Pachuca and Monterrey Tangle in Mexico’s Group of Death

Los Rayados de Monterrey train for their match in Pachuca (photo courtesy mediotiempo.com)

Los Rayados de Monterrey train for their match in Pachuca (photo courtesy mediotiempo.com)

Many know that Mexico divides its first division clubs into three, six team groups, the top two teams out of each qualify for the playoffs along with the next two highest placed teams in the general table.

What many don’t know about the young 2009 Apertura’s groups is that Group 2 is an absolute group of death.

Having clubs with the talent of Pachuca and Club América would be compelling enough, but the strong starts be Miguel Sabah-led Morelia as was as Monterrey, who had the fourth-best record in the Clausura, makes this group incredible. And I haven’t even mentioned Puebla – a club that finished tied with Monterrey in the Clausura, has yet to lose in the Apertura, but sits fifth in the group because they’ve drawn five of their eight matches.

With no more than four teams able to qualify from a group, one of these clubs will be out come playoff time.

The big match in Mexico today features two of the members of the Group of Death, with Monterrey visiting Pachuca.

Pachua, most of you know, from their Champions League and (formerly) Champions Cup exploits. They finished top of the Clausura, are one of the favorites in Champions League (having beaten MLS’s Houston Dynamo 2-0 midweek) and are arguably the most talented club team north of Brazil. This is the club of José Francisco Torres, and with players like Christian Giménez and Juan Carlos Cacho, this club is a known commodity.

Monterrey is a bit more of an unknown to the casual viewer (which I still consider myself), though they still have recognizable players. Chilean international Humberto Suazo and former Barcelona midfielder Walter Avoyí are the most readily recognized, but Luis Ernesto Pérez is an accomplished international player, and with Gerardo Galindo and Sergio Santana (as well as emerging players like goaltender Jonathan Orozco and leading scorer Aldo di Nigris), Monterrey has enough firepower to scare the Pachucas of the world.

This match is an example of why this group is particularly fair to Pachuca, who are fighting battles on two fronts thanks to Champions League. They are the most talented team in the league, but having to take on the Dynamo in midweek before bouncing back to host Monterrey three days later is a tall order. Ironically, Monterrey is supposed to be doing the same, having qualified for the Copa Sudamericana only to have the FMF-versus-CONMEBOL fight pull them out of that tournament.

As a result, Monterrey has a week’s rest headed to Estadio Hidalgo today. If they win, Monterrey vaults Morelia (winners on Friday) to the lead of Group 2. In Pachuca wins, they pull even with Morelia with 19 points, leading Group 2 (pending América’s result).

For a full update on la Primera División de México and a preview of this weekend’s action, you can read my piece at Mad About Fútbol, which doesn’t have this kind of single-match analysis, but is a decent overview of the weekend in México.

Richard Farley/The Kartik Report