Now that the smoke has cleared and the Clausura 2018 is done. It is time to look back at the players that made the biggest difference. The players that stood out from the crowd and made their mark on the season.
I have chosen to go with a 4-2-3-1 lineup because so many Liga MX clubs have made it their go-to line up this season. In defense, this lineup features two center backs that hold down the fort and two fullbacks that get up and down the field to add width to the team. The midfield features two holding midfielders that win the ball back and distribute it right away, as well as three players generating offense up the middle and on the wings. A lone striker is featured up front, acting as a target man and finisher. Without further ado, here are my picks for the best XI of the season.
Talavera has been playing at a high level for many seasons now but this one was one of his best. He has matured into one of the best all-round goalkeepers in the league. The assurance that he gives Toluca helps the defense play the ball out with precise passes, instead of having to rush to get it out. His shot blocking ability and command of the area set him apart from his peers. This season he received 111 shots on target and managed to keep out 27%, making him one of the most effective starting goalkeepers in the league. Sure, he made some mistakes in the final, but Toluca would have never got there in the first place without him.
Right Back- Paul Aguilar- Club América
This position gave me some trouble because there are many good right backs but none that stand head and shoulders above the rest. I had to go with, who I believed, to be the most consistent player in the position, Paul Aguilar. America had one of the best defenses in the league and finished second overall because of how solid they are at the back. He is capable of delivering great crosses and passes in offense. He is very sure of himself in defense and has been a constant starter for may seasons. He has all the necessary skills that a team needs for a “lateral”.
Center Back- Nestor Araujo-Santos Laguna
Araujo is a force to be reckoned with in defense. His strength and the timing of his tackles make him the best Mexican CB in the league. Santos and El Tri both like to get the ball out of defense with precise passing and he is one of the best at it. His all-around game is beyond solid and he has very few weaknesses. When he went down with injury late in the season, Santos felt the loss tremendously. El Tri was praying and hoping that he would recover in time to make the World Cup because he is so valuable to the team. Unfortunately, Araujo will miss the 2018 World Cup.
Center Back- Bruno Valdéz- Club America
Club America had one of the best defenses in the league this season, this was due in large part to their two center backs. Valdez stands out to me more because of his size. He is a bit smaller than the big/strong defenders that most clubs want but he more than makes up for it with his skills. He is always anticipating attackers and beating them to the ball, therefore making it less likely that they can push him off the ball. He is also a threat to score from corners because of his leaping ability. This season he scored three times.
Left Back-Jorge Torres Nilo-Tigres UANL
With all the big names and expensive foreign talent that Tigres brings in, there is always one constant in the lineup, Jorge Torres-Nilo. He has not lost his starting spot in more than 5 seasons. He is confident defending in the air, in one-on-one situations and still has the speed to get up the wing to add to the offense. Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti requires his team to always be on high alert in defense and keeps his players on a tight leash, but this has not hindered Torres-Nilo and his ability to attack and put in crosses for the attacking players.
Central/Defensive Midfielder-Damián Musto-Tijuana
If you were to artificially build a prototypical defensive midfielder, Musto would be the result. He is big, strong, and relentless. He has had a few different partners in the central midfield, but he has been a mainstay for Diego Cocca. His relentless pursuit of the ball gets him in trouble with fouls and cards, but in his position, that is almost second nature. Without him, Tijuana would not have been the team that received the least amount of goals, nor would they have been in the semifinals without his talent and effort.
Central/Defensive Midfielder-Gallito Vazquez-Santos Laguna
What Vazquez lacks in size he more than makes up for in effort and skill. His pursuit of the ball in midfield on defense is second to none in the league. He is equally capable of distributing the ball as he is at winning it. Wherever he plays, his team wins championships and this year was no exception with Santos Laguna. His experience and skill were invaluable to Santos in their championship run.
Attacking Midfielder- Elias Hernandez-Leon
His numbers may be down from last season, but Hernandez is still one of the top playmakers in Liga MX. This season he was asked to track back a bit more, therefore he only scored 4 goals and dished out 3 assists. But make no mistake about it, he thrives when he is given more freedom to create and go up the field. His outstanding play finally earned him a big money move to a bigger club (Cruz Azul).
Attacking Midfielder- Rubens Sambueza-Toluca
In the attacking third of the field there are few players that are as good as Sambueza. He usually plays from the wing and then cuts inside. Once in the middle, he is a goalscoring threat and an excellent playmaker. His disciplinary record and attitude have caused him problems throughout his career but there is no denying his talent. This season he completed the more passes in attack than any other player. Liga MX and Toluca are very lucky to have such a talented player.
Attacking Midfielder- Keisuke Honda-Pachuca
Honda came to Liga MX this year after having a very good career in Europe. I was skeptical of him at first but I was proven wrong. He did not come just to collect a paycheck and retire. As usual, grupo Pachuca showed that they know how to scout and bring in quality players. Honda was very accurate with his passing and his ability on the ball was a huge boost to Pachuca. He also contributed with 7 goals, more than doubling his total from last season. The team as a whole underperformed but Honda was definitely a pleasant surprise this season.
Striker-Djaniny Tavares-Santos Laguna
Liga MX has a lot of amazing forwards, but when naming my ideal XI, I had to go with the top scorer of the league and member of the championship winning team. Djaniny Tavares absolutely tore it up this season despite being hampered by nagging injuries throughout. His speed and positioning make him a nightmare for opposing defenders. His team plays a lot of through balls and crosses for him, making him a constant goalscoring threat. It has been some time since Liga MX has had an African player with this much talent, at least not since François Omam-Biyik.
✅Great composure— ClubSantosLaguna (@ClubSantosEn) May 18, 2018
The game-tying goal by Djaniny Tavares, Guerreras and Guerreros. ♂️ pic.twitter.com/mmDvgvWhmv
Coach-Roberto Hernandez Ayala-Morelia
It would be easy for me to choose many other head coaches for this award but I have to go with Roberto Hernandez Ayala because of what he does with so little. His team manages to overachieve almost every season. The operating budget that Monarcas Morelia has is miniscule compared to some of the heavy spenders in Liga MX. Despite working with very little, he manages to get his team to the Liguilla every season. I would bet that many of us would have a hard time naming a Morelia player besides Raul Ruidiaz. Toluca had a very hard time with Morelia in the Liguilla this season. They tied both games and only went through because of their higher position in the table. If he gets a chance to work with a higher budget in Morelia or elsewhere, I could see him winning a title in the near future.
Keep in mind that this article is completely subjective. If you agree or disagree with my picks, let me know in the comments below.