Apertura 2024: Monterrey hoping to avoid another late-season fade

After injury-filled Clausura 2023, deep-pocketed Rayados look to bounce back

Monterrey hopes to remain healthy as it sets its sights on a sixth Liga MX title.
Monterrey hopes to remain healthy as it sets its sights on a sixth Liga MX title. / Jam Media/GettyImages
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After a second straight playoff collapse, Monterrey figured to make some changes heading into the Clausura 2024. 

The deep-pocketed Rayados appeared to have made a pair of splashy acquisitions but instead it seems that the club might have to take an addition-by-subtraction approach.

A season after crashing out of the semifinals as the top seed, “La Pandilla” entered the Apertura 2023 playoffs as the No. 2 seed only to face-plant in the quarterfinals.

The disastrous showing nearly cost first-year coach Fernando Ortiz his job, but the Argentine manager was retained though he might find a hot seat waiting for him.

Welcome to Monterrey, Brandon Vázquez

Last month, Rayados fans were thrilled by the news that Harold Preciado was on his way to Monterrey, but before they could go out and buy his jersey, the deal fell apart. 

This past week, coach Ortiz confirmed that the reigning Liga MX scoring champ would not be donning the black-and-white striped uniform.

At the same time, it became apparent that all-time franchise leading scorer Rogelio Funes Mori was on his way out. Since joining Monterrey in July 2015, the prolific striker scored 160 goals.

Now 32, Funes Mori was deemed excess to needs and he was being wooed by Gremio (to replace Luis Suárez) before UNAM came a-calling. “El Mellizo” will now be plying his trade with the Pumas.

So Monterrey turned to the MLS for help and here comes Brandon Vázquez, a 25-year-old late bloomer who debuted for Team USA just last year after a breakout season with FC Cincinnati in 2022.

Vázquez will likely team up with Germán Berterame up front, but the other members of Monterrey’s strike force remain unknown.

Health considerations a concern

In the summer of 2022, the Rayados brought in Rodrigo Aguirre and Joao Rojas but both players have struggled to stay on the field. Aguirre was only healthy for five games last season while Rojas battled to regain fitness after tearing up his knee just weeks after joining the team.

Reports from Nuevo León suggest Aguirre and Rojas will be loaned out although the hefty wage packets attached to these two might require Monterrey to pick up a portion of their salaries.

Another issue will be how long it takes Jesús Corona to recover from knee surgery. “Tecatito” returned to Liga MX after a decade in Europe only to get wiped out by a nasty tackle that didn’t even earn a whistle.

Monterrey’s late-season self-immolation could be traced back to the October injury suffered by midfield playmaker Sergio Canales. The Spain international was enjoying a productive debut season with the Rayados when he suffered a tear in his right thigh. 

The initial diagnosis was not devastating, but a second opinion revealed surgery was necessary and Canales’ season ended prematurely. The Rayados never recovered.

The former Real Betis star’s rehab went well and he seemed on pace to return to the starting line-up … until Saturday’s preseason match against Mazatlán FC. Canales went down after a tackle in minute 30 and soon thereafter asked out of the game.

Scare headlines appeared in sports pages across Mexico but on Sunday Canales insisted he would not miss any time. With the Apertura 2024 kick-off just a week away, coach Ortiz might treat Canales with kid gloves.

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The Liga MX transfer window does not slam shut until Feb. 1, so look for Monterrey to remain active, although management might have to figure out how to part with Aguirre and Rojas (headed to Atlas?) before they can bring new bodies into the locker room.