Early Liga MX games to be diluted by key absences

Carlos Rodríguez (left) and César Montes (center) are key cogs in the Monterrey machine, but they'll miss the first month of the Liga MX season. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Carlos Rodríguez (left) and César Montes (center) are key cogs in the Monterrey machine, but they'll miss the first month of the Liga MX season. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /
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Liga MX early season
Erick Aguirre has yet to work out with his new team, the Rayados of Monterrey, as he is in Tokyo with the Mexican Olympic team. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Liga MX soccer fans won’t have to suffer a lengthy withdrawal after the excitement of the European Championships and the Copa América. Sure, the Gold Cup is in progress but that’s child’s play compared to what we saw in Europe and South America, and the Tokyo Games will feature soccer, but those games will be on in pre-dawn hours.

So when the Apertura 2021 kicks off with Querétaro hosting América at the Estadio Corregidora on Thursday, July 22, things will be great, right? Not so fast, sports fans!

Dozens of star players will be missing from Liga MX rosters the first few weeks of the season while on duty in Tokyo and at the Gold Cup, while a few others will be filtering back into camps following a brief vacation after participating in the Copa América.

Here’s a quick look at which teams will be hardest hit by these absences.

Early-season Liga MX match-ups devalued

The Concacaf Gold Cup Final is scheduled for Aug. 1 while the final of the Olympic Games is set for Aug. 7. A glance at the Liga MX schedule suggests that some players could be unavailable for up to four games, perhaps five … out of 17.

Unlike in seasons past when Liga MX officials would postpone matches if a team or teams had multiple players away on international duty, there will be no such permission granted this season.

Naturally, the better teams will be harder hit by this decision since they boast top-quality players that are summoned by national teams. This assumption is borne out by a quick examination of who will be absent.

Monterrey and their cross-town rivals Tigres seem to be the hardest hit by the untimely start to the Apertura 2021. Both teams are regularly at or near the top of Liga MX payroll rankings.

The Rayados have eight players out on international duty (fullback Erick Aguirre, midfielder Carlos Rodríguez and defender César Montes in Tokyo; and striker Rogelio Funes Mori, fullback Jesús Gallardo, defender Héctor Moreno, defender Adrián Mora and forward Joel Campbell in Gold Cup). Rodríguez, Montes, Gallardo and Funes Mori are fixtures in the Rayados’ starting line-up.

Further complicating the situation for Monterrey, Aguirre, Moreno and Campbell – a Costa Rica international – were just acquired over the summer and they will not have trained with their new mates. Moreno played for coach Javier Aguirre with El Tri, but the other two will have to learn the “El Vasco” playbook on the run.

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Additionally, defender Sebastián Vegas is likely to miss some time after participating in the Copa América for Chile.

The Tigres will be without four key players: striker André-Pierre Gignac and midfielder Florian Thauvin will be playing for France in the Olympics – and will square off with Mexico in the group stage opener. Starting defenders Carlos Salcedo and Luis “Chaka” Rodríguez are with El Tri at the Gold Cup.

This complicates matters for new coach Miguel Herrera who is installing a new scheme after taking over for Ricardo Ferretti who was in charge for over a decade. That suggests a significant adjustment for Gignac, Salcedo and “Chaka” who will have to erase Ferretti’s tactics from their muscle memory. And for Thauvin, he faces considerable adjustment as he is new to Liga MX after coming to Mexico from Marseille.