It hasn’t even been a week since Atlas hoisted the Clausura 2022 trophy – the second Liga MX title in a row for “Los Rojinegros” – and the wheeling and dealing is keeping pace with the transfer rumors.
The main reason for the rapid turnaround is the shortened “summer” break forced upon Liga MX by the “winter” World Cup in Qatar. League officials adapted the Apertura 2022 season so as to crown a successor to the Zorros before El Tri must report to training camp ahead of the November-December World Cup.
In addition to a few coaching changes around the league (more about them in a future article), the Chivas and América have been making headlines while the Pumas have suffered a slew of departures.
Over in Toluca, coach Ignacio Ambriz is gathering together familiar faces in an effort to turn around a declining franchise, while Mazatlán began the offseason with a salary dump.
Liga MX Hot Stove League heats up
The Chivas didn’t waste much time addressing their shortcomings after another early exit in the Liga MX playoffs.
Guadalajara GM Ricardo Peláez did not get his wish to recruit a new coach (owner Amaury Vergara ordered him to retain interim manager Ricardo Cadena) but he and his staff released right back Jesús Sánchez who has spent his entire 12-year career with Guadalajara. Also leaving are goalie Raúl Gudiño (out of contract) and midfielder César Huerta (sold to the Pumas).
Coming on board are enigmatic right back Alan Mozo and holding midfielder Fernando González.
Mozo will be expected to supply the same offensive spark for the Chivas that he has provided for the Pumas. The 25-year-old Mexico City native is considered by some to be the best right back in Liga MX. Since turning his career around last season and enjoying a star turn in the Liga MX playoffs last December (he helped spark the 11th-seeded Pumas to a stunning upset over No. 1 seed América in the quarterfinals), he enjoyed a sparkling Clausura 2022 campaign. He led all Liga MX defenders with 4 assists.
González started his career with Guadalajara but has become a bit of a Liga MX journeyman, playing for Necaxa, América, León and Necaxa again since leaving the Chivas back in 2018.
América aims to shore up defense, front line
Liga MX giants América were ousted by Pachuca in the semifinals which was a disappointment, but only if you ignore the fact that the Aguilas were dead last after Matchday 9, storming down the home stretch to earn the No. 4 seed.
Still, anything but a championship is considered a lousy season for “Los AzulCremas” and the Mexico City club is in hot pursuit of Liga MX champ Julián Quiñones and young Puebla defender Israel Reyes.
América’s forwards failed to deliver this season (midfielder Diego Valdés was the club’s top scorer with just 5 goals) and Quiñones was a key part of Atlas’ front line in the Zorros’ back-to-back championships. It was the Colombian’s fantastic last-minute goal in the first leg of the Finals that was the difference in the club’s victory over Pachuca.
Reyes, just 22, came up through the Atlas academy system but began his climb to stardom while on loan to Puebla. The Camoteros purchased his contract last summer and he has been a defensive stalwart ever since.
The two deals appear to be linked as the acquisition of Reyes would allow América to release one of their foreign defenders, opening up a spot on the roster for Quiñones.
Pumas juggle their roster
UNAM is facing another Liga MX season with a limited budget and that certainly influenced its decision to sell Mozo to the Chivas.
Guadalajara initially sought to link the César Huerta deal in order to reduce the payout, but UNAM insisted on the full buyout for Mozo and kept the Huerta acquisition separate. That will help the Pumas’ bottom line somewhat, but the club still parted ways with four other key players.
Team MVP Alfredo Talavera will leave a huge hole in goal but he declined the team’s one-year extension offer, insisting on a two-year deal while refusing to lower his wage demands. The UNAM front office has replaced “Tala” with the much cheaper Gil Alcalá who was Tijuana’s back-up goalie.
Wingers Sebastián Saucedo and Washington Corozo were also let go as was forward Rogeiro, the team’s leading scorer with 6 goals.
Is Toluca becoming León South?
Ignacio Ambriz did not enjoy a pleasant debut season with “Los Choriceros” after returning to Liga MX following a short experience in Spain. Toluca was the worst defense in Liga MX by far, conceding 36 goals in 17 games, while falling out of playoff contention by going winless in its final six games.
So the Diablos front office went to work, acquiring five new players already, two of whom should help shore up the pitiful defense. Three of the new faces also played for Ambriz at León, winning the Guardianes 2020 title with the Esmeraldas.
Defender Andrés Mosquera, winger Jean Meneses and midfielder Fernando Navarro were former pupils of Ambriz and they should help their new teammates understand the complicated system “Nacho” prefers. Also joining Toluca are winger Sebastián Saucedo and goalie Tiago Volpi, a former star for Querétaro (he helped lead the Gallos Blancos to the Clausura 2015 Finals) before returning to his native Brazil to play for Sao Paulo.
Toluca is likely not done wheeling and dealing and other Liga MX front offices will be working overtime to finalize rosters before training camps begin opening across Mexico in just over a week.