The past year has been a tough one for fans of los Potros. For two consecutive seasons – the 2011 Apertura and the 2012 Clausura – Atlante has finished in 14th place in the league table. Marooned in the bottom third of the standings, the club has also shown few signs of improvement along the way. During the past season, things quickly spiraled out of control. After a solid start featuring three wins in their first five matches, the team’s collective wheels fell off. Atlante came out victorious in just one additional match the entire rest of the season, ending the Clausura with nine losses (for comparison's sake, that matched the loss total of the relegated Estudiantes Tecos). To make matters worse, this two-season struggle has left the club near the bottom of the relegation table, ahead of only Queretaro and Atlas.
Even with the team’s lack of results last season, club management decided not to take an especially active role in the transfer market. The only significant personnel losses are midfielder Jorge Hernandez, a regular starter who moves to Tijuana, and goalkeeper Armando Navarrete, whose loan deal with Club America was not renewed.
On the positive side, Atlante did make a splash with the signing of Esteban Paredes, a talented Chilean striker who joins the team from Colo-Colo. Other new additions include Ignacio "Nacho" Torres, Israel "Jagger" Martinez, and goalkeeper Jorge "Sprewell" Villalpando.
The club’s biggest offseason change was on the bench, where Ricardo La Volpe takes the helm. The legendary Argentinian manager with the legendary mustache has been tasked with bringing Atlante back from the nadir of the last two seasons.
On the attacking end, La Volpe may have just enough talent to tinker with. Newcomer Paredes will join Michael Arroyo and Francisco "Kikin" Fonseca up front, with additional support coming from attacking midfielder Osvaldo Martinez, last season’s leading scorer.
The much bigger challenge for La Volpe will be on the backline. Atlante desperately needs to improve the play of a defensive unit that conceded a league-high 31 goals last season. Last December the club brought in defenders Ricardo Jimenez, Jorge Guagua, and goalkeeper Naverrete to shore up the backline ahead of the Clausura. Things obviously didn’t go so well. Jimenez and Guagua are still with the squad, and this season will need to regroup as a unit, along with Luis Venegas. Together, the three key Potros defenders have no shortage of talent. The challenge will be to work together and stay organized when the going gets tough this year.
So far the Atlante players seem happy under their new manager. There have been a lot of positive (and telling) quotes during the preseason about La Volpe, remarking on his commitment to order and improved tactical organization. If La Volpe can lead the team to positive results, Potros fans will finally have something to be happy about again as well.
Esteban Paredes -- The Chilean striker joined the team a bit late into preseason, but once he gets accustomed to his new squad he has the chance to be a special player for the Potros. Paredes is an experienced player, who has performed on big stages like Copa Libertadores, and is expected to be a big-time scorer at Atlante.
Lingering Question Mark
Defending -- The big unknown heading into this season is if the backline can show significant improvements. This question is further compounded by the arrival of new goalkeeper Villalpando (a player whose best known highlight is being subbed out of a game for poor play and proceeding to attack his own coach). It's no surprise that La Volpe has been focusing his attention on the defense during the preseason, as he knows that any possible success depends heavily on the play of the team’s backline.
Mark Your Calendar
Week 3 vs. Club America -- Last year’s match between these old rivals was an absolute disaster for Atlante. Los Potros were trounced at home to the tune of a highly embarrassing 0-4 scoreline. The chance for revenge comes in Cancun on August 5th.
Bottom Third of Table -- While La Volpe at the helm inspires confidence, there are just too many lingering questions about the quality of Atlante’s defense and goalkeeping to expect an immediate rise in the standings.