Edgar Mendez tops list of most impactful Liga MX newcomers thus far
Transfer signings are the most popular and quickest way to strengthen a team but unfortunately for owners and managers alike, bringing in a new signing is not an exact science or an easy task. No matter how much research a club puts in or how successful a player was at a previous club, often times even the most high-profile players struggle to immediately acclimate (if it all) to a new club and or league.
Liga MX have had its fair share of big-name acquisitions this summer, as players like Enner Valencia, Keisuke Honda and Gustavo Bou joined the league from abroad while others like Aviles Hurtado, Guido Rodriguez and Edson Puch swapped clubs within the league. Some of these big-name transfers have acclimated right away and paid immediate dividends for their new clubs while others have stumbled or been slow out of the blocks. Here are the signings that our Liga MX correspondents Nayib Moran, Tom Marshall and Eric Gomez believe have hit the ground running and made the biggest impact so far in Liga MX.
Nayib Moran: Edgar Mendez, Cruz Azul
When Spanish footballers like Victor Vazquez and Saul Berjon came to Liga MX, there were high expectations on what they would offer their new clubs, Cruz Azul and Pumas, respectively. But neither of them were able to make an impact in the league. Vazquez's La Masia past invited most to think that his contributions to Cruz Azul's midfield were going to be notorious, while Berjon came to Pumas after a good season with Eibar. Recently, Pumas' 32-year-old Abraham Gonzalez has been the Spanish footballer who has been able to make a name for himself in Liga MX, but nowadays, he's not alone. Cruz Azul's Edgar Mendez, who this offseason made the move from Alaves to La Maquina, has immediately helped Cruz Azul's attack become more direct and most importantly more clinical.
After two games played, Mendez has scored two of Cruz Azul's three goals and was directly involved in the third one, which was scored by midfielder Rafael Baca last Saturday against Chivas.
Manager Paco Jemez made it known after Cruz Azul's 2-0 win over Tijuana that what makes Mendez stand out is his stamina, which allows him to cover a lot of ground in 90 minutes. He can easily slot in on the right or the left wing, and Jemez tends to give Mendez the instruction to move freely upfront.
It's a huge positive for Cruz Azul to have a player that can come in and right away shake things up in the attack. Unfortunately, after two games, Mendez has had very little support from teammates like Angel Mena, who last season was Cruz Azul's best attacking threat. Jemez's attack is still a work in progress, but with Mendez now a part of it, the team's attack will create a good number of scoring options throughout the season; the key will be to put as many of those scoring options in the back of the net.
Tom Marshall: Milton Caraglio, Atlas
Atlas' Argentine striker Milton Caraglio is never going to be a goal-a-game kind of forward. He's not likely to get his team a goal every two games, or even every three for that matter. So when the 28-year-old swapped the red-and-black of Club Tijuana for the red-and-black of Atlas over the summer, it didn't cause much of a ripple compared to, for example, Enner Valencia moving to Tigres or Pachuca signing Keisuke Honda.
But Caraglio was a fixture over the 2016-17 seasons for Club Tijuana, starting 39 games (including the Liguilla) as the team made history by finishing top of the regular season in both the Apertura and Clausura. Caraglio led the Tijuana line as the focal point of the attack, creating space for the likes of Aviles Hurtado around him. He was a crucial link, constantly providing a passing option, defending opposition set pieces and battling so others could shine.
Now at Atlas under Jose Guadalupe Cruz -- his former coach at Dorados de Sinaloa -- Caraglio has picked up where he left off. The hard-working Caraglio has disputed more challenges than any other Liga MX player over the first two matches of the Apertura, according to InStats, and his link-up play with Matias Alustiza is looking very promising.
It is a classic big-man, little-man partnership, with Alustiza playing off and around the tall Caraglio. It is working for both, as well as the team, with Alustiza netting twice and Caraglio once so far this season and Atlas sitting at the top of the Liga MX table.
Eric Gomez: Edgar Mendez, Cruz Azul
I went with Edgar Mendez as well as the Spaniard was a low-key signing this offseason despite coming over from Spain's La Liga. In the shadow of Enner Valencia and Keisuke Honda, Mendez has already started to influence Cruz Azul's fortunes. In two Liga MX games, the former Granada and Alaves man has scored twice. In the end, his game won't be just about scoring, but generating offensive chances for his teammates as well, while providing balance in the middle of the field. A keen distributor, Mendez has shown he can get forward, but also allows players around him to get in position to score while he mans the potential counterattack against his team.
As they approach 20 years without a title, Cruz Azul fans view any signing with a bit of puzzling cynicism. Mendez was no exception, as many who didn't follow his career across the Atlantic branded his move as simple cronyism from their also Spanish manager, Paco Jemez. Despite the mixed reception, Mendez has shown he can become one of the most important players in the league this season, one who can lead a team desperate for silverware into the playoffs and beyond. After two weeks, it's a stretch to anoint anyone Cruz Azul's savior or anything close to it, but Mendez is showing he can attain stardom in a league where, ironically, many of his compatriots with bigger name brand value have come over from La Liga and flopped.