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Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final: Morelia's Surprising Run

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In the Apertura 2010, Monarcas Morelia were not a very good team. They finished 12th in the league, and it was a deserved 12th place finish. Their defense was okay, but that was just as much a product of the boring, defensive style of football that Morelia played as it was the skill level of their defenders. Elias Hernandez was solid, as was Hugo Drougett, but Drougett was on his way out the door. Additionally, age looked to finally be getting the better of Miguel Sabah. Things looked bad for Morelia.

It's incredible how a couple of small things can turn a below average team into a great team. Drougett was replaced by Joao Rojas from Emelec in Ecuador, and he's been a revelation. With Cruz Azul's dips in form and Drougett's injury, they have ended up with the much better player. Jaime Lozano came on loan from Cruz Azul as part of that deal, and he's been fantastic. Hernandez and Sabah have produced at similar levels to the last tournament. Aldo Ramirez has picked up his form considerably. It's been all sunshine and rainbows for Morelia this year.

But wait, we haven't even gotten to the biggest improvement.

As good as all of those players are, their accomplishments don't quite measure up to Morelia's most important and most improved player this season. That would be Rafael Marquez Lugo, who has so far increased his goal scoring output from last season by a whopping nine goals. Of course, many of those have come in playoffs, which Morelia didn't play in last year, but that should not be a detraction. To use an American sports cliche, big players play big in big games. 

With no big money signings and no drastic changes, Morelia have gone from an incredibly boring team who couldn't score goals to save their lives to one of the best teams in Mexico. Props to Tomas Boy for turning this team around so quickly, and props to the ownership of Morelia for not making a reactionary decision and firing Boy after one poor season. Level-headed managerial decisions and continuity are rare in Mexico, but they are exactly what has brought Morelia back from their previous depths.