Liga MX Power Rankings: Monterrey and Atlas jump to the top as America falls
Gerardo "Tata" Martino is making headlines as he weaves his way through Liga MX stadiums in search of his first group of national teamers. Not one month into the job, Martino has ruffled some feathers in Mexico by saying he would consider naturalizing players to beef up his squad.
Alas, the former Atlanta United manager has his work cut out for him in that regard. Rogelio Funes Mori, who said he was interested, is a long shot due to FIFA regulations prohibiting one-time switches for players who participated in youth tournaments for their birth countries. Most any other foreigner worth his salt is eliminated by that criterion, as well.
Martino will have to settle for Mexican-born talent, and this week's Power Rankings will focus on hidden gems the Argentine manager can use as he eases into his first year on the job.
1. MONTERREY (Week 4 result: 3-2 win over America)
Hidden gem: Cesar Montes. The 21-year-old defender has a handful of caps under his belt for the national team, but fell out of favor at Monterrey late last season. He's been solid in the back for Rayados thus far in the Clausura 2019, including the full 90 minutes in a tense 3-2 win over America last weekend. Montes can help solve a pressing need for depth in El Tri's back line -- beyond Hector Moreno, Diego Reyes and Nestor Araujo, there are slim pickings for Martino right now.
2. ATLAS (Week 4 result: 3-1 win over Lobos BUAP)
Hidden gem: Hidden gem: Jose Hernandez. El Tri's solid group of seasoned goalkeepers is getting on in age. By the time Qatar 2022 rolls around, Memo Ochoa will be 37, Alfredo Talavera will turn 40 and Jose Corona will be on his 41st birthday. While Mexico has a solid group of emerging young goalkeepers, Martino should devote a bit more attention to 21-year-old Hernandez, who is finally working with a solid back line and putting up strong numbers as Atlas' No. 1. An added bonus? Hernandez is no stranger to defending the national team, as he starred for El Tri's under-21 team in Toulon last year.
3. CLUB AMERICA (Week 4 result: 3-2 loss to Monterrey)
Hidden gem: Jorge Sanchez. Brought in from Santos Laguna to be a backup for Luis Reyes and Paul Aguilar, the 21-year-old wing-back grabbed the starting spot away from Reyes last season and never looked back. This season, he's started all three games for the defending champion, including the 3-2 loss on Saturday to Rayados. On the heels of Club America's big sale of Diego Lainez to Real Betis, Sanchez is primed to be the club's next export alongside fellow young defender Edson Alvarez.
4. SANTOS LAGUNA (Week 4 result: 1-0 win over Chivas)
Hidden gem: Jesus Angulo. The reason why Santos Laguna was okay with letting Sanchez walk was because Angulo was ready to take his place. Another 21-year-old wing-back, Angulo's stock has quickly risen among fans and commentators thanks to his pace and offensive vision. In last weekend's 1-0 win against Chivas, Angulo set up Jose Juan Vazquez for the game's only goal.
5. NECAXA (Week 4 result: 0-0 draw with Morelia)
Hidden gem: Cristian Calderon. Mexico might have a glut of good young wing-backs if players like Calderon keep this up. The 21-year-old was signed from Atlas over the winter break, and has already contributed with a goal. Eighteen of his 24 Liga MX appearances have come in the past six months, indicating stellar development to his play..
6. LEON (Week 4 result: 4-0 win over Queretaro)
Hidden gem: Jose Juan Macias. The 19-year-old striker came over from Chivas last month in an attempt to cover the massive hole left in Leon's attack by Mauro Boselli. Against Queretaro last weekend, Macias busted out with two goals in a 4-0 rout. After getting just nine minutes of playing time with Chivas in the Apertura 2018, Macias looks primed to grab much more first-team experience this season.
7. CHIVAS (Week 4 result: 1-0 loss to Santos)
Hidden gem: Alexis Vega. After a strong season with Toluca in which he bagged six goals, the 21-year-old attacker cemented a big transfer to Chivas prior to the Clausura 2019. He's not yet scored for his new club, but his mere presence has helped others find the net. He still has plenty of time to get in form and merit a call-up from Martino.
8. TOLUCA (Week 4 result: 1-0 loss to Tigres)
Hidden gem: Adrian Mora. A big central defender who's already been given a handful of starts with the first team, Mora has shown poise as he tries to break into one of the league's deepest squads. Although not present for last weekend's 1-0 loss to Tigres, Mora is a likely candidate to see more minutes as the season moves along.
9. UANL TIGRES (Week 4 result: 1-0 win over Toluca)
Hidden gem: Jair Diaz. It's hard to be a young Mexican player -- in any position -- searching for minutes at Tigres. Diaz has been able to wrest a handful of starts away at left-back this season, and the 20-year-old has performed admirably. Although he only saw the bench on Sunday in Tigres' 1-0 win at Toluca, Diaz has gained the trust of Ricardo Ferretti in the early going.
10. CRUZ AZUL (Week 4 result: 1-0 win over Tijuana)
Hidden gem: Roberto Alvarado. After a handful of cameos with the national team following the World Cup, Alvarado is set to become a bigger part of El Tri with the next cycle ready to begin. The 20-year-old midfielder is a key part of Cruz Azul's offensive apparatus, and seems set to garner interest from European clubs in the near future.
11. PACHUCA (Week 4 result: 1-0 win over Pumas)
Hidden gem: Victor Guzman. Not so much a hidden gem, more of an obvious choice. However, the 23-year-old playmaker is a proven scorer who can impact the game from several different positions. Guzman has yet to score this season, although last weekend Franco Jara picked up the pace with a goal to down Pumas 1-0. After the World Cup, Guzman was a popular choice for Ricardo Ferretti, and will hope to repeat with Martino at the helm.
12. MORELIA (Week 4 result: 0-0 draw with Necaxa)
Hidden gem: Raul Meraz. Playing behind striker Miguel Sansores in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Necaxa, Meraz racked up plenty of dangerous touches in the offensive third of the field. Since debuting in 2018, the 19-year-old has played in 11 matches, mostly as a sub. At international level, Meraz was a key part of the under-20 team that made the CONCACAF final last year.
13. PUEBLA (Week 4 result: 1-0 win over Veracruz)
Hidden gem: Vladimir Lorona. The 20-year-old defender has racked up 17 Liga MX games for Puebla since he debuted last July. This season, he's started three times -- including last Friday's 1-0 win against Veracruz. Lorona can play both in the middle of the defense as well as on the wing, an attractive proposition for Martino's staff should he merit a call.
14. CLUB TIJUANA (Week 4 result: 1-0 loss to Cruz Azul)
Hidden gem: Luis Chavez. The 23-year-old midfielder has been involved consistently for Club Tijuana for the past couple of seasons. More recently, Chavez came on as a sub in Xolos' 1-0 loss to Cruz Azul last weekend. Since his debut in 2014, Chavez has racked up 63 matches and more than 2,700 minutes, emerging as one of the team's few bright spots following a disappointing Apertura 2018.
15. LOBOS BUAP (Week 4 result: 3-1 loss to Atlas)
Hidden gem: Mauro Lainez. The older brother to Diego, the 22-year-old midfielder has responded greatly for Lobos BUAP when needed. Last season, Lainez scored three goals for his team as they gained key points in their fight to avoid relegation. Should Lainez gain more consistency within the team's rotation, a midfield featuring both brothers with El Tri would not be a crazy notion.
16. PUMAS UNAM (Week 4 result: 1-0 loss to Pachuca)
Hidden gem: Alan Mozo. A stocky, speedy right-back, Mozo has been a consistent starter for Pumas since last season, when the team went on a run to the semifinals. This season, fortunes have been quite different, as evidenced by the coaching change made after their 1-0 loss to Pachuca last weekend, but Mozo remains a key part of their starting XI.
17. VERACRUZ (Week 4 result: 1-0 loss to Puebla)
Hidden gem: Sebastian Jurado. Tasked with replacing Pedro Gallese in a team trying to avoid relegation, the 21-year-old goalkeeper was not given an easy task going into the Clausura 2019. Although his team has been obviously subpar, Jurado has been a bright spot for Tiburones fans. A call-up from Martino would raise his stock ahead of a summer when he'll likely have to switch teams to stay in the first division.
18. QUERETARO (Week 4 result: 4-0 loss to Leon)
Hidden gem: Marcel Ruiz. After a breakout season that saw him hold down a starting spot in Queretaro's midfield, Ruiz was courted by Chivas over the winter. Although that didn't happen, the 18-year-old continues on an upward trajectory with Gallos, despite his team's free fall early this season. In their 4-0 loss to Leon last weekend, Ruiz was subbed out at the half in an effort to stop the team from being routed.