Rayados hope Aguirre’s 2nd season includes hardware

Javier Aguirre's return to Liga MX did not get the results hoped for as the Rayados stumbled in the playoffs. (Photo by Angel Cervantes/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Javier Aguirre's return to Liga MX did not get the results hoped for as the Rayados stumbled in the playoffs. (Photo by Angel Cervantes/Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Javier Aguirre Monterrey Rayados
Javier Aguirre has more time to address roster concerns over the summer than he had when he took over back in December. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

Javier Aguirre surprised and delighted Mexican fútbol fans when he accepted the Monterrey Rayados job last season. “El Vasco” had not coached a Liga MX team since May 2001 when his Pachuca Tuzos came up short to Santos Laguna in the Verano 2001 Finals.

Since then, Aguirre has led a nomadic coaching existence. After guiding El Tri to the 2002 World Cup (where Mexico suffered shock elimination at the hands of the Americans in the Round of 16), “El Vasco” returned to his roots, taking charge at Osasuna for whom he had played 13 games in 1986.

Aguirre spent the next seven years in Spain (at Osasuna and Atlético de Madrid) before returning to Mexico to lead El Tri to another World Cup (South Africa 2010). He then went back to Spain (Real Zaragoza and Espanyol), before spending time in Japan (their national team), the UAE (Al-Wahda), Egypt (their national team), and Spain again (Leganés).

From champs to chumps

Monterrey won the Liga MX trophy in December 2019, but 2020 was a disaster, and not just because the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc here as elsewhere.

The Rayados established an ignominious record, becoming the first defending Liga MX champ to fail to win any of the first 10 games of its title defense. “The Striped Gang” went 0-5-5 before the Clausura 2020 was canceled due to Covid-19. As a result, only six months after leading Monterrey to the Liga MX title, Diego Alonso was sent packing.

The Guardianes 2020 was not much better under the direction of Antonio Mohamed as the big-budget Rayados finished in fifth place before getting booted out of the Liga MX playoffs in the Wildcard Round by 12th-seeded Puebla. That was enough for ownership, and Mohamed was pink-slipped.

Second act in Liga MX for Aguirre

With the no-nonsense “El Vasco” managing the team with the biggest payroll, expectations in Monterrey were high heading into the Guardianes 2021. Things started out quite well as the Rayados opened the new season with two shut-out wins, but then things went sideways.

More from Liga MX

A Covid outbreak in the team forced Liga MX to sideline the team for two weeks and Monterrey never seemd to regain its footing. The club finished with a mundane 8-4-5 record, good enough to claim the No. 4 seed and a quarterfinals date against No. 5 Santos Laguna. The Guerreros smothered the Rayados at home in the first leg and then nabbed a late winner in Monterrey to knock out the favorites.

The playoff elimination and the season-long inconsistencies forced Aguirre to carry out a hard evaluation of his veteran roster. His decision was made clear rather quickly as five players were put on the trade block early in June. Out went veteran defenders Nicolás Sánchez (35 years old) and Miguel Layún (33), goalie Hugo González (30) was sent to FC Juárez, and three under-achieving forwards (Avilés Hurtado, Aké Loba and Dorlan Pabón) were declared surplus to needs.

Last week, rumors started swirling that occasional starter Vincent Janssen had worn out his welcome. The final straw was a training camp injury suffered by the oft-injured Dutchman who simply has not provided enough bang for the bucks he’s getting paid. Reports suggest Janssen will be presented with offers from MLS teams.

The wholesale house-cleaning also featured loan deals away for two 22-year-old midfielders – Jonathan González (to Necaxa) and William Mejía (to Atlético de San Luis). It’s hoped the two can get some valuable seasoning and return as contributors, especially González.

On the incoming side of the ledger, 24-year-old Colombian winger Duván Vergara was added from América de Cali where he helped Los Diablos Rojos win back-to-back titles.

Earlier, stalwart Team Mexico defender Héctor Moreno accepted a transfer to Monterrey. Moreno, 33, played for Aguirre on Mexico’s 2010 World Cup team.

Two other targets are on the verge of finalizing deals to join the Rayados. Mexico’s Olympic team captain Erick Aguirre is being made available by Pachuca and Monterrey has the budget to acquire the versatile fullback/midfielder. There is a minor sticking point, however. Pachuca wants the transaction to be strictly cash while Monterrey is offering less cash and two players. It is believed Monterrey will finally bow to Pachuca’s wishes.

Joel Campbell is in the final stages of finishing his move to “The Striped Gang” from León. The two clubs have already agreed to terms and Monterrey is negotiating new contract terms with Campbell’s agent. The Costa Rica international would add speed and dribbling to the Rayados attack.

Next. Cruz Azul, Tigres in bidding war. dark

Monterrey might not be done wheeling-and-dealing, but the Apertura 2021 kicks off in less than four weeks. Still, the Rayados youth academy has produced some talent in recent years, so Aguirre might have to rely on youngsters to fill out his bench.