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Who is to blame for Rayados’ lost season?

Tough decisions ahead for Monterrey front office

Monterrey v Veracruz - Torneo Apertura 2017 Liga MX Photo by Alfredo Lopez/LatinContent via Getty Images

Rayados de Monterrey march dead last in the Clausura 2020, with 0 wins, 5 draws, and 5 losses through 10 games played so far. Not only have they broken Chivas’ 2017 record for the worst start to the season by a current champion, but are now even at risk to record the worst season in the history of the club. For context, Rayados’ lowest point total for a season is 14. That happened twice (Verano 99 and Apertura 2007), and were the season to resume today they would now need win at least three of the remaining seven games to avoid establishing a new low. It’s not like Monterrey doesn’t have the team to accomplish that goal, but the added pressure of it combined with their disastrous form at the moment the league was put on pause could make it a real challenge.

Let’s be honest, not one single person could have predicted such a horrendous start to a season after being crowned champions, especiallywith the star-studded and talent-filled roster this team has had for the past decade. That said, every fan in the very least knows that this low level of play from Monterrey is not a new issue.

This inconsistency happened before, during current manager Antonio “Turco” Mohamed’s first tenure with the team (2015-2018). But what sticks out is that even when Rayados played their worst football under Mohamed, out of his six seasons he barely missed the playoffs twice, garnering the ninth seed in both and making the playoffs in the other four seasons, two of which resulted in a trip to the final.

Despite Diego Alonso’s two 30-point seasons in Apertura 2018 and Clausura 2019, there were many complaints about the team’s playing style, with Rayados adopting much more defensive stance. While this may have worked during the season and especially once they’d taken the lead, it was a different story in the playoffs when they reached the semis both times and were eliminated with poor outings.

With Alonso winning only one out of his final six games in the Apertura 2019, Mohamed reappeared just about a year and a half after his departure. He was able to turn this team full of quality and talent around, and went undefeated to close out the season (3 wins, 2 draws). That allowed Monterrey to slide in to eighth on the final day of the regular season and meant they were going to the playoffs. Mohamed saw his team’s momentum carry into the first round against Santos and in the semis against Necaxa, where they were superior in both series.

Monterrey Unveils Antonio Mohamed As New Head Coach Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

And after placing third in an amazing Club World Cup display, especially their memorable matchup against Premier League side Liverpool where they probably played their best game in the Mohamed era, Rayados came back and completed the play, by lifting their fifth title in franchise history.

How could this team who had shown a world class level a month before get off to the worst start in Liga MX history for a franchise who just won a title? Lazy displays, a lack of offensive depth, not following defensive coverages and runs adequately, a static midfield, rivals’ shots off the post, and getting absolutely dominated against non-contending teams. Ridiculous and unacceptable for a team who is expected to be in the top four every season.

The answer to that question can be defined in two words: the players. Rogelio Funes Mori, Celso Ortiz, Dorlan Pabon, Miguel Layun, and Jesus Gallardo just to name a few, are what happened. It amazes me how one team can have so much talent and how they should be competing for a title every six months can just sit back and play such poor and lazy football for such a long period of time, as they watch rivals come in to their own stadium and figure them out so easily as well as not being up for a match on the road. Out of the eight months of this soccer year, Monterrey has been bad for six of them. That is not an accident. By the way, Copa MX is no consolation.

Did things just start to go right by accident when Mohamed arrived? Of course not. The players were motivated by the change of their leader, played to their potential with a good coach, and once the objective was conquered, complacency kicked in. When you see the exact group of players do the same thing with two different coaches, that means the coach is probably not at fault. Especially when the coach you bring in took you to two finals in six seasons and left you atop the relegation table when he left in 2018. Not to mention he just helped you win your first league title in nine years.

So, what is the solution? Pull out the bad roots. In sports, all things, be it good or bad, come to an end. Rayados had a good run with this base of players, no doubt. The last five years have been very good ones results-wise overall, this entire soccer year has been a showing of what’s to come if Monterrey doesn’t start to rebuild or at least refresh some positions. All franchises do it at some point. And with the kind of economic power Rayados have, it shouldn’t be too much of a bumpy ride as they reload and bring in hungrier players.

Like all big clubs in the world, newer and better players are constantly brought in to maintain the competitive edge and level within the club. With a powerhouse like Monterrey, it should be no different. There’s no room for players that aren’t hungry. How do Barcelona, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, etc., stay competitive for so long? The moment a player stops wanting it, they give someone else a chance. No room for the complacent. And Monterrey’s players have been that long enough. We’ll see if they do anything about it.