Pumas UNAM will hope to bounce back from a disappointing finish to last season after they were beaten by rivals Club America in the Liguilla. The first test for Universitarios will be the 2018 Liga MX’s Apertura opening game against Veracruz. The Tiburones Rojos start a new season after narrowingly escaping relegation last season, a relegation battle that ended up being pointless after the Liga MX owners ditched relegation and allowed the relegated team to remain in Liga MX. Without the pressure of relegation, it will be interesting to see what a team like Veracruz sets itself up for this season.
Pumas go into this season after losing their top player, Nico Castillo, to Benfica. To replace Castillo, they brought in two new forward signings to make an impact from the start, Paraguayan Carlos Gonzalez and Chilean Felipe Mora.
The problem is even with Castillo at his best, it was never quite enough for Pumas. While they did manage to get back in the Liguilla last season, it all went to waste against América. It’s not just the fact they lost against their big rival, but they did it badly by losing 4-1 at home and 2-1 at the Estadio Azteca.
Despite the loss of Castillo and national team member Jesus Gallardo, fans are still hopeful. In addition to Gonzalez and Mora, they also added Ignacio Malcorra and Juan Manuel Iturbe from Tijuana and Martin Rodriguez from Cruz Azul. The worry is in the defense, where they failed to replace the departures of Luis Fuentes and Jose Carlos Van Rankin. There might also be some doubts with new goalkeeper Miguel Angel Fraga, who lost his starting spot with Morelia before joining Pumas.
Pumas will have tough away game from the start. Pumas had a great start to last season until this Veracruz team defeated them in Mexico City. The 2-1 loss started a debacle that didn’t change until the final games, and even then, the Universitarios never truly came back to the level they started with. The best example of this is Pumas going from a scoreless draw with America at home during the regular season, to losing badly 4-1 at home against that same Águilas team.
Hopefully for their fans, things are different. A strong start is what most fans hope for and expect against a Veracruz team that didn’t add much this summer and looks to follow the path of mediocrity that teams in Mexico will start to follow now that relegation is done for 2 years.
HOW TO WATCH, STREAM 2018 Copa MX
Date: Friday, July 20
Time: 5:00pm Pacific, 7:00pm Central, 9:00pm Eastern
Venue: Estadio Luis “Pirata” Fuente, Veracruz, Mexico
TV: Univision Deportes Network (US-Spanish)
Streaming: fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription),