After watching Pachuca lift Liga MX’s 2022 Apertura title on Sunday, he can’t help but compare it to last season. Los Tuzos hit the top-flight Mexican title in 2016. Written a little more than six years ago, it felt oddly similar.
Both stories from Montevideo’s Uruguayan manager (then Diego Alonso, now Guillermo Almada) using an efficient style of play, a strong foundation during the regular season (8W-6D-3L and 30 points in 2016, 9W-5D-3L and 32 points in 2022) and most notably , a well-balanced roster that promises developed academy players.
It is known in Mexico to produce some exciting natives and immigrants, who in partnership announced in August with the talented architects of Ajax – Los Tuzos A few years ago they thrived on young options like Hirving Lozano, Erick Gutierrez and Rodolfo Pizarro, keeping key figures. Before they became household names, the trio were rising stars who were given starting roles by Alonso as the team made their way to the 2016 Clasico final against big leaguers Monterrey.
Gutierrez, then only 20 years old, wore the captain’s armband on his first leg. Lozano (20) and Pizarro (22) played close to him with their efforts that eventually passed them by. Los Rayados and to a 2-1 aggregate result that secured the championship of the Block.
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In fact, Lozano and Gutierrez followed to Europe, with the former now at Napoli, and the latter at PSV Eindhoven. Pizarro remained in North America, but increased his stock with additional championships and individual awards such as a CONCACAF Champions League Best XI appearance in 2018 and a Liga MX Best XI appearance in the 2019 Finals.
With 30 plus caps each for Mexico, the three players are success stories from the Pachuca academy. In this last week, it was easy to spot the box Tuzos the wonders that can be done by Liga MX next to the lights.
At the center of the Mediterranean plot was a huge number of twenty-year-old Erick Sanchez. Shining as one of the top players in the 8-2 aggregate thrashing of Toluca in the final, Sanchez covered impressive ground with his defensive interceptions and playmaking. After making his senior debut with Mexico in the summer of 2021, the midfielder is now in the running for the World Cup this November.
After his return to the left, the 21-year-old Mexican-American Mauricio Isais revealed Pachuca with the ability to make dangerous runs while also providing crucial machinery at the back. Found in 2017 by Alianza, the largest amateur grassroots soccer program in the United States of America for Latino players, now the Texan has the Liga MX title in hand, a goal in the league final and an invitation waiting to train with Mexico before the World Cup.
Fellow Pachuca defender Kevin Alvarez has also turned into an indispensable member of the XI. Often running down the flanks into the back, the 23-year-old Colima native was constantly threatening and looking forward to Toluca. El TriThe champion is a possible starter for the national team in Qatar.
The list continues as you look further into the supply and roster of the Pachuca academy, and depending on how things go in the transfer market this winter – TUDN reported on Sunday that clubs abroad are already visiting midfielder Luis Chavez – could be the latest title. proved to be the catalyst for the next big thing in Mexican football. So even producing young potential talent will be only part of the equation Los Tuzos.
While he has maintained the right platform of players, he has remained constant at the club in the 21st century, the other part of the puzzle required a coach who gives opportunities to youngsters and also finds a good balance of numbers with more experienced names and foreign additions. Since late 2021, Almada has been the perfect manager.
“It speaks of the effort this year from the arrival of Almada, who proposed an intense and powerful idea of soccer,” said defender Gustavo Cabral after joining the championship on Sunday.
Entering late last year, the expressive and passionate coach used a spirited attack and a direct style of play that gave the academy significant options. Surrounded in a 4-2-3-1 formation, veteran players like Romario Ibarra, Oscar Murillo, Oscar Ustari and Golden Boot winner Nicolas Ibañez are the glue that kept the games consistent.
In the last season of the Clausura, Almada and his roster qualified for the Liga MX final, but soon came up short after a near loss to Atlante. Months later, they returned and fled Toluca with their words.
“We are going to take Pachuca to the place we deserve,” Ibañez said after helping lift the Apertura trophy. “Today is a step and we are much more.”
But will Almada, and perhaps a few of the players who are paying much more attention, surround him?
Vacancy could soon appear in the Mexico dugout. It has been reported that manager Gerardo “Tata” Martin will be leaving for a long time El Tri after the World Cup, and if that is the case, then someone like Almada – who is not only a proven winner, but also a supporter of research with young Mexican players – would be a perfect fit. During the long process in the build-up to the 2026 World Cup, the Uruguayan coach is the best name that will usher in a new era and generation.
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The same can also be said about his recent opponent, manager Ignacio Toluca “Nacho” Ambriz. Despite a disastrous 8-2 scoreline in the Apertura final, Ambriz and his squad have flown beyond expectations in recent months. Once 15th in the league table last season, Ambriz’s skill helped a serious overhaul of the roster this summer, which is a work in progress, but also coherent enough to qualify for the final.
In the playoffs this season, outside of Almada, Ambriz has helped every manager in the playoffs to restore his image as one of Mexico’s coaches after a less-than-exciting stint in Spain’s second division for several months with Huesca in 2021.
“He’s a genius,” Toluca midfielder Sebastian Saucedo told ESPN in October about Ambriz. “The way he does the educational sessions, the possessions, all those little things… This guy is the real deal.”
In the end though it was Almada and Pachuca who secured the championship on Sunday’s Apertura. Chances have prevailed with the skill of the academy players; Los Tuzos earned their seventh Liga MX silverware since 1999 and are now tied for sixth (with Pumas and Tigres) in the all-time table for Mexico’s top flight.
In 2023, Pachuca will have an invaluable opportunity to further its recognition and fame through the expanded CONCACAF Champions League and League Cup, which will feature each MLS and Liga MX club. Within his number, outside the competition, he will also create several chances to develop players from the club’s famous academy.
Six years ago, it was Lozano, Gutierrez and Pizarro who were hyped. This October, Sanchez, Isais and Alvarez are hailing the likes. And in 2023? Expect to see even more new faces emerging from the wonderland futbol workshop