Proud Liga MX franchises collapse
Toluca – the third-winningest team in Liga MX history with 10 titles to its credit – was a complete mess last season. The Diablos Rojos were the worst defense in the league by far (36 goals allowed) and faded down the stretch (0-3-3) to fall out of the playoff picture
During the season, new coach Ignacio Ambriz suspended at least three players for disciplinary reasons and the team seemed to quit on him when the going got tough.
Club owner Valentín Díez Morodo was furious as the team became a laughing stock and team president Francisco Suinaga offered his resignation midway through the season. Díez Morodo rejected the offer, but general manager Antonio Naelson “Sinha” took the fall and was fired after the dismal campaign, replaced by José Luis Real.
A little farther north, the team that Ambriz guided to prominence before a brief, failed coaching trial in Spain saw its playoff run come to an end. León’s stunning collapse came just one season after the Esmeraldas had lost in the Final and it resulted in the dismissal of Ambriz’s successor, Ariel Holan with two games remaining in the season.
Holan inherited a perennial title favorite from Ambriz but lost the locker room as his line-up juggling – including the benching of captain and team legend Luis Montes – failed to produce results.
Before Holan took over in summer 2021, “La Fiera” had reached the Liga MX playoffs four consecutive times, entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed twice, and won the Guardianes 2020 championship.
Although León navigated its way to the Apertura 2021 Final in Holan’s debut season, there were noticeable glitches, some of which can be attributed to injury. Beyond that, the team’s once flowing, attractive attacking style sputtered and the Esmeraldas scored a pedestrian 20 goals.
Advancing to the Final that season papered over the potential problems and as Holan tinkered with the team during the Clausura 2022, everything fell apart. On March 8, “La Fiera” was embarrassed by MLS club Seattle Sounders in the Concacaf Champions League and four days later was routed by Tigres, losing each by the same 3-0 score.
The Esmeraldas won just once more in league play as their offense stagnated. León produced just 17 goals on the season, finishing in 13th place, missing out on the last playoff spot on goal differential.
Esmeraldas fans were in disbelief and as the brief summer break began, they had to wonder how many of their heroes would remain on the roster under new coach Renato Paiva. For now, skipper Luis Montes is still with the team as is star winger Angel Mena.
Gone are elusive winger Jean Meneses and defender Andrés Mosquera, both major contributors to the recent run of success. Also sent packing was winger Omar Fernández who never quite fit in after joining from Puebla a year ago.