The Clausura featured many outstanding performances but these four defenders made a big difference for their teams.
Like most soccer leagues, the Liga MX shines the spotlight on big-time scorers and spectacular goals, while overlooking defenders. Midfielder Angel Mena earned lots of attention this season as he led the league in goals and assists, helping Leon finish the regular season atop the table. But Leon also led the league in fewest goals allowed and their stingy defense was also a major factor in their triumphant season.
In recognition of the unsung heroes on the defensive side of the ball, here is a list of the best defenders in Liga MX this season.
Nico Sanchez, Monterrey
Nico Sanchez (pictured above) is a solid positional defender, the leader of the Monterrey back line, but he is equally adept at scoring. Sanchez is the Rayados’ appointed penalty kicker and is dangerous on free kicks. Sanchez appeared in 13 games, scored 4 goals and played a total of 1,100 minutes in the regular season. His work and leadership was integral in helping Monterrey finish as the No. 3 seed and he scored both goals in the Concacaf Champions League Final to lead the Rayados to a 2-1 aggregate victory over the Tigres. Sanchez’s history against the Tigres – Monterrey’s bitter rivals – is worth taking a look at. Since joining the Rayados in 2017, he has scored 5 goals in the eight Clasico Regiomontanos he has played in.
Fernando Navarro, Leon
Navarro is enjoying a career year at the age of 30. He has been a fundamental piece in Leon’s success in the Clausura 2019, playing a grand total of 16 games. The right back is equally adept at defending the right wing and moving forward to participate in the attack. Navarro scored 2 goals in 1,400 minutes of action, a major component for the Esmeraldas who accumulated 41 points, scored 41 goals and conceded only 14. It’s no surprise that he was summoned to the El Tri training camp ahead of this summer’s Gold Cup.
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Bruno Valdez, America
Since joining America three years ago, Valdez has impressed with his leadership, commitment and conviction. The same was true during the Clausura 2019 as America tried to defend the title it won last season. Though the Aguilas came up short against Leon, Valdez made sure they didn’t go down without a fight, scoring a goal only 5 minutes into the second leg to put the pressure on the top-seeded Esmeraldas. The Paraguayan defender helped America win the Copa MX this season, playing in 15 games and scoring 2 goals in 1,213 minutes of action.
Gerardo Arteaga, Santos
The young defender is probably one of the most underrated Mexican players in the Liga MX. Arteaga, 20, debuted with Club Santos in 2016 and has become a regular starter. In the Clausura 2019, Arteaga did not score but he started 16 games and had over 1,105 minutes played. Arteaga was not called up for the Gold Cup this summer, but he will likely be involved with Team Mexico in the near future.