Burrito Wrap - 14th April

Copa Libertadores image
Two games left and the playoff race is as tight as ever while at the other end the relegation battle is concluded early. Welcome to the Burrito Wrap.
 
Plucky Atlante should fear for the future…
 
So, my prediction from a couple of weeks ago was wrong. Just as it seemed Atlante had hit an unlikely run of excellent form they suffered an end of season collapse and will now play in the Ascenso MX in the 2014-15 season.
 
It’s unfortunate for the club. A 4-2 win over Queretaro in Week 10 saw them move as high as sixth place, and for a few days it looked as though they might not only avoid the drop but also qualify for the post-season. Sadly, since then the team have lost four of their last five games, with the only points coming from an albeit impressive 2-1 win over high-flying Toluca.
 
Questions must now be asked about the future of the club. It’s looking increasingly like the 2007 decision to relocate to Cancun was a piece of poor judgement. They have no natural fanbase here and struggle to fill one end of the stadium. The soaring popularity of the Riviera Maya as a holiday and ‘second-home’ destination means the majority of football fans in the state are immigrants from other areas of Mexico states and thus already have allegiances to different teams.
 
The attendances are undoubtedly hindered by the fact that the native Quintanarroenses in the area are predominantly brought up on baseball. The local Tigres de Quintana Roo baseball side are the current reigning Mexican champions and regularly pull crowds in excess of 20,000. Atlante simply cannot compete.
 
Relegation means they are likely to lose their top stars, especially leading scorer Michael Arroyo who in being touted by some pundits to complete a big money move to America this summer. Their manager, Pablo Marini, deserves credit for the way he has motivated the side to almost secure an unlikely survival, but he too is likely to head back to South America at the season’s end.
 
Without the TV money of the Liga MX, without a solid fanbase, and without several of their best players, the future looks anything but rosy for the historic club.
 
‘El Sueño Libertador’ alive for Leon and Santos…
 
Mexican clubs have never quite known how to approach the Copa Libertadores and as a result we’ve seen widely different attitudes from various teams.
 
On one end of the scale we saw Tigres manager Tuca Ferretti use his reserves in a First Round 3-2 aggregate loss to Chilean side Union Espanola in 2012, whereas on the opposite side we saw Chivas get in an argument with the FMF when their players publicly expressed their desire to play in the Copa Libertadores final rather than in an international friendly against Spain in 2010.
 
Against this backdrop it was a delight to witness Leon rest their first XI in this weekend’s 2-1 loss to Toluca in anticipation of their last-16 Libertadores tie against Club Bolivar. Their manager, Gustavo Matosas, has publicly stated that his Argentinian heritage causes him to hold the trophy in very high regard, and he would love to go on and lift cup in August.
 
Santos, for their part, are also taking the trophy seriously. After qualifying from their group with the second best record in the tournament they now face Argentine club Lanus in the Round of 16. Both Santos and Leon will be confident of progressing, and should they both win they will face each other in the quarterfinal – meaning they would be a guaranteed Mexican club in the semis.
 
The cup is a great advert for Mexican soccer on the global stage – far more valuable than the CONCACAF Champions League will be anytime soon. Hopefully in 2014 one of the Mexican sides won’t awake from their Sueño Libertador and become the first Mexican team to win the title.
 
 
To continue the debate you can add a comment below, find me on Twitter by following @MexFooty or on Google Plus by adding+DanielPrice85

 
 
** photo is used under a Creative Commons license from Jimmy Baikovicius

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