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Season preview: Santos Laguna

While not much has changed since last season, everything has changed.

Santos Laguna v Necaxa - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX Photo by Armando Marin/Jam Media/Getty Images

For a team that didn’t have a whole lot of turnover, there are a ton of questions surrounding Santos Laguna as they head into the 2020 Apertura. Sure the departure of captain Jonathan Orozco was big, but Santos was able to effectively trade him to Tijuana for Gibran Lajud. They also picked up Manuel Balda from Atlas on the right wing, who will be an upgrade on the wildly inconsistent Erick “La Culebra” Castillo, who followed Spider Orozco to La Frontera Norte. Gael Sandoval was also picked up from Chivas to bolster the squad, as well as Jesús Ocejo and Ronaldo Prieto from Tampico Madera.

So why the questions?

The big loss of the offseason was left winger Brian Lozano, who broke his leg early in the offseason. Lozano was the spark of Santos’ offense, making runs down the left before hitting crosses in or cutting in on goal, both with equally devastating effect on opposing defenses. Sandoval will most likely be asked to shoulder that load, and while he’s shown that he can play at that level, he hasn’t shown he can do it consistently. Ayrton Preciado has shown some promise, but he too has been inconsistent and is reported to be injured as well.

Without Lozano to force defenses to remain honest and remain wide, it will be up to Julio Furch to shoulder the load of the scoring. He’s shown he can do it, although in the past couple of seasons he’s ceded a lot of the responsibility to Lozano and attacking midfielders like Lalo “Mudo” Aguirre. Someone will need to step up and produce.

At the other end, Lajud will most likely have to wait to get his chance as Carlos Acevedo will be the number one goalkeeper going in to the season. Not only does the youngster have the #1 jersey, but he played all 90 minutes in the preseason friendly against Monterrey and seems to have the backing of the fans as well. Acevedo performed admirably over the past couple of seasons when Orozco was injured or suspended, and giving homegrown players opportunities to excel on the big stage is ingrained in Santos’ DNA as a club. That said, Acevedo will feel the pressure of being the number one and having a player like Lajud waiting in the wings for his opportunity.

If there’s a club that has been consistently good no matter what offseason moves are made, it’s Santos Laguna. This season starts with many questions, but they’ve always seemed to have the answers readily available.

Additions: Gibran Lajud (GK - Tijuana), Ismael Govea (RB - Atlas), Jesús Ocejo (MF - Tampico Madero), Gael Sandoval (LW - Guadalajara), Ronaldo Prieto (CAM - Tampico Madero), Manuel Balda (RW - Atlas)

Departures: Jonathan Orozco (GK - Tijuana), Erick Castillo (RW - Tijuana)