Mexican league carrying new name, many contenders

Mexican league carrying new name, many contenders

Published Jul. 19, 2012 7:31 p.m. ET

Trying to predict a Mexican champion each year is a treacherous business, and it will be no different when the season opens on Friday with six clubs favored.

Pachuca, Cruz Azul, Pumas, Tigres, Monterrey and Santos Laguna are all considered contenders to win the first-division title in a league bearing a new name: Liga MX.

Santos Laguna won the Clausura last season - the second half of Mexico's split season - and Tigres won the Apertura, the first half.

Most of the attention will be on Hugo Sanchez taking over at Pachuca, his first job in his homeland since being fired in 2008 as Mexico coach.


Argentine Ricardo La Volpe, another former Mexico coach, steps in at Atlante. La Volpe coached Mexico at the 2006 World Cup before leading Mexican club Atlas, Costa Rica's national team and Argentine team Banfield.

Play opens on Friday with Jagaures vs. Tigres and Tijuana vs. Puebla.

On Saturday, it's: Cruz Azul vs. Morelia, Queretaro vs. Leon, Santo Laguna vs. San Luis, Monterrey vs. America and Atlas vs. Pumas. On Sunday: Toluca vs. Chivas Guadalajara and Atlante vs. Pachuca.

''I want Pachuca to be in a golden age,'' said Sanchez, who just completed an unsuccessful stint at Spanish club Almeria. ''I want victories and championships.''

Sanchez can't complain about not being supported. The club signed three key players for him - Paraguay defender Paulo Da Silva from Spain's Zaragoza, Raul Tamudo from Spain's Rayo Vallecano, and Nery Castillo from Greek club Aris Salonica.

Cruz Azul, which has not won a league title since 1997, has also beefed up. The club has added Mexican Pablo Barrera, Colombian defender Luis Amarano Perea and Argentine forward Mariano Pavone. Guillermo Vazquez takes over as coach from Enrique Meza.

''My experience will help turn around the situation here, going so long without a title,'' said Perea, who played last season for Spain's Atletico de Madrid, which won the Europa League.

Guadalajara Chivas is not expected to contend but has made big changes.

The club hired Dutch coach John Van't Ship, a move led by club adviser Johan Cruyff. Cruyff, the Dutch great and former Barcelona coach, was appointed by club owner Jorge Vergara to deflect criticism of his management of one of Mexico's most popular teams.

Van't Ship replaced Ignacio Ambriz, who left the club after failing to get a new contract.

''I see a talented team that could go far,'' Van't Ship said. ''I think we can finish up near the top, but right now we have to get ourselves equal with clubs that are more balanced and have more experience.''