Liga MX also-rans staying busy during year-end holidays

Nicolás Benedetti (right) has left América to play with Mazatlán FC. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images)
Nicolás Benedetti (right) has left América to play with Mazatlán FC. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images) /
Liga MX also-rans transfer
Jorge Hernández (right) will take his ball-hawking skills from Pachuca to Querétaro when the new Liga MX season kicks off. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

Liga MX teams are still in the holiday spirit, and the “gift exchanging” is expected to continue throughout this week.

Cruz Azul sent winger Roberto Alvarado to Guadalajara for winger Uriel Antuna and left back Alejandro Mayorga.

América self-gifted, signing former LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos who was out of contract, while Toluca’s veteran midfielder Rubens Sambueza found a new home in San Luis Potosí.

Lowly Querétaro boasts the biggest haul so far, bringing in Chivas goalie “Toño” Rodríguez, former Pachuca captain Jorge “Burrito” Hernández, acquiring forward Fidel Martínez from Tijuana and collecting two presents from Necaxa forward Angel Sepúlveda and midfielder Jonathan González.

Aspiring to qualify for Liga MX playoffs

Teams that failed to reach the Liga MX playoffs last season have been shuffling their rosters, though only a few big names have arrived.

Mazatlán FC missed out on the postseason on goal differential (their 20 points and —6 differential just barely lost out to Atlético de San Luis (20 points and —4 differential) so the Cañoneros are not sitting still.

Playmaking midfielder Jefferson Intriago (from FC Juárez) is now on board as are forward Miguel Sansores (Tijuana), midfielder Nicolás Benedetti (on loan from América) and Chilean goleador Gonzalo Sosa (from Melipilla in Chile’s first division). Sosa was brought in because Mazatlán’s top scorer – Camilo Sanvezzo – appears headed to Toluca.

Necaxa was denied a playoff spot thanks to a 3-0 road loss to León in the season finale, prompting the Rayos’ front office to ratchet up the rebuild.

Now in Necaxa’s Aguascalientes training ground are former Chile international Jorge Valdivia (now 38) and Angelo Araos, a 24-year-old attacking midfielder from Brazil’s Corinthians. Joining these two South Americans are midfielders Ulises Cardona (from Mazatlán FC) and Dieter Villalpando (from Puebla). The latter is a controversial acquisition since Villalpando was accused of sexual assault in October 2020 and his case is still pending.

FC Juárez is giving coach “Tuca” Ferretti some new toys to play with after his disappointing 4-4-9 debut season with the Bravos. Young midfielder Fernando Arce (Necaxa), veteran defender Ventura Alvarado (from MLS club Inter Miami), 28-year-old Brazilian midfielder Anderson Leite (from Chapacoense) and free-agent winger Candido Ramírez. Also arriving to the border city is playmaking midfielder Gabriel Fernández, an Uruguayan who was playing in Zaragoza a year ago before coming to Mexico last season where he played for Liga MX Expansión side Celaya.

Farther west along Mexico’s northern border, last-place finisher Tijuana also tweaked its roster. New Xoloizcuintles include veteran midfielder José Juan “Gallito” Vázquez, 30-year-old Argentine forward Facundo Ferreyra (from La Liga’s Celta de Vigo) and shifty winger Renato Ibarra (from América).

The only other Liga MX club that failed to make the 12-team playoff field was Pachuca and the Tuzos cleaned house starting at the top. Out went coach Paulo Pezzolano and in comes former Santos Laguna boss Guillermo Almada. GM Marco Garcés was also dismissed and Uruguayan Iván Alonso takes over. Alonso knows the Liga MX after spending a season with Toluca in 2012.

Next. León reloading ahead of Clausura 2022. dark

Thus far, the only new player on the Pachuca roster is rugged Colombian defender Geisson Perea. Almada is likely to rely on the prolific Pachuca academy system this coming season, though the Tuzos have another five weeks to act since the Liga MX winter transfer window remains open until Feb. 1.