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Pumas UNAM: Worthy Champions

Looking back on the Mexican season that ended with a wonder goal by Pumas UNAM youngster Javier Cortes to seal the final against Monarcas Morelia, it seems fitting and logical that the Mexico City university team should win the league.

Combining players that were sprouted from the team´s youth system – Javier Cortes, David Cabrera, Antonio Palacios, Marco Antonio Palacios, Israel Castro, Efrain Velarde, Luis Fuentes – with foreign stalwarts like Argentine Martin Bravo, Paraguayan Dante Lopez, Brazilian Leandro and Francisco Palencia, proved a winning formula.

The reasons aren´t rocket science. The delicate balance between youth and experience was hit right on the head by Pumas and, aside from one bad result away at Monterrey, they won the playoffs with relative ease. The youngsters were hungry for a trophy while the older players knew that not many opportunities remain.

It is especially fitting that Palencia, the Mexican league´s equivalent of Ryan Giggs, should get two of the goals in the final for Pumas. Experience raised its hand to be counted. Then, in the 77th minute, youth had the final word. When Cortes picked up the ball in the 77th minute on the right wing, there seemed little threat to Vilar´s (Ringo Starr lookalike, anyone?) goal. Less than five seconds later the ball was in the net. Cortes had slalomed his way through three Morelia defenders and smashed the ball into the roof of the Morelia net.

The two goals on Sunday summarized the essence of Pumas this year. The blend of youth and experience, players brought up in the club and select foreigners, worked to clinical effect.

New players will be needed eventually for Pumas to maintain the delicate balance they obtained this season but fans won´t care about that right now. They are too busy celebrating.

The big question remains though. Why don´t other teams use the Pumas model?