After a highly disappointing Clausura 2012 season, Pumas looks to bounce back in full force for the coming Apertura. Staying busy in the offseason, Pumas brought in many talented players to help rebuild the team. One problem for the team last season was a lack of experience, which when combined with various injury issues, resulted in one of the worst seasons for UNAM in recent years. Traditionally, Pumas has relied heavily on their high-quality youth system, usually making the squad one of the youngest in the Mexican league along with Chivas. With the recent lack of results, though, Pumas made drastic changes this offseason, looking to outside veteran players to help the team. These major moves have the potential to bring Pumas instantly back into Liguilla contention for the upcoming tournament.
The team from Ciudad Universitaria went out and brought in one of the league's best scorers, with the Argentinian Emanuel Villa joining Pumas this summer. Villa has been one of the most consistent goal scorers in recent seasons for Cruz Azul, and his experience and skill make him a great addition to any team. But Pumas did not stop there. The club also brings in international star Luis Garcia, who recently had great seasons with Puebla. Luis Garcia, another player who brings loads of experience, can connect with Villa and form one of the most dangerous "one-two punches" in the Mexican League. While playing in Puebla, Luis Garcia showed leadership ability on the field. Not only a goal-scorer, Garcia can also be a game distributer, a forward who can open spaces for other players and generate different plays. Last year Pumas only scored thirteen goals, this year fans hope to at least double that amount with the additions of Villa and Garcia.
Not only did Pumas add great players to the attack, but the team also brought in players like Marin Romagnoli, the veteran Argentinian midfielder who brings ball control to the midfield along with another "old face", Jaime Lozano, who returns home after many years with Tigres and Morelia. The return of Dario Veron to the lineup after missing most of last season due to injury will make Pumas a solid team in all positions. Pumas has done what many great teams all over the world do, which is add experience, and surround it with young players with potential who can learn from the veteran players around them.
Pumas now look to complete a full change from last season's dismal performance. Many believe Pumas can even be a title contender with the additions that they've brought in. Pumas also welcomes a new coach, Joaquin Del Olmo, another old face in UNAM, who will try to mold this team into what everyone expects. It is always difficult for a team and coach to adapt to each other in their first season together. The philosophy or strategy of the coach might not always reflect in the opening weeks. As a result, Pumas may have a slow start to the Apertura, but look for them to quickly improve and finish the season strong.
Emmanuel Villa and Luis Garcia -- As stated earlier, the Villa/Garcia duo might give the league something to talk about this season. Emmanuel Villa is an excellent goal scorer and should adapt well with Luis Garcia. Expect many more goals from Pumas over last season's meager total, and expect one of these two players to be fighting for the scoring title.
Goalkeeper -- Pumas seemed to reinforce themselves at all lines on the team, except the goalkeeper position. Though Alejandro "Pikolin" Palacios has been with the team for years, and at times has great performances, it seems Pumas is still missing a secure goalkeeper. Palacios, or as everyone knows him, "Pikolin Dos," lacks consistency and the leadership of a goalkeeper over his backline. Besides at times making juvenile mistakes as a goalkeeper, his temper, similar to his twin brother, can also affect his performance. However, with the return of Dario Veron, Pikolin should have a much easier job this coming season.
Mark your Calendar
Week 5 vs. Santos Laguna -- The defending champions go into Ciudad Universitaria to play Pumas in week 5. By this time the team should be well adapted, with Del Olmo creating the team chemistry he is looking for. Though Pumas face teams like Atlas and Xolos in the first four weeks, week 5 brings the first real challenge, playing the defending champs. Pumas get a chance to play against Santos Laguna in front of their home crowd, in what is expected to be a highly entertaining match.
Liguilla -- Expect Pumas to be at least among the top 5 teams by the end of the season, if not the top 3. With the key acquisitions this offseason, Pumas has generated a complete team in which experience will integrate with youth. Expect Pumas to do a full 180 turn from last year, and if Joaquin Del Olmo can manage this team and get them to play how it’s expected, Pumas might be a team reaching the semi-finals this season.
This is the tenth in our series of Liga MX team previews ahead of the Apertura 2012 season. See our earlier previews of San Luis, Club Atlas, Queretaro, Club Leon, Puebla, Atlante, Jaguares Chiapas, Club Tijuana, and Pachuca.