By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Jan 4, 2016) US Soccer Players - It seems like just yesterday Tigres beat Club America in the Clausura 2016 final. Tigres’ dramatic equalizer at the death. America’s hatchet job during the penalty-kick shootout. Tigres’ Nahuel Guzman’s not-so-subtle role with that.
It might not have been yesterday, but it was Christmas. That series was pushed back due to Club America playing in the FIFA Club World Cup. The result is less than two weeks between the end of the Apertura and the start of the Clausura.
The curtain raises on the Clausura 2017 season on Friday when Veracruz hosts Queretaro. Separated by less than two weeks, the Clausura seems more a continuation of the Apertura this time around than it usually does. Even with the short break, there are plenty of new storylines to follow.
WEREN’T WE JUST HERE?
Tigres walked away the winners of the Apertura season in dramatic fashion. Jesus Duenas buried a header in the 120th minute to send the final to penalty kicks, where Tigres dominated. The team is still very much celebrating the title. Now, the players must refocus their efforts quickly. Tigres will start the season off in Guadalajara against Atlas, playing their first match 13 days after leaving everything on the field against America.
How they can get past all that drama, intensity and euphoria is anyone’s guess. That's coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s task. If the team can somehow put all of that in the past and get on with the season, Tigres figure to be frontrunners in the table and favorites once the playoffs arrive. If Tigres players are human and the hangover is not dealt with properly, the season could slip away quickly.
Club Tijuana is once again the team to follow if you are looking for an American-heavy team. The hope for the team’s Americans though is that they get more playing time. Joe Corona returned to Tijuana after more than a year away, first with Veracruz, then with Dorados. Neither stop saw much playing time and his time with Dorados included relegation and a subsequent season in the second division.Corona joins Michael Orozco and Paul Arriola now on Tijuana and the trio will hope for more playing time.
Ventura Alvarado is another player with hopes of more time on the field. Alvarado left America and will now play with Santos Laguna, who also feature former Chivas USA and Portland Timbers man Jorge Villafana. Alvarado also hopes to establish himself more with Santos than he did with America. He had a bit of a revolving door between the starting lineup and the doghouse.
Omar Gonzalez figures to be one of the more influential Americans in Liga MX. Gonzalez helped lead Pachuca to the Clausura 2016 title and was a fixture in the lineup for their Apertura campaign. Gonzalez will hope to lead Pachuca back to league glory. He'll also help Pachuca’s CONCACAF Champions League cause. Pachuca will play Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa in a quarterfinal series in February.
Morelia have had a rough go of things and as a result the club sits at the bottom of the relegation table with one foot in the second division. They brought in Argentine manager Pablo Marini to guide the team after parting ways with veteran Mexican manager Enrique Meza during last campaign. Morelia have been in Mexico’s top flight since 1981 but the club face a real threat to that streak. Also in contention for the drop are Veracruz, Chiapas, and Puebla. Morelia’s home match against Veracruz on March 4 could be one of the most important of the season and could determine one team’s fate.
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
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