The Liga MX Apertura was largely disappointing for Monterrey, but a solid Liguilla gives Los Rayados hope for a brighter Clausura 2019.
Rayados allowed just one goal in La Liguilla. That single goal knocked them out of contention for the Liga MX title. After clawing their way through 17 games of the regular season with nine wins, three draws, and five losses, fans were left wondering when this team might put things together and play like the team they look like on paper.
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Matching up against Santos Laguna in the first round, Monterrey was able to hold Los Guerreros scoreless in both legs on their way to a 3-0 aggregate victory. The health of Rogelio Funes Mori was a major factor in the pressure they were able to put on the Santos defense, highlighted by an absolute golazo of a bicycle kick in the first leg.
The second round against Cruz Azul was predictably a slug-fest as both teams played defensive football but Monterrey was able to steal a 1-0 victory at home in the first leg to set them up nicely in the return leg at Estadio Azteca. A Milton Caraglio goal in the 55th minute was enough for Cruz Azul to advance, however, since Monterrey couldn’t find an equalizer and the higher seed advances when the aggregate score is tied with the same number of away goals. In the end, it was Monterrey’s regular season performance that did them in.
On the positive side, Monterrey looked to finally be finding themselves at the end of the season. From November 3 through the first leg of the second round on December 5, Monterrey allowed just two goals and won every game except for a 1-1 draw against Necaxa on November 10. It wasn’t always pretty but they were able to get to La Liguilla with the 5th seed and do some damage once they were there.
The winter transfer window sees Guillermo Madrigal and Jesus Molina shipped to Chivas, along with Juan Pablo Carrizo heading back to Argentina to play for Cerro Porteno. None of these players should be missed too much. Madrigal played in 16 matches, starting eight, and provided three goals for Los Rayados, but with the health of Funes Mori and the addition of Angel Zaldivar from Chivas, he became expendable. Carrizo was a cup keeper and Molina started 6 matches for the club, but neither were expected to be major players going forward.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Angel Zaldivar comes from Chivas having been the Mexican-giant’s top goal-scorer in the Apertura with six goals in 17 appearances. If he can acclimate himself to his new club quickly, Monterrey may have made an absolute steal this winter. Also joining Monterrey will be Maximiliano Meza from Independiente in Argentina and Adam Bareiro from Nacional in Uruguay.
Monterrey should be aiming for a top four finish in the Clausura table. This is a team that has talent up and down the roster and if Diego Alonso can work out a definite plan and style, as they seemed to find in La Liguilla, they could be contending for the Clausura title when May rolls around.