NASL Spring Champions hosts the Clausura Champs of Liga MX

For the second time in Indy Eleven’s history they will host a team from Mexico for a Sunday afternoon friendly. Last year the Eleven played Monarcas Morelia to a 0-0 draw. Now, the 2016 NASL Spring Champions will host Pachuca, the 2016 Clausura (spring/closing) champions of Liga MX. Sunday will be a champion’s affair in deed.

Pachuca celebrating after winning the 2016 Clausura Championship. Photo by EFE/Miguel Sierra

The city of Pachuca is the capital of the Mexican state of Hidalgo. The state, located in the central region of Mexico, is named after Miguel Hidalgo. You may remember him from your high school history class as the Catholic priest that led Mexico’s War of Independence. While the city of Pachuca was named after Manuel Fernando Soto, who helped establish the state of Hidalgo. Pachuca is famous for two things; mining and the birth place of soccer in Mexico. This area of Mexico has been an important mining region since the 16th Century when the Spanish conquered the Aztec civilization. The city of Pachuca also played a significant role in starting the game of soccer in Mexico. At the beginning of the 20th century, Club de Fútbol Pachuca was formed and they have gone on to win 6 Liga MX titles, one CONCACAF Champions League trophy, and is the only club outside of South America to win the Copa Sudamericana.   

2016 Clausura Season

After finishing the 2015 Apertura (fall/opening) season in a modest 13th place, Pachuca set out and acquired four defenders; US international Omar Gonzalez, Emmanuel Garcia, Stefan Medina, and Oscar Murillo to help Pachuca’s goalkeeper Oscar Pérez record 7 clean sheets and only allow 21 goals. A strong brick wall in the back complimented their young attacking playmakers that scored a staggering 40 goals during the Clausura regular season and playoffs. What helped Pachuca secure the championship was an unbeaten record at home by going 9-2-0. They had the largest margin of victory in Liga MX this season, beating Veracruz 6-0 in March, and the largest road win the league when they defeated Club America 4-1. If the Clausura season was any indication, we should see some goals from Pachuca on Sunday.   

Pachuca’s Playmakers

Omar Gonzalez, Defender

United States v Costa Rica - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier
Omar Gonzalez playing for the US men’s national team. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A familiar name to fans of the game in the United States, the center back made 31 appearances for the red, white, and blue and was featured in two 2014 FIFA World Cup games. Since being sold from the LA Galaxy to Pachuca last December, Gonzalez has not appeared for the United States men’s national team and left some to question why he was left off the U.S. roster for Copa America. Regardless, the 6’5 center back started every league game for Pachuca during the Clausura season and scored 1 goal against Pumas UNAM in February.

Hirving Lozano, Midfielder

Lozano has the potential to be the future face of Mexican soccer. During the spring season, Lozano finished second in the team in goals scored with 8 and added 5 assists as an outside midfielder. During Pachuca’s 6-0 thrashing of Veracruz in March, Lozano recorded a hat trick. Although he only featured once for Mexico during Copa America Centenario, he has been linked to join Manchester United this summer. If he joins, fans of the Red Devils could see the second coming of Chicharito. Unfortunately, soccer fans in the Circle City will miss Lozano coming to Indianapolis as he will have time off after his Copa America duties.

Franco Jara, Forward

The Argentinian striker has represented the likes of Benfica and Olympiacos over his career. After an inconsistent career in Europe, Jara joined Pachuca in 2015 and led the team in scoring with 9 goals this season. He may have scored the biggest goal in club history versus Monterrey in the first leg of the Clausura championship match. The only goal of that match helped secure the championship for Pachuca after they drew 1-1 in the second leg.

Jonathan Urretaviscaya, Forward

A striker who can play wide and deliver deadly strikes from set pieces, he could partner with Jara up top against Indy Eleven on Sunday. Although the Uruguayan only scored 3 goals and recorded 4 assists, Urretaviscaya played a major role in helping Pachuca reach the semi-finals of the Clausura playoffs, scoring 2 goals and making the game winning assist against Sanots in the quarterfinals. At 26 he will be a star for Pachuca for years to come.   

Liga MX Draft

In the United States we think of the draft as a time for teams of various sports to select amateur players to build their franchise’s for the future. In Mexico, the draft is quite different. Every Liga MX team, official, player representatives, and every media outlet covering soccer meet at a hotel and work out trades, loans, and sign free agents. After one night of intense negotiations back on June 8th a total of $56 million was spent on teams trying to upgrade their team or free up their cash flow. Pachuca made some upgrades to their championship roster with the additions of Erick Aquirre of Monarcas Morelia, Victor Guzman, Raul Lopez, and Jose David Ramirez from Chivas Guadalajara, and Wilson Morelo from Monterrey. Indianapolis will have the opportunity to watch Pachuca’s new signings Morelo and Ramirez this weekend.

In part two of A Champions Affair I will look at the match-ups and what to expect from both teams on Sunday.  

Featured photo by AP.

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