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Pumas UNAM | 2016 Liga MX Apertura Preview

Pumas and new coach Francisco Palencia are set for a very difficult season.

Miguel Tovar/LatinContent/Getty Images

A new season brings a lot of new changes in Pumas, but most of them are not positive in the least. Jorge Borja's tenure as Pumas President ended after last season, leaving Rodrigo Ares de Parga's tenure to begin in tumultuous fashion. News came that there were severe money problems and the terrible elimination from Copa Libertadores against Independiente del Valle (widely considered one of the worst losses in recent times) emboldened the board to part ways with Guillermo Vasquez as coach after he took exception to the lack of additions that were planned. At the draft, Pumas then proceeded to sell their best player, Ismael Sosa, to Tigres for millions at a severe reduction to their debt but also at the cost of the team's chances of having a good season.

New coach, new times

To replace Vasquez, Pumas went with new coach Francisco Palencia. Palencia, one of the most iconic players in Mexican football in the 90's and 00's, did so well at Pumas that the once Cruz Azul star ended up a Pumas icon, leading Pumas to league title in 2011. But while it's good for Pumas to give a chance to a young Mexican coach, the fact of the matter is that money was the main reason that this door was opened. Palencia doesn't have the best squad for his Liga MX debut. Pumas not only lost their best player in Sosa but had to return Colombians Luis Quiñones and Francisco Meza to Tigres from loans. Quiñones had been the best addition this past season to Pumas and will be severely missed. Pumas also lost veteran bench player Daniel Ludueña, surprisingly good defender Hibert Ruiz, good substitute midfielder David Cabrera, and veteran Dante Lopez. Pumas' only notable addition in the draft was former player Pablo Barrera, who has had severe problems with injuries. After the draft they signed two Spanish players, Saul Berjon and Abraham Gonzalez, who had modest careers in Spain. The best news in the transfer front was that selling Sosa stopped the bleeding enough that Pumas was able to keep their best defender, Gerardo Alcoba, and their national team forward Eduardo Herrera. Yet it's definitely a weaker squad.

Two fronts and few possibilities.

Because of Pumas second place performance in Apertura 2015, they are going to play in the CONCACAF Champions League. Luckily they got one of the easiest group with W. Connection from Trinidad and Honduras Progreso. Getting out of the group is a must but there are not many possibilities to go farther than Quarterfinals. The only good news is the QF round is in 2017.  In the league it looks like it will be a struggle for Pumas to even make the Liguilla. While keeping Matias Britos, Herrera and Fidel Martinez is a huge benefit for Pumas, the rest of the team has taken a step backward and players like Javier Cortes will need to put a lot of effort to make an impact without much help. While this might be a good opportunity for Pumas youth players to get into the team, the reality is that Pumas decline with the youth team has been going on for a while and it will take time for them to go back to old times when they were the premier youth system in Mexican football. A weaker squad from a team that struggled last season, a new coach, and another year with international competition all point for a tough road ahead for Pumas in the second half of 2016.