UNAM struggled to score in 2019 and missed the playoffs for a second straight season amid rumors of locker-room turmoil.
Just a year ago, a free-wheeling Pumas team finished the Apertura 2018 in third place, then went on to knock out the powerful Tigres in quarterfinals. But the dream season came to a crashing halt in the worst possible way: a rout at the hands of those hated Aguilas of América.
América went on to win the title after humiliating the Pumas by a 7-2 aggregate score, sending the Auriazules limping into the offseason licking their wounds. Since then, there has been very little to cheer about on campus.
UNAM slumped to 15th place in the Clausura 2019, firing one coach during the season and firing his replacement only a week after the final game. In came Real Madrid legend Miguel González, aka “Michel,” but budget restriction tied Pumas management’s hands and only modest changes were made to the roster. Still, a playoff berth was seen as a realistic goal.
The Apertura 2019 provided few opportunities for gleeful shouts of “Goya” as the Pumas staggered to a 13th place finish, 4 points short of a playoff spot. In all, UNAM went 10-10-15 in Liga MX play on the year and entered the short winter offseason with rumors of locker room dissension circulating.
Controversial team president Rodrigo Ares de Pargo resigned in October, replaced by Leopoldo Silva, a chemistry professor who had been the university’s top administrator. He’ll now serve as the front office numbers cruncher alongside general manager Jesús Ramírez. Their job is a massive one: stay within budget while making the Pumas competitive again.
Silva and Ramírez won’t have a long leash, especially if the team’s notorious fans lose patience. UNAM’s fortress – the Estadio Olímpico Universitario – is no longer the home-field advantage it traditionally has been as the Pumas went just 8-7-3 at the CU in 2019. It got so bad that average attendance in the 72,000-seat stadium during the Apertura 2019 was only 20,509.
But with just over three weeks remaining before the Clausura 2020 kicks off, there’s little time and lots to do.