The Apertura Winter Tournament is in full swing. It’s down to just 4 teams. It’s based on a two match aggregate total for each semifinalist in order to advance. Here’s my analysis and some predictions:
Players to Watch: Dante Lopez (UNAM), Umberto Suarez (Monterrey), Vicente Vuoso (America), Cristian Benitez (Santos), Oswaldo Sanchez
Dante Lopez (UNAM)-The 27yr old Paraguayan striker played in the 2006 World Cup and has helped restore Paraguay’s reputation as a top country in world football. The Pumas forward has 7 goals in the first part of the Mexican season and has helped jumpstart the Pumas into the semis of the biannual Mexican tournament.
Umberto Suarez (Monterrey)-The Chilean striker is more commonly known as “chupete” and was loaned out to Real Zaragoza of the Spanish league last season after a decent showing for Chile in an almost all Spanish speaking group down in South Africa. His 11 goals have helped catapult Monterrey to 36 points and to a favorite position for this winter tournament as his team hosts Pumas.
Vicente Vuoso (America)-The Argentine striker has gone back and forth between Santos and America for the last 8 years since coming over from England (Manchester City) in 2003. Before that, he played alongside Diego Forlan (for Independiente) in Argentina. Sven Goren Eriksson guided him into the Mexican national team as a naturalized Mexican citizen in 2008 and he’s since made 9 appearances for “el tri”. This season, he’s hit the back of the ol’ onion bag nine times and the Mar de Plata man even looked good in a friendly back in August against Real Madrid.
Cristian Benitez (Santos)-“El chuco”, the Ecuadorian striker and national team player, who was on loan to Birmingham city last year, is by far the best player in the Mexican League this year. His 15 goals this season have been superb and his deft abilities in the air are equally impressive.
Coach to Click: Manuel Lapuente
This Mexican manager who runs the show for America has all the stars to accomplish what his supporters are hoping for. With Vuoso, Pardo, Ochoa and all the resources available, the Mexican league veteran (both as a player and manager) must do what he needs to do to lead his team to another championship. He’s a tough fighter and boosts the resume to win the tournament as well which includes time as the Mexican national team coach. Even though he was just brought in late last spring to work his magic, he’s brought a title to America before in the earlier part of the decade. America hasn’t won a league title since the Clausura in the 2005 season which is surprising but it’s still safe to say they’ve mostly dominated the Mexican league since its inception.
Predictions for the Conference Games and Final:
UNAM v. Monterrey
America v. Santos
**Note to Prediction: Santos Laguna wins first leg 2-0 against America. Benitez and Quintero lead Santos to impressive victory. UNAM and Monterrey match finished in a 0-0 draw.
Final: Monterrey v. America
Finals Winner: Monterrey
Biggest Surprise of the Tournament: Juan Pablo Rodriguez
The Jalisco native and Santos player who used to be in the Mexican national player pool is the mastermind in the middle. Rodriguez’ distribution role in which he tries to find Quintero and Benitez will be the deciding factor to determine if the upstart Santos can make its way back to the final. Look for Rodriguez to be heavily involved in the action around the goal as well.
Apertura MVP Prediction: Dario Veron
He’s rescued Pumas plenty this year already and will be looking to make an impact. The Paraguayan national teamer is the player who holds the starting centre back position and who is responsible for shutting down Suazo and others of Monterrey in order to reach the finals. El “Hechicero” (The Wizard), as he’s known, is an experienced defender and also has experience playing in Chile. He’s known as a coverback and did appear in 1 match in the 2010 world cup.
My Two Cents:
There are no favorites for this winter’s liguilla. Santos is said to be “on a mission” to get to the finals. They didn’t finish the season on a positive note, however, but with Cristian Benitez’s scoring prowess, this mission idea may come to fruition. America has the prestige and the street cred. Pumas started the season terribly but have begun to find their form and Monterrey has some quality talent and can score goals quickly. The passion and the dribbling skills are always present in this post season tournament as well as explosive goal hungry strikers. Who will take home winter’s crown?
About the Author
Written by Timothy Ashe Jr.
Tim was born and raised in Downers Grove, IL (a suburb of Chicago). He graduated with a degree in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign and also holds University English Language Excellence certificates. He's fluent in Spanish and teaches both English and Spanish in his spare time. He's a Real Madrid and Chicago Fire aficionado and is partial towards the EPL and LFP. His hope is that the game of soccer can continue to grow in the U.S.A. and for our men's national team to eventually win the World Cup.