Chivas Nation is so excited about The Sacred Flock’s preseason performance thus far that they are eagerly drawing comparisons to their most recent Glory Days under Matías Almeyda.
To be sure, the Chivas have adapted well to the teachings of new coach Zeljko Paunovic and benefited from a week-long training camp in Spain that included two games against LaLiga sides.
Now back home, “El Rebaño Sagrado” is the only perfect team in the Copa por México, sitting atop Group B with a 2-0-0 record. So while the excitement may well be merited, come Jan. 7, the Chivas will face one of the toughest road tests in Liga MX – at Monterrey. We’ll talk after that.
A plethora of strikers
The Chivas struggled to score last season, but financial woes were always going to inhibit the front office’s ability to restock the team’s front line ahead of the Clausura 2023.
To hear it told now, the “most popular club in Liga MX” appears to have too much artillery.
Santiago Ormeño and J.J. Macías are engaged in a battle for the lead striker role and both have the bona fides to make their claim.
Ormeño, 28, came over from Puebla two seasons ago with much fanfare but coach Ricardo Cadena was not a fan and he rarely got to play. Now Cadena is gone and Paunovic was no doubt impressed after the Peru international netted a hat trick against Santos Laguna.
Macías, 23, was brought home 11 months ago after going bust while on loan to LaLiga side Getafe. Once seen as the next great striker for El Tri, personality issues and injuries sidetracked Maciás on his path to stardom. The local boy is now healthy and eager to return to form.
With México wingers Alexis Vega and Roberto Alvarado (currently sidelined for a month after surgery) poised for a breakout season and 19-year-old Luis Puente chomping at the bit, last season’s starter Angel Zaldívar is suddenly on the trade block, with Atlético de San Luis the likely destination.
Climbing the Liga MX ladder
Luis Malagón’s path to El Tri just got a bit easier. The 25-year-old goalie has been traded to a stacked América club and is expected to sign a 3-year-deal.
Playing for a team always competing for Liga MX supremacy will heighten Malagón’s exposure and, with the backing of the powerful Televisa marketing team, the netminder can expect to receive plenty of support in his quest to step into Guillermo Ochoa’s shoes for both club and country.
With Ochoa leaving for Serie A side Salernitana, América moved quickly to acquire a new No. 1 keeper. The question now is, what will “Los AzulCremas” do with Oscar Jiménez. It certainly doesn’t pay to have a disgruntled goalie on the bench and, after years of solid back-up service, Jiménez deserves a chance to look for a starting job somewhere.
The sudden transaction leaves Necaxa in the lurch just two weeks ahead of Opening Night though the Rayos already have veteran Hugo González on the roster. However, the 32-year-old goalie did not play at all last season – sitting behind Malagón – and that comes after spending a year in purgatory playing for the lowly Bravos of FC Juárez.
Hugo was in action Tuesday night for Necaxa’s Copa por México clash against UNAM, a dull scoreless draw that virtually eliminated both teams from the competition with one game remaining in group play.
González has been a No. 1 before – and for genuine contenders (8 shutouts while leading Monterrey to the top of the Liga MX table and a Finals appearance during the Apertura 2017) – so the Necaxa brass might be content to approach the Clausura 2023 with González and a kid from the academy in between the pipes.
Those darned Liga MX regs
Back to América … as mentioned above, the Aguilas are very star-laden, so much so that they will have to jettison a big-name foreigner before the season.
Liga MX rules mandate that each club can only register 10 foreigners (with a maximum of 7 playing in a game at the same time). América’s locker room currently features 11 foreigners after loaned-out winger Leo Suárez was sent back from Santos Laguna.
The likely casualty is Paraguay international Bruno Valdez. The physical defender can be seen as surplus since América’s lone winter transaction brought in Israel Reyes from Puebla.
The 22-year-old Jalisco native is considered a real up-and-comer while the well-worn Valdez, 30, has battled injuries the past two years.
Whatever the decision, América fans will expect their heroes to be playing deep into the Liga MX playoffs.