Liga MX kickoff: Five things to watch for
I have good news, my fellow Liga MX fans, the 2014 Apertura season is about to commence.
The time for mourning El Tri has come to an end.
Soon enough, Arjen Robben will just be another Dutch player and not that player who flopped against Mexico. Arguments about Miguel Herrera's last-minute substitutions will be forgotten, and "No Era Penal" will become an overused joke, maybe.
Friday, another season begins for the Liga MX and I eagerly await the first whistle as it will hopefully blow away any bad memories from this summer and bring about some exciting moments during the rest of this year.
Here are five things to consider during the first week of the Liga MX:
1. Cuauhtemoc Blanco
Will he start? Will he even play? Is he going to be a mascot on the bench? Puebla's coach, Ruben Omar Romano, has mentioned in the past that he would consider Blanco as a starter if he were healthy enough. I wonder if Blanco would even be able to play a full 90 minutes at this point in his career.
It's easy to criticize the 41-year-old, but everybody must remember that he is still capable of taking part in some beautiful futbol. Although it was for only a short amount of time, Blanco looked like an inspired and scrappy player when he was given a starting role for Mexico against Israel in May. Don't count him out just yet.
2. Will Cruz Azul have a strong start to their season?
With Toluca, Leon, and America looking as solid as ever, La Maquina will need to make few mistakes this Apertura. Beating squads such as Pachuca this weekend will be necessary if Cruz Azul hopes to achieve the same dominance that they had last season.
A big question mark with Cruz Azul also lies with Francisco Javier Rodriguez. Rodriguez impressed many with his confident playing this World Cup, but it wouldn't be surprising at all if he were to make some of the clumsy and poor decisions that have made him infamous in the past.
3. Are Leones Negros capable of making an immediate impact?
The Black Lions have returned to the first division for the first time since May 1994. Their dramatic win in penalties against Estudiantes Tecos (er, I mean Mineros de Zacatecas) is the perfect setup for a fairy-tale season, but the celebration may end sooner than expected.
Leones Negros will need to rely on the attack of the newly acquired Andres Rios and Fidel Martinez. Whether they have had enough time to work with the rest of the squad and each other will potentially be answered Saturday.
4. Oribe Peralta
After having a below par World Cup, Oribe Peralta will need to immediately prove to America that he is worth the $10 million they paid for him. That's not even including the reported $2.5 million that he is supposed to be receiving every year.
With the potential for a Raul Jimenez transfer to Porto, America will need Oribe to be at his very best this season. His first big test will be up against Leon this weekend.
5. The new Chivas
Carlos Bustos as head coach, Fernando Arce in the middle and Carlos Salcido in defense (or possibly midfield) are just a few of the changes that have been made for Guadalajara. There is plenty to be hopeful about for fans, but this hope is still a tenuous one.
Chivas sit very far down in the relegation table and must find early victories this season. There has been plenty of positive talk but it is imperative that the squad follows through with much-needed points from the get-go. The first crucial step toward Chivas' success will possibly be made this Sunday against Chiapas.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.