Tom Marshall: Monterrey paving the way for the CCL

Monterrey's focus on continental dominance has given legitimacy to both the club and the the CONCACAF Champions League.
Three consecutive wins in the CONCACAF Champions League is sufficient evidence to talk of Monterrey’s dominance in the competition. No other club has managed such a feat since Cruz Azul back when the competition was a pale shadow of what it has become today.

The manner of the epic 4-2 victory on Wednesday, with three goals coming in the last seven minutes, was the CCL at its best. A tight first leg exploded into life only after Santos Laguna had seemingly put the game to bed, with Pedro Caixinha’s well thought out game plan so close to crowning the Guerreros the 13th Mexican winners of the continental competition.

But Monterrey has quietly put emphasis on the competition. The CCL has become an important trophy for the club and a means of reaching the Club World Cup to gain international prestige and promotion. The club has lost only three times in 34 games in the CCL, winning 25 of those. The fans, packed into the Estadio Tecnologico long before kickoff, are on the same page as the team.

“We are conscious we have to take everything we are playing for seriously,” said Monterrey president Luis Miguel Salvador after the game on television.” The prize, the Club World Cup, is really important.”

The competition is not as easy as both Monterrey and Santos have made it look in the last couple of seasons, either. MLS clubs have increasing experience in two-leg competition and the conditions in Mexico and Central America, while the plight of Chivas – the first Mexican team to go out in the group stage – shows that nothing can be taken for granted.

The guiding figure for Monterrey’s success has been Victor Manuel Vucetich, who took over as coach in 2009. He’s now won 13 of the 14 finals his teams have competed in throughout his career. It’s no wonder he’s earned the nickname “King Midas.”

At 58, the half-Argentine – his father came to Mexico to play - still has another one or two challenges left in him and after the next Club World Cup would seem an opportune moment for him to set sail.

It was widely reported that Vucetich gave up the national team job to remain in Monterrey with his children - with whom he is especially close after his wife passed away tragically in 2008 - after the last World Cup.

But the lure of the Rayados and his family may be too much, especially with the future of the club looking very bright.

This summer, Colombian international Dorlan Pabon will be joining for a reported fee of $6 million. For those who maybe haven’t seen him play, Pabon really caught the eye in the 2012 Copa Libertadores, netting seven times in eight games and was promptly snapped up by Parma. It didn’t quite work out in Italy, however, and he is now on loan at Real Betis, where he’s scored five goals in 10 starts.

Then in 2014, the club is scheduled to open a new first class 50,000-capacity stadium that will likely be the best and most modern in the country.

Vucetich also revealed post-game that one of the keys to Monterrey’s CCL victory has been youth coming through and challenging the older players like Cesar ‘Chelito’ Delgado, Walter Ayovi and others. He called it the rejuvenation of the squad. Rookie players like Jesus Corona, Luis Madrigal, U.S. born Alonso Hernandez and Cesar De la Pena have all got minutes this season.

There will be a number of factors pulling Vucetich to remain at the club over the long term, to create something rare in Mexican soccer and build a second successful Monterrey side.

In terms of the near future, the surge of confidence surrounding the club at present means Monterrey has to be one of the favorites going into the liguilla.

But the real test on the horizon for Monterrey will come in that Club World Cup in December in Morocco when Rayados attempt to become the first CONCACAF team to make the final.

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