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Mexican Primera Previews, Apertura 2011, Team By Team: Atlante FC

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One of the biggest surprises of last season was the turnaround of Atlante. After consecutive seasons finishing in 16th place in the full league table, Atlante jumped all the way to a 4th place finish in the 2011 Clausura. The team from Cancun earned eight wins in the Clausura, matching their win total from the two previous seasons combined.

Leading the turnaround was a resurgent offense sparked by the play of Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez. The attacking midfielder put together probably the finest season of his career, leading the team in scoring with nine goals. Hobbit's scoring explosion, combined with solid play from strikers Giancarlo Maldonado and Francisco "Kikin" Fonseca, helped turn Atlante into one of the top scoring teams in the league (only Morelia and America finished the regular season with more goals). All of this was even more surprising because the team lost their leading scorer -- Johan Fano -- heading into last season. Fano had single-handedly carried the Atlante offense for at least two seasons, and without his presence most figured the team would struggle to replace him in the Clausura. Not only did they replace him, but with a 60% increase in scoring output over the previous season, Atlante blew all expectations out of the water.

The big question now is, can "Hobbit" Bermudez play another full season at such a high level? The first task will be putting a disappointing offseason behind him. Bermudez's summer should have been a great one, after his selection to Mexico's Gold Cup Squad. Unfortunately, he ended up being sent home along with four other players for the infamous failed drug test. Not exactly the summer Bermudez had planned. Back with Atlante, he now needs to use this disappointment as motivation for the upcoming season.

Along with Bermudez, the other key scoring pieces also return for the Potros this season. Maldonado is back, and Atlante management also locked down the services of Fonseca (who was previously with the team on loan from Tigres).

New acquisitions of note include midfielder Osvaldo Martinez from Monterrey. Martinez will add a new attacking dimension to the right side of the midfield. Atlante also brought in two intriguing midfielders from Argentina -- Matias Cordoba and Juan Cuevas. Attacking midfielder Cordoba, who began his career with Argentinos Juniors, should be able to find a spot in the lineup. Cuevas, a talented 23-year-old, spent the last two seasons in Mexico with San Luis. Cuevas has a huge upside and could work his way into the starting lineup on the left side of the midfield.

Duplicating the success of last season will obviously be tough for Atlante. Realistically the team overachieved a bit in their run to a top four finish in the Clausura standings. Nevertheless, this year's team is certainly talented enough to earn another Liguilla spot. With the core of last year's attacking talent joined by some new blood in the midfield, look for the Potros to make their second straight trip to the postseason.

Key Player

Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez -- Hobbit is the engine that runs the Atlante offense. The play of Bermudez will determine if the Atlante attack can match last season's scoring marks. If he can maintain his recent form, Atlante have a great chance to make a return trip to the Liguilla..

Key Acquisition

Osvaldo Martinez -- A huge talent, Martinez should make an impact on the field for Atlante this season. Martinez, though, did miss most of the club's preseason training while on duty with the Paraguay national team in Copa America. The challenge for Atlante will be working him comfortably into the lineup as soon as possible after his return.

Prediction

Borderline Liguilla qualification -- Atlante laid a solid foundation for consistent success last season, but it will be extremely difficult to match their fourth place finish. Even with the key players back from last season, look for the Potros to slip a few places in the standings. Seventh or eighth place and a postseason berth would still be considered a successful season for Atlante.

This is the seventh in our series of Mexican Primera team previews. Check out the earlier previews of Club Tijuana XolosQueretaro FCJaguares de ChiapasEstudiantes TecosClub Atlas, and Puebla FC.