Active Toluca evolving from pretender to contender

Toluca coach Ignacio Ambriz expects to return the Diablos Rojos to the Liga MX playoffs this season. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Toluca coach Ignacio Ambriz expects to return the Diablos Rojos to the Liga MX playoffs this season. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Toluca, Puebla, Necaxa
Omar Fernández will be wearing the blue-striped jersey again as he’s moved from León back to Puebla during the Liga MX transfer window. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

Liga MX GMs have until Sept. 5 to finalize their rosters, but coaches prefer having their locker room organized as early as possible.

So although the extended deadline allows for adjustments to fuel stretch runs or forestall late-season fades, managers want to have line-ups/rotations well-established. The task of imprinting tactics and game plans deep into the playoff race (the transfer window slams shut after Matchday 12 of a 17-game season) can occasionally disrupt a team’s rhythm.

So clubs that have already crossed players off their wish-list and have jettisoned excess baggage, can expect to have a settled locker room during the early stages of the Apertura 2022.

Here’s a quick look at a few teams that are well on their way to hitting their stride before the Dog Days of Summer.

Toluca undergoes transformation

The Diablos Rojos are in the midst of a wholesale makeover, after missing out on the Liga MX playoffs in coach Ignacio Ambriz’s debut season.

This week, Toluca added Mexican youngster Marcel Ruiz (a midfielder) and Colombian left back Brayan Angulo from Tijuana to bring their total of new faces to seven. And most of the seven (specifically defender Andrés Mosquera, playmakers Jean Meneses and Fernando Navarro, and goalie Tiago Volpi, as well as Ruiz and Angulo) could certainly stake a claim to a starting spot. It will be up to coach Ambriz to transform the Diablos into a title contender as the roster overhaul has already transformed “Los Choriceros” into a legitimate playoff team.

“Nacho” now has oodles of skilled players with which to mold a slick-passing team in the mold of his great León squads. And former Esmeraldas pupils Meneses and Navarro can share the secrets of the spacing and ball movement necessary to optimize the flowing attack favored by Ambriz. Holdover Leo Fernández should thrive in this attack.

And there could be more. Toluca was an early participant in the Orbelín Pineda sweepstakes, vying with the Chivas to bring the El Tri playmaker back from Spain. Even though Pineda announced his intention to remain with Celta de Vigo, Record sports daily reported that Ambriz this week reached out to “The Little Magician” in hopes of coaxing him into chasing another Liga MX title at Toluca.

Other Liga MX teams making noise

Puebla surprised pundits with a solid season and the overachieving Camoteros entered the playoffs as a No. 5 seed before running into a red-hot América side in the quarterfinals.

Once ownership convinced in-demand manager Nicolás Larcamón to sign a contract extension, “La Franja” quickly went about strengthening the roster.

They first acquired bench depth (Necaxa winger Luis García and Mazatlán FC midfielder Iván Moreno) then swapped out defenders, bringing in veteran Argentine Gastín Silva and allowed Juan Pablo Segovia to leave. Silva is 5 years younger than Segovia and has experience in Serie A (two years with Torino) and LaLiga (Grenada).

In a surprising move, Puebla sold skipper Javier Salas to FC Juárez, creating a hole in front of the back line that will be difficult to fill. Days later, the club announced that winger Omar Fernández was returning to the team on a one-year loan deal. The Colombian playmaker did not have much success at León but hopes to replicate the production he demonstrated during his four-year run with Puebla (2017-2021).

With Segovia’s move from Puebla making five newcomers already, Necaxa is still not done wheeling-and-dealing.

“Los Electricistas” cleared out space in their locker room by cycling out seven players, including last season’s top scorer, Rodrigo Aguirre (9 goals). Spaniard Edgar Méndez and journeyman Jesús Godínez will get a chance to lead the Necaxa attack after joining from Spain’s Alavés and Querétaro, respectively.

Young Monterrey product Daniel Parra, 22, joins Segovia as a new Rayos defender and defensive midfielder J.J. Esquivel – a Tokyo bronze medalist – will work to sweep trouble away from his back line just as he did at FC Juárez.

Reports suggest América winger Juan Otero is finalizing a loan deal with Necaxa. The speedy Colombian will hope to revive his career after an injury-riddled Clausura 2022 season.

Next. Tigres sit still; Liga MX organization nears LaLiga. dark

A month ago, there were whispers that out-of-favor midfielder Sebastián Córdova was on his way over from the Tigres. Córdova has struggled since starring for El Tri in Tokyo, but the prospect of seeing him reunited with his Olympics coach, Jaime Lozano, caused some anticipation among the Rayos fan base. Unfortunately, that story no longer features in the Hot Stove League.