Tigres rules Liga MX roost but América, Pachuca dominate Balón de Oro awards

Tigres players pose with the Liga MX Champions Cup trophy after defeating Pachuca 2-1 on Sunday. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Tigres players pose with the Liga MX Champions Cup trophy after defeating Pachuca 2-1 on Sunday. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Balon Oro
Henry Martín’s productive year earned the America striker three Liga MX Balón de Oro trophies. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images) /

The Apertura 2023 season begins Friday but the Liga MX kicked off Opening Week festivities on Sunday … at The Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles.

Yes, that’s right. Deep-pocketed league officials and club owners honored star performers and celebrated the 2022-2023 season by once again holding their annual mega-event in another country.

The hoopla included the 2023 Liga MX Champions Cup pitting the Apertura 2022 winners (Pachuca) against the Clausura 2023 victors (Tigres), held at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

The ceremonies ended with a gala dinner and the Balón de Oro awards presentation honoring the players and coaches that made the past year so memorable for Liga MX fans.

Tigres rule Liga MX roost

A veteran-laden Tigres side held off a youthful Pachuca 11 to win the first trophy of the new season by a 2-1 scoreline.

Fernando Gorriarán knocked home a lovely cutback pass from Juan Pablo Vigón in minute 32. Former Tuzos star Nicolás Ibáñez put Tigres up 2-0 in minute 76, heading home a Luis Quiñones cross at the back post. The striker chose not to “celebrate” his goal out of respect for Pachuca who he helped lead to the Apertura 2022 title.

Youngster Israel Luna cut the lead in half in minute 79 with a header of his own, but the Tuzos were unable to find the equalizer.

Though Pachuca coach Guillermo Almada was not happy with the outcome, he had reason to be pleased by the performance of several of the kids he was forced to rely on. The youth movement in evidence for the Champions Cup was necessary as Pachuca’s star midfielders Erick Sánchez and Luis Chávez were on national team duty at the Gold Cup. In addition, the Tuzos’ star playmaker, Eduardo “Chofis” López” was unavailable due to injury.

As for the Tigres, the victory earns Robert Siboldi’s squad a spot in the Sept. 27 Campeones Cup where they will face MLS title-holders LAFC. In addition, Tigres – a favorite to repeat as league champions – will compete in the MLS-Liga MX Leagues Cup beginning in July so “los felinos” could add several pieces of silverware to their display case before the year is out.

América dominates Balón de Oro awards show

Aguilas captain Henry Martín heard his name called three times at The Orpheum Theater Sunday night. Or rather, his name was called but he didn’t hear it because he was in Houston helping El Tri rout Honduras 4-0 in the Gold Cup.

Martín was named Liga MX Player of the Year while also garnering the Best Striker Award and the Golden Boot (24 goals across the two seasons).

His Aguilas teammate Diego Valdés was honored with the Best Offensive Player Award (the Chilean playmaker had 13 goals and 12 assists in 40 games), while right back Emilio Lara, 21, was named Rookie of the Year.

Also getting a trophy was Kevin Álvarez, named Best Fullback of the Year for his performance with Pachuca, but the 24-year-old right back will be plying his trade with América this season.

Two Tigres players heard their names called as Nahuel Guzmán was named Goalie of the Year while André-Pierre Gignac earned Goal of the Year honors for his remarkable late-game volley against UNAM.

Pachuca’s Almada was named Coach of the Year, the aforementioned Chávez earned Best Midfielder honors for his star turn for Pachuca and Monterrey’s Víctor Guzmán was declared Defensive Player of the Year.

On the women’s side, Pachuca came out on top as Charlyn Corral took home the Golden Boot and was named Liga MX Femenil MVP. Meanwhile, Alice Soto was named Rookie of the Year. In early June, Soto, 17, helped El Tri Femenil win the Concacaf Under-20 Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament and two days later she started for Pachuca in the Liga MX Femenil final though the Tuzas would not have the same luck, losing to América.

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The remaining trophies – Best Coach in Liga MX Femenil and Liga de Expansión MX Player of the year – went to Milagros Martínez (FC Juárez) and Ricardo Marín (Celaya FC). Marín’s performance with the Toros earned him a promotion to Liga MX as Guadalajara acquired his services earlier this month.