Club Leon, 2012 Apertura Preview: Return to the Primera

Leon team profile

The team is highly celebrated, considered an essential component in the annals of Mexican futbol, and carries a rich history dating back to the earliest years of Mexico's professional league. That team -- Club Leon -- now prepares to make its return to Mexico’s Primera division, after numerous failed attempts over the past ten years.

Located in the state of Guanajuato, the city of Leon is one of the biggest and most commercial cities in central Mexico; it was just a matter of time before they had a team back in the top flight. Leon comes directly from a dominant championship season in Mexico’s Primera A, where they earned their ticket to play in Mexico’s top league by defeating Correcaminos UAT in the postseason promotion playoff.

Leon now has a chance to make its mark in Mexico’s Primera. Under the command of experienced and well known coach Gustavo Matosos, Leon will have an opportunity to show that they deserve a permanent spot as a top team. Matosas has plenty of experience in the top division after saving Queretaro from relegation in 2011, and with Leon’s new acquisitions, the team has an excellent shot to make an impact their first season back.

Leon wasted no time in bringing in reinforcements. Leon added players like Johnny Magallon, who brings much-needed experience and leadership on the team's backline. Dulio Davino, who has stated for many years that he would like to retire with Leon, now comes back to the team where his father made his name. Leon has also acquired Javier Munoz Mustafa, Christian Martinez, Othoniel Arce, Edgar “Chore” Mejia and the always promising Edgar Pacheco. Though Leon brought in many new faces, the team also held on to several of the key players who helped win the Championship in Primera A. Experienced players like Uruguayan forward Nelson Sebastian Maz, who has scored 14 goals in 24 games for Leon, and could be fighting for top goal scorer this coming season. Others returning include Oscar Mascorro, a solid defender who has bounced around various teams before settling well with Leon, and Hernan Dario Burbano, a speedy Colombian midfielder who signed with Leon last winter.

Even with this mix-up of veteran and new players, Leon has a responsibility to its loyal fan base to perform at a high level and earn results in their first season back in the Primera. In reality, it’s difficult at times to make the transition from Primera A to top flight futbol in Mexico. Many teams take one season to test the waters and usually end up at mid-table or below; Leon might be one of those teams.

Potential Breakout Star

Dario Burbano -- The 24-year-old Colombian midfielder brings loads of speed and attacking talent to the Primera Division. Burbano was a force to be reckoned with on the left wing for Leon last season, so expect him to continue giving opposing defenses fits in his first season in Mexico's top division.

Redemption Song

Edgar Pacheco -- Pacheco continues to be an enigmatic player in the Mexican league and even with the Mexican National team. His breakout performance with Atlas at the start of his career made many of us believe that Pacheco would be a star. After a failed stint with Tigres, Pacheco has a great opportunity to prove what he is made of in Leon. If he shows glimpses of the talent we know is there, he could instantly become a fan favorite at Leon this season.

Mark Your Calendar

Week 5 vs. Cruz Azul -- In week 5 Cruz Azul makes a visit to Leon, marking the first time in over ten years that one of Mexico's “big four” clubs will enter Estadio Nou Camp for an official match. By week 5, teams usually start adapting to the tournament, so this game should be a great one to watch in front of a rabid Leon crowd.

Prediction

Mid-Table -- Leon will have a decent first season back in Primera, but not quite good enough to qualify for the liguilla. Leon may make a solid run and end up two or three spots behind that crucial eighth place spot, but it would be a huge surprise if the team made it into the liguilla. Nevertheless, Leon will almost certainly be one of the strongest teams at home this upcoming season.

This is the fourth in our series of Liga MX team previews ahead of the Apertura 2012 season. See our earlier previews of San Luis, Club Atlas, and Queretaro.

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