The 2018 Apertura is quickly leaving us. Just a few days remain before a new champion is crowned. The regular season ended a few weeks ago, but there are still questions that need answering, including, who were the best 11 players of the semester? Each one of our staff writers picked their best XI of the season (with some reserves) and we have taken those results to make the perfect Liga MX All-Star team. These players were leaders in their positions and fundamental in helping their squads acheive success this season, all while shining themselves. Without further ado, here are our picks for the 2018 Apertura Team of the Season.
Tiago Volpi, Querétaro
The Brazilian shot-stopper’s miraculous saves and man-of-the-match-worthy performances week in and week out keep him at the top of the list of best goalies. Volpi racked up the third-most saves during the regular season (73) behind Lobos’ Antonio Rodriguez and Morelia’s Sebastian Sosa (both with 86), but his six clean sheets helped lead Queretaro to just its fourth liguilla berth in its history. His mere presence on the goal line makes set-piece goals and penalties twice as hard for opponents. Corona may have had a better defensive line, Marchesin and Gudiño may have soaked up media coverage in big moments, but Volpi right now is the guy you want at No. 1.
José de Jesús Corona (Cruz Azul), Raúl Gudiño (Chivas), Agustín Marchesín (America), Sebastián Sosa (Morelia)
Adrián Aldrete, Cruz Azul
At 30 years old, Aldrete is going into the tail end of his career and may not ever get to wear an El Tri jersey again. Even though his national team days are numbered, that doesn’t discount his first-rate league play. Aldrete was a part of the best defensive line in the league, allowing just 13 goals all season. He had no trouble contributing up the pitch as well, assisting four goals and blessed with a masterful long shot that always puts opposing teams on edge during corners.
Pablo Aguilar, Cruz Azul
Aguilar is at his fourth Liga MX team, but wherever he goes he makes a huge impact. This year was no different. The former Xolo was one of Cruz Azul’s most important signings of the summer. With three goals to his name and having started all 21 of Cruz Azul’s matches, Aguilar is untouchable. He’s as solid a center back as they come and a natural-born winner, having already collected two Liga MX titles, two CONCACAF Champions League titles, a Paraguayan league title and a Copa MX. Will he add another Liga MX medal to his accumulation?
Bruno Valdez, Club América
How many center backs do you know lead their team in scoring? Well, you’re about to meet two of them. First up is Valdez, who possesses one of, if not, the best header in the country. If there is a set piece or a corner kick, you better mark him (if you can), because it never goes well for the opposition when it doesn’t. Seven goals to his name so far this season, three of which have come in the playoffs. The Paraguayan international is definitely one to watch in this week’s final two-game series, and his deadly header could just make the difference in the end.
Nicolás Sánchez, Monterrey
From an already crowded Monterrey backline emerged Nico Sanchez, who played in every game this season for Rayados for the first time in his Liga MX career. The former River Plate and Racing defender mirrors Valdez with seven goals this season, most of which have come from headers. Not only that, but Sanchez has become Monterrey’s consistent first-choice penalty taker, a position the northern club desperately needed filling. He’s become more than a great player, but a vocal leader and a dependable force in Diego Alonso’s starting XI.
Gabriel Achilier (Morelia), Hugo Ayala (Tigres), José Javier Abella (Santos), Emanuel Aguilera (America)
Guido Rodríguez, Club América
Rodriguez has everything you could want in a defensive midfielder: he’s a tough-minded enforcer, posseses high passing accuracy and a MEAN long shot. This was truly a breakout season for the Argentine international as he established himself a true superstar on both ends for the club. A player who was known for being a hothead, Rodriguez has toned that down this season and was on the receiving end of only three yellow cards. He’s crucial to the America midfield and has played every single minute of the Apertura. Don’t be surprised if Rodriguez plays a big role or has some special moments in the final two games against La Maquina.
Elías Hernández, Cruz Azul
If this was a list of the best El Tri players this season, Hernandez would be no where near it. Fortunetely for him, this is a list of the best Liga MX players and El Patrullero is SO GOOD in Liga MX. Much like his teammates Aldrete and Aguilar, Hernandez has become a key player in every team he has been a part of. He is arguably Cruz Azul’s best signing of the summer and the motor of La Maquina’s attack. Six goals and seven assists this season don’t even begin to discuss his talent. Hernandez is great in 1v1 duels, winning 16 of them over the course of the season and has also won 15 balls in rival territory, according to CITEC. If Las Aguilas have to fear one man, it has to be Elias.
Víctor Guzmán, Pachuca
Let’s go back in time: Jan. 28, 2018. Pachuca was one goal down against Tigres, but in the 60th minute, an ACL injury forced Guzman out of the game and cost him not only the rest of the season, but a trip to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Guzman was already one of Mexico’s crown jewels in the league, and a spot in Juan Carlos Osorio’s 23-man roster was almost certain. However, many wondered whether he would come back the same player. He returned this season and put any and all of those doubts to rest: Nine goals, five assists, 77 percent passing accuracy and 79 percent of tackles won per game. He has the most potential of any Mexican player playing this side of the hemisphere, and one has to wonder whether his time in Liga MX will come to an end sometime soon. Apparently, Europe’s already calling.
Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Diego Lainez (America), Guido Pizarro (Tigres)
Franco Jara, Pachuca
This spot could have gone to any of our honorable mentions below, but Jara received the most votes. El Jinete, as he’s known, linked up with Pocho Guzman to become one of the deadliest offensive duos in the country with 18 goals between them. He’s a classic No. 9 with great playmaking skills as well. Pachuca had a great season with Jara leading the way and the team should have made the playoffs, but a couple of bad losses over the course of the year and a choke job against Leon in the last Jornada kept them out. It’s a real shame. Cruz Azul would have had a much harder time keeping up with Los Tuzos and Jara.
André-Pierre Gignac, Tigres UANL
The top scorer of the league, Gignac found the back of the net 14 times. He was one of two players (Guzman) to score FOUR goals in a single game (vs. Puebla). With Tigres’ slew of options up front, Gignac’s position on the pitch has morphed into a more conservative role over the years, but the goals still find a way to keep on coming. The Frenchman is a true modern icon in Tigres and in Mexican soccer, and even at 33 years old, he looks to be getting even better with age.
Julio Furch, Santos Laguna
For much of the season, Furch held the title of No. 1 goalscorer until the final weeks. When Liga MX-winning manager Robert Siboldi parted ways with Santos, many skeptics thought it spelled doom for the defending champions. Little did they know just the kind of season awaited Furch. 12 goals in the league, five assists, and when paired with Jonathan Rodriguez, Santos quickly picked up steam and never looked back. Los Guerreros finished fourth in the league and Furch’s incredible headers, positioning and crafty work inside the area cemented the possibly soon-to-be Mexican as the best poacher in Liga MX.
Jonathan Rodríguez (Santos), Carlos González (Pumas), Camilo Sanvezzo (Queretaro)
No matter who lifts up the trophy Dec. 16, we have all witnessed one of the best team turnarounds of the past few years. In Caixinha’s first season in Mexico City, Cruz Azul finished 12th in the league and won just five games. After a summer filled with 10 signings, six of which who immediately contributed to the squad, Caixinha led Cruz Azul to a eight-game unbeaten run at the beginning of the season, 11 total wins, a first-place finish, a Copa MX title, a league-low 13 goals allowed and a trip to the Liga MX final for the first time in over five years. He’s already a hero to every Maquina fan, and should his side reign victorious this weekend, he’ll be anything short of a legend for ending the painful 20-year title drought that has haunted Cruz Azul for far too long.
Rafael Puente, Jr. (Queretaro), Salvador Reyes, Jr. (Santos)
Player of the Season
There’s a couple of players that come to mind when you think of soccer stars that are above the competition in their league. Think Carlos Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Josef Martinez in the MLS. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in Ligue 1. Possibly Hirving Lozano in the Eredivisie. That’s what APG10 is in the Liga MX. He may have off games, but when he’s on, he’s on another level. This was Gignac’s most successful regular season in terms of goals scored, and his games against Veracruz, Queretaro, America and Puebla show off his best performances this season. Super saison, André. Nous nous attendons à plus l’année prochaine!
The Committee (who voted):
Antonio Tinajero @antonio1998__
Eugene Rupinski @golazodelgringo
Nestor Esquivel @nesquivelli
Jahir Martinez @jmart1018
Rafael Diaz @rafarambles
Rafael Hernandez @comediamx
Jesus Torres @jmtorres_80
Zacharias Eduardo @fronterizafut
Now it’s your turn! Give us your best XI from the Liga MX season! Who was the best player this Apertura? Best manager? We want to hear from you!