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Tigres at the top of Liga MX

By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (May 29, 2019) US Soccer Players - The struggle for success in Mexico is a constant one. Liga MX is a pressure-cooker of a league with little room for failure. There's no tolerance for setbacks. Clubs continually tinker with the roster and coaching staff to try to find the right mix. What that usually translates to is a revolving door for coaches at most Liga MX clubs.

With the constant turnover amongst the coaches, what most teams are doing is trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Then there’s Tigres UANL.

Tigres beat Leon on Sunday to claim Liga MX’s Clausura 2019 championship. Tigres’ 1-0 aggregate-score triumph was the club’s fifth championship this decade and cemented its status as a Liga MX dynasty. The secret to the club’s success? It is the same thing that every other club has at its disposal but few if any chooses to follow.

Stability within the coaching ranks. Tigres has it, and that amplifies tenfold in Liga MX. All others are simply waiting for the right person to walk through that revolving door and deliver a championship instead of putting someone in place to build a team up and guide it to glory.

Tigres’ Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti is the best manager in Liga MX and could be the best manager in Mexican history. With his most recent triumph, Ferretti claimed his seventh Liga MX championship as a coach, which moves him into a tie for most all-time with Ignacio Trelles who won his first title in 1954 and last one in 1980. Ferretti, 65, is still going strong and could capture his eighth title before too long and set his own high-water mark.

Ferretti used to be part of that revolving door for Liga MX managers. He spent the 1990s with two clubs, his first coaching gig ever at Pumas and then with Chivas for the last part of that decade. Then he bounced around, first at Tigres, then at Toluca, then one year each at Morelia and Tigres (again), then with Pumas (again) before losing that job following the Bicentenario 2010 season. He joined Tigres for the third time following that ouster and has been with the club ever since.

The Brazilian-born Ferretti delivered his first trophy three seasons into his tenure, capturing the Apertura 2011 championship. Then he went through some lean years, finishing a streak of seven seasons with no trophies. Tigres management stuck with him even after finishing 12th overall in the Apertura 2012 and 14th overall in the Clausura 2014 seasons.

Since the Apertura 2015 season though Tigres has been the unquestioned ruler of Liga MX. They've won four of the eight championships up for grabs in that span.

Players have come and gone as the roster has changed over the years. Carlos Salcido and Damian Alvarez were key figures at the start of the run, in 2011, while Andre-Pierre Gignac and Nahuel Guzman helped steer Tigres to its most-recent title. Ferretti though has remained the constant presence within the club. The team has allowed him to see his vision through, to instill his philosophy beyond the current season, and that has made the difference.

Other teams do not operate that way. Club America has had 10 different managers this decade. One of them, Miguel Herrera, has been there on two different occasions. Chivas meanwhile has also had 10 managers since 2010. Santos Laguna has had 11 during that same span. Even Monterrey, who has seen success both in league and international tournaments, has had seven different managers this decade.

With essentially a new manager every year, it is difficult to build stability. The emphasis is on winning now and gaining results at any cost.

That is a byproduct of the two seasons a year format Liga MX has had since the mid-90s. A long season allows for peaks and valleys. Teams improve. Teams decline. Those natural ebbs and flows make for an important part of a long campaign. That does not exist south of the border. What does is a system that punishes teams for losing three consecutive games. Only one of the playoff teams from this past season, Necaxa, lost three in a row and still reached the postseason.

A three-game losing streak is usually when speculation begins about the manager’s role. A four-game losing streak and the manager is likely looking for work. Such a nearsighted vision is the norm in Liga MX.

With the emphasis solely on winning now, what teams miss out on is the ability to create something over the long haul. A loss or two or three does not necessarily mean that the team is flawed. All that could be needed is some minor adjustments, a change here or there, and the team could be headed in the right direction again.

It's the manager setting the philosophy, tactics, squad, and tone. Keep him in place, and that philosophy doesn't undergo drastic alterations. That continuity can help a club avoid a fresh set of problems. When the manager changes, everything changes.

Liga MX owners construct their clubs and expect success straight away. A manager is seen more like a racecar driver, someone who should be able to slide in behind the wheel, pop the clutch a couple of times, and get the race car careening toward the checkered flag. If that race car does not perform to the best of its abilities, it is clearly the driver’s fault.

That approach can work. America, despite its constant turnover, has won three titles in the last decade. So too has Santos Laguna. No other team aside from Tigres has won more than two championships this decade.

Still, Tigres’ approach is the correct one. Tigres found the right manager and let him create something grand. There were setbacks along the way but Tigres’ dynasty is its reward for persistence and the belief the club has shown for Ferretti. He's paid them back with title after title. Stability is a good thing.


Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.

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