expect a veteran to bring to a young, talented club. On top of the intangibles, Marquez seemed to rediscover a good part of the class that made him a Barcelona mainstay for years. Is he remotely that player now? Nope, but he sure turned around what was previously a shaky defense.

Best transfer departure:

Luis Tejada (Toluca)

Tejada amassed a collection of spectacular goals in his short stint with Toluca. However, the inconsistency he showed at the tail end of the season with Toluca became the entire season's reality with Veracruz. His misses and lack of pace were more of an albatros for Veracruz than anything else. It's safe to say that Veracruz would be happy to see him off. Toluca, by the way, led the league in goals after his departure. No tears shed on their end.

Honorable mention:

Edgar Lugo (Santos Laguna)

Edgar Gerardo Lugo came with a great deal of fanfare to Santos. He was coming off a tremendous year with Morelia and found his way to a call up with El Tri. Santos looked to bolster their already swelling group of offensive talent by bringing in the talented midfielder. Yet, despite his upswing he saw mostly bench time with Santos Laguna. He was then quickly sent to Tigres. His rare play with Tuca Ferretti's Tigres points to the idea that Santos had clear reasons for his lack of playing time and were wise to unload him fast before his stock dropped further.

Oscar Perez (Chiapas)

El Conejo has had a long and illustrious career for club and country. The emphasis in that last sentence is on the 'had'.  Perez, now 40, is long past his best days. He has experience and know-how; he just no longer possesses the ability. Conejo is a liability in goal for whatever team rolls him out. They just keep doing it, though. Chiapas (zombie San Luis) was smart to cut ties - Pachuca, not so much.

Worst transfer acquisition:

Ariel Nahuelpan (Pumas)

Pumas were an overachieving team in the spring. They found a way to scratch out draws and narrow victories with solid defense and controlled play. This carried them all the way to a seven seed in the Liguilla. In the summer, it was clear they needed to address their goal-scoring woes.

Their answer was Ariel Nahuelpan. The accomplished, Argentine striker was anything but the correct one. Two goals on the season didn't exactly solve any problems. If anything, his inclusion kept younger (and probably better) options from seeing the starting eleven. Pumas ended the Apertura season at the absolute bottom of the table. Nahuelpan is no longer with the club.

Honorable mention:

Mauro Formica (Cruz Azul)

In the short tournaments of Mexico, it's often a bad idea to judge too much of a player's performance in their first season with the team. They simply haven't had enough time to integrate themselves with the rest of the club.

I'm going to go ahead and ignore that wise approach and label the Mauro Formica acquisition a failure for Cruz Azul. The once rising star from Argentina has fallen pretty hard. Formica looks like a player on the wrong end of his career arc; He's 25 ... but could easily pass for 35 with his old man movement.

Aldo de Nigris (Chivas)

De Nigris is a good player. But this is more about the team than anything else. Monterrey was never going to part with Aldo de Nigris unless the money was right. Chivas jumped in and unloaded the cash on a big name signing. They got headlines, but didn't get an improved team.

Chivas spent their resources on another aging player in the one position they didn't need to reinforce. De Nigris doesn't help much when everything behind him is in shambles. Vamos Vergara! (I really need a sarcasm font.)

Worst transfer departure:

Dorlan Pabon (Monterrey)

The Pabon saga with Monterrey is simply puzzling. The sale of De Nigris was a hard one for Rayados supporters to swallow but was made all the easier with the addition of the impressive Dorlan Pabon. Linking Pabon up the with Humberto 'Chupete' Suazo seemingly created the most deadly attacking tandem in the league. Unfortunately, we only got to see it for six games. Pabon was quickly shipped back to Spain with Valencia. It was nice while it lasted. Monterrey would go on to fire respected manager, Victor Vucetich and finish out of the Liguilla. Not to mention the performance they just displayed at the Club World Cup. Nice job all around, Monterrey (where is that font?).

Honorable mention:

Teofilo Gutierrez (Cruz Azul)

The worst thing you could have on a club sometimes is a malcontent. That is unless you have a gaping hole in your roster. When Gutierrez forced his way back to Argentina, Cruz Azul was left without a scorer. They still had Mariano Pavone, so I repeat - they were left without a scorer. Perhaps, there was no real way of keeping him and keeping him happy, but his loss was more significant than his overall time with the club may reveal.

William Yarbrough (Pachuca)

Simmer down, everybody. I know that he had a great game in the Azteca in the Liga MX final. A few of his saves were vital to Leon capturing the trophy, but simmer down and grab some perspective. He's a good keeper and a young one, but judging on his entire body of work (not just one game), he's not a cyborg keeper ready to take the world by a rampaging storm.

Yet, even if you discard all the hype around Yarbrough, his departure is still a terrible move. Pachuca not seeing the rising potential is forgivable, keeping 'Conejo' Perez in his place is not.

** note: some of these transactions were completed in December 2012, but were included in this 2013 compilation because they were made for the 2013 season. Similarly, transactions completed this month were not considered. Also, loans and purchases were treated in a similar fashion.

Manager of the Year:

Miguel Herrera (Club America/El Tri)

While it sickens me, there is little doubt about who became the man of Mexico in 2013. Miguel 'Piojo' Herrera guided his club side to the title and assumed the role of national team manager. His tactical approach suited his players and propelled Club America to easily the best record over the calendar year. On top of that, no other manager did this.

Honorable mention:

Gustavo Matosas (Leon)

There are not many managers who can lay claim to both gaining promotion and winning the top flight title with the same club. Leon simply would not be the same team without Matosas. Whatever raise he will be getting after this most recent season will be well-deserved.

Manager of (some other) the Year:

'Chepo' de la Torre (El Tri)

You probably don't need a full recounting of the disaster that was the Chepo-led El Tri. His stubborn approach to player selection and tactics nearly proved disastrous to Mexico and ended his term with the team early. Looking back one year ago, Chepo was nearly perfect as the manager of El Tri. He cruised through the early rounds of qualifying with a perfect record. Not the best year for Chepo.

Honorable mention:

Benjamin Galindo (Chivas)

Still not far removed from his title run with Santos Laguna last year, Galindo was let go by Santos last winter. Days before the Clausura season began, Galindo was brought in for his second run with Chivas. It didn't last long. He was promptly let go in the summer before the Apertura campaign.

Victor Manuel Vucetich (Monterrey/El Tri)

There's nothing like getting quickly unceremoniously dumped midseason from your club team. Well, getting canned after just one month in charge of the national team is kind of like that. It wasn't the best year for Vucetich, who was seemingly the coach with the most stability in Mexico just 12 months prior.

Player of the Year:

Carlos Peña (Leon/El Tri)

Carlos "Gullit" Peña has had an absolute wonder year. His meteoric rise from relatively unknown second division player to champion and the focus of a big European transfer is storybook in nature. His nickname comes from his apparent resemblance to the great Dutch scorer. It's starting to get to the point where his play, rather than just his look, is worthy of lofty comparisons.  

Honorable mention:

Raul Jimenez (Club America/El Tri)

One of the most interesting aspects of the Mexican national team heading in to 2013 was how the accomplished youth would mesh with the senior team. The answer has been resoundingly poor. So few of the stars of the Olympic gold medal team and other youth tournaments have transitioned in to clear spots with El Tri. Jimenez is the one clear exception.

His play with both Club America and Mexico has made it clear that he needs to have a place on the national team. It is also readily apparent that his time playing club soccer in Mexico is undoubtedly on the clock.

Hector Moreno (El Tri)

It's not easy to pick out players for positive performances with El Tri. It was really just that bad this year. However, in Moreno's case, his stock continues to rise from the plummeting nature of those around him. In the recent past, the centerback position was stacked for Mexico. Today, Moreno stands as the one player who so clearly needs to be representing Mexico in Brazil.  Diego Reyes is stuck in the mire of Porto B. Hiram Mier played his way out of consideration. Maza Rodriguez is Maza Rodriguez, and Rafa Marquez should cause fear in opposition and home supporters alike. Moreno is a starting centerback without question.

Non-player of the Year:

Carlos Vela (not El Tri)

If there's one Mexican that had a better year than anyone, it would have to be Carlos Vela. His presence with Real Sociedad has been gargantuan. If only he had any interest in actually representing Mexico.

Team of the Year:

Club America

Club America is not Barcelona nor Real Madrid. They aren't Bayern Munich or Galatasaray. They should not be disproportionately represented in the national team. They are a team full of talent, but not one of overwhelming individual talent. They have played attractive and impactful soccer that has led them to have the best record in Mexico in 2013. The best ... not a steamrolling, dominant force, but the best.

Honorable mention:


This is so clearly just an honorable mention. Leon was a little shaky in the spring, but they rebounded pretty well. Taking the title this fall and preventing Club America from back-to-back titles in worthy of the most respectful of head bows.

Ugliest team of the year:

America-based El Tri

It would be easy to say that all aspects and every version of the Mexican national team was a disaster in 2013. It's also predictable that lazy evaluations will credit  Miguel Herrera's America-based El Tri as the only successful incarnation of the Mexican team. That would be overlooking the fact that New Zealand and some reserves from Finland are the two weakest opponents Mexico faced this year by a ridiculous margin. It would be overlooking the fact that the national team was represented by players who don't crack the starting eleven for their own club team. Nothing may be more critical for Mexico's World Cup prospects than for this incarnation to stay in 2013.

Honorable mention:


At what point did Chivas, under the misdirection of Jorge Vergara, become a parody of themselves? This once proud team is now more often the target of derision and ridicule than anything else. They comically swap out managers and front office staff at an alarming rate. The PR team seems to be run by sociopaths. The collection of talent on the field is disjointed, poorly organized, and lacking depth. They continue to spend in the wrong places at the wrong times. The only point of consistency is the utter lack of direction.

Most memorable game of the year:

Clausura 2013 Final (2nd leg) Club America v Cruz Azul

Being a Cruz Azul fan, I'm going to keep this section short so that I don't crumble into a ball of pitiful sobbing on the floor. I will just say that this match will live long in the memories of these two prominent fan bases. Also, it was nominated as the horror movie of the year at the teen choice awards. So, there's that.

Honorable mention:

Apertura 2013 Copa MX final: Morelia v Atlas

The Copa MX is not exactly the most illustrious of tournaments, but it did bring some serious drama in 2013. In the spring, Cruz Azul captured their first trophy in many a years after a dreadful match that went to penalties. This showdown between Morelia and Atlas also went to penalties, but it was after an enthralling game of momentum swings that ended drawn at 3-3. Atlas was looking to end its 60 year trophy drought, but instead was met with a crushing loss.

Least memorable game of the year:

Gold Cup Semifinals (El Tri loses to Panama)

In a year of national team disappointments, this one was just par for the course. When looking at the weakened roster that was assembled for this tournament, there is at least some built in excuse. Mexico played another dull and lifeless game and were handled by an opponent who actually showed a desire for victory. So, it was kind of like every other time El Tri took the field. If any disastrous result was easy to get past, it was this one.

Honorable mention:

Every match Atlante was involved in

Did you catch that Atlante match when ... No?  Yeah, neither did I.




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