Mazatlan FC announced that Juan Francisco Palencia will become the first head coach of the team. The team which days ago was Monarcas Morelia did not have an agreement with ex-coach Pablo Guede and thus needed a new coach. The ex-player had coached before with Pumas, where he had played before and was part of their last Liga MX title, and Lobos BUAP. Palencia will have a team where many players might leave as the team goes through changes because of the relocation and the need to start in a different city. He’ll also need to navigate the club through a lot of animosity from other fans who didn’t take kindly to the disappearance of an historic team.
Francisco Palencia was a key figure as a player in Mexican football. Coming through Cruz Azul’s youth system, he became a favorite with the team, being a key part in the Cruz Azul team that won their last Liga MX title in Invierno 97. He became a national team mainstay, being part of the NT in the 1998 World Cup as well as the 1999 Confederations Cup, which is Mexico’s most important senior title. Then in 2001, he was a key figure in Cruz Azul’s run in the Copa Libertadores in which they became the first Mexican team to reach the final, only losing in penalties against Boca Juniors. Palencia had a good enough time to make a move to Spain and play one year in Espanyol. After the 2002 World Cup, Palencia went back to Cruz Azul but later left after problems with the higher ups. His next stop was Chivas, where he was part of another competitive team that made it to the semifinals in Copa Libertadores. After a spell in MLS with Chivas USA, Palencia returned to Mexico where he closed out his career in Pumas. With Pumas he won two Liga MX titles but was key in their last title, the Clausura 2011 where he scored two goals in the final series oddly enough against Morelia. Palencia went on and returned to football as a director in Chivas before moving on to head coach in Pumas and later on in Lobos BUAP.
Mazatlan FC has just stared as a club, but so far it has been very controversial. Palencia will have a tough task heading a team which brings so much negative emotions just for existing. Morelia fans will have a tough time thinking that the guy who was key in them losing the last Liga MX final they played will now be the first head coach of the team that ended them for the time being. Still knowing there are few job openings in Mexican football, Palencia will know that he has to make an impact and hopefully get his career back on track as he tries to become as good a coach as he was a Liga MX player.