As the national team plays on and the European transfer market heats up, Liga MX returns Friday for the Apertura campaign.
Some teams are still getting their rosters finalized, and many still haven't fully integrated their new signings or figured out what to do without some of their international stars' absences. Nevertheless, time waits for no man and neither does the start of the domestic season.
At Goal, we'll give you the talking points — our top things to look out for — prior to each weekend of the season. Let's take a look at what the opening round will bring:
It's a big weekend for ... Miguel Herrera
It always seemed like destiny for the former Club America coach to return and this weekend Miguel Herrera will once again be in the home locker room at the Estadio Azteca. After two successful regular seasons with Tijuana (and two disappointing playoff exits), Herrera is back at the club where he won the 2013 Clausura and launched himself into the role of Mexico national team coach when Chepo de la Torre faltered during qualification for the 2014 tournament.
Herrera is a fan favorite both for his off-field swagger (that sometimes materializes on-field when celebrating a goal) but also his on-field ability to put together a cohesive group. Herrera showed progress as a manager at TIjuana, being willing to get away from the 5-3-2 formation that had become something of a crutch for him in his early days as a coach.
But Saturday's opponent might not be the easiest. Queretaro just beat America in an preseason Supercopa match 2-0, shutting down Oribe Peralta and Silvio Romero and testing an America defense that lacks experience. Pablo Aguilar and Guido Pizarro will miss the opener for America because of suspensions, as will Edson Alvarez, who is on Gold Cup duty.
The Gallos Blancos had a full preseason under coach Jaime "Jimmy" Lozano and, though relatively unchanged from last tournament, brought in Brazilian forward Everaldo and central midfeidler Javier Guemez from America.
To keep the fans, and the club directors, happy at Estadio Azteca, Herrera will have to bring more than just his jovial personality to the team. He'll have to get results. It hasn't been a problem for him in the past, but he won't be able to point to those results if America struggles out of the gates.
Game of the Week ... Pumas vs. Pachuca
Pumas and Pachuca make up the tastiest opening-weekend matchup for a couple of reasons. For one, both of these teams have been committed to playing a style of soccer that is enjoyable to watch in a region where that's not always the case. For another, both have seen a number of changes this summer.
Sunday's home side, Pumas, are still under the command of manager Paco Palencia, though he is on thin ice after a horrendous tournament in the Clausura. Pumas allowed 30 goals, more than any other team, and amassed just 18 points en route to a finish in the league's penultimate place. Dario Veron, a club legend who had lost a step if not several in central defense, has moved on, as have goalkeeper Alejandro "Pikolin" Palacios and forward Matias Britos. The club still has Chilean forward Nicolas Castillo, who seems to be in better physical and mental condition than he was at the end of last tournament. It also acquired Nestor Calderon and Mauro Formica during the offseason. The back line still remains a question.
Pachuca sold Hirving "Chucky" Lozano on to PSV in the summer but acquired Keisuke Honda. While the Japanese attacker got plenty of press, nabbing Edson Puch from Necaxa in the draft may do just as much, if not more, to fill the attacking void left by Lozano. Tuzos scored just 16 goals last season after multiple tournaments leading or being near the league lead. Whether or not Diego Alonso is able to get a spark from his new players in the opening game will make for an interesting story to watch in Sunday's opener.
Keep an eye out for ... Lobos BUAP's debut
There is a new face in Liga MX. Unlike last year's promoted team, historic giant Necaxa, Lobos BUAP never has played in the first division during its 21-year history (the club was founded in the late 1960s but its modern incarnation started in 1996). There are some other things that make Lobos stand out. At the helm is a young Mexican coach, the 38-year-old Rafael Puente. Puente, a former actor turned sports commentator turned manager, guided the team into the first division and has made seemingly savy moves in reinforcing that squad to prepare it for life in the division.
The club found a willing partner in Tigres with three potential starters arriving on loan from the club in Luis Quinones, Julian Quinones and Luis Advincula, while other players with Liga MX experience have arrived from around the country.
Just how well the project goes and how the fans react to having a Liga MX team will be on display this weekend as Santos Laguna pays a visit to the Estadio Universitario. The first derby with Puebla won't be until the final weekend of the season. If that match has any relevance at all, it means Puente has done something very right.
Quote of the Week
"We're aspiring to big things and we're going to go game by game. We've worked really well, the group has gone from worse to better. We're the champions. We have the orders to be winners and to get more trophies." - Angel Zaldivar, Chivas forward
Defending champion Chivas will start its title defense very short-handed. Jose Juan Vazquez and Oswaldo Alanis are out with short-term injuries while Alan Pulido will be sidelined the majority of the season. Then there are the five absences because of the Gold Cup. Still, Zaldivar says there are no excuses for the title-holder, which opens the season Saturday against Toluca.