Monterrey, 2012 Apertura Preview: Rayados Navigate Heavy Schedule

Monterrey team profile

Monterrey has established itself as one of the best clubs in Mexico the past several years, winning two domestic titles since the 2009 Apertura, as well as the last two CONCACAF Champions League trophies. A year ago, Monterrey was a confident club heading into the 2011 Apertura, but the distraction of multiple competitions and the unsettled status of star striker Humberto Suazo left the Rayados out of the liguilla altogether. Although they were bounced out of the Club World Cup last December much earlier than expected, they were able to regroup in the 2012 Clausura. Last spring saw Monterrey win the CCL title for the second year in a row, and fall just short in the league final to Santos Laguna.

With a deep and experienced team that isn't facing much turnover in the offseason, Monterrey has to be considered one of the strongest teams heading into the 2012 Apertura. That said, the latest CCL tournament starts at the end of the month and the next Club World Cup in Japan comes in December, meaning Monterrey will again have many irons in the fire during the remainder of 2012. It will be interesting to see if the team approaches the Liga MX season any differently this time around.

Stability has been one of the hallmarks of recent success for Monterrey, and the return of coach Victor Manuel Vucetich and the core of the squad means there shouldn't be considerable change this season. The only addition the club has made is that of midfielder Edgar Solis, who was most recently with Estudiantes Tecos. The Rayados did see a few players leave over the summer, perhaps most notably midfielder Luis Ernesto Perez, who has departed to join Chivas. Perez is the only regular starter to move on, and while his ability to defend and hold the ball in the midfield will be missed, dropping the 31-year old now is probably a wise move, especially considering the emergence of Jesus Zavala as a versatile central midfielder for club and country.

Besides Perez, the only other notable player to depart is forward Othoniel Arce, who has been loaned out to Club Leon. The 22-year old striker shows promise, but behind the potent striking corps of Suazo, Aldo de Nigris, and Angel Reyna, Arce wasn't going to see much playing time.

Key Question

Which competition will Vucetich prioritize? -- Although some coaches are apt to try for all trophies, the fixture congestion and mental and physical toll frequently forces a team's hand. In this situation, how will Vucetich react? By winning the CCL the last two years, it is clear that he values continental competitions. Considering the poor showing at the last Club World Cup, it also seems likely that the club will seek to represent Mexico and CONCACAF better this time around in Japan. But does that mean that the Liga MX will be the last priority? That may be a matter of debate, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Vucetich attempt to stay competitive on all three fronts. With the Club World Cup coming at the end of the season anyway, and being a short tournament, Vucetich will not have to worry about that for at least a few months. Meanwhile, CCL group play will only mean a single match each month between now and October, so that isn't exactly taxing either. Monterrey enter as heavy favorites in a group that consists of Municipal of Guatemala and Chorrillo of Panama. That leaves the Liga MX, and while Monterrey may not be in the hunt for the SuperLider this time around, they should be able to qualify for a liguilla spot without trouble. Still, it will be interesting to see how Vucetich approaches each competition and which lineups he uses game to game.

Mark Your Calendar

Week 15 vs. Santos Laguna: -- Both clubs are expected to be among the best once again into the season, and this will be a rematch of the 2012 Clausura final. Can Monterrey earn some revenge for the championship loss last May?

Prediction

Liguilla Semifinals -- It could all come crashing down like it did last year, but this is a team that seems to have the maturity and poise, not to mention talent, that few teams in global football possess. They may not make their way to the Apertura title, but the team will stay competitive all season. In addition, failure to progress out of the CCL group stage would be considered a failure, and this time around in Japan the team hopes to at least make the semifinals of the Club World Cup. Hopes are high, and Monterrey has the ability to compete on multiple fronts.

This is the sixteenth 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, Pachuca, Pumas UNAM, Chivas Guadalajara, Toluca, Cruz Azul, Monarcas Morelia, and Club America.

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