Another season has come and gone, and trust me, this one’s going down in the history books immediately.
Cruz Azul finally broke its 23-year league title drought curse and defeated Santos Laguna 2-1 on aggregate. La Maquina itself boasted several players that played at an all-star-caliber level this season, and you can find those, and others, in our list of who we think make up the Guard1anes 2021 Team of the Season.
As always, leave your thoughts in the comments. Who’d we miss? Who doesn’t deserve it? Make your own XI and challenge us to a fistfight. The victor wins absolutely nothing, but it's fun to debate, isn’t it?
Check out last season’s Team of the Season here.
GK: Antony Silva
Puebla | Paraguay
Antony Silva acaba de protagonizar la, probablemente, mejor atajada del año.— Señor Fútbol Py (@SrFutbolPy) February 7, 2021
Descomunal el paraguayo. pic.twitter.com/71vIRm9Llb
Saves from inside box: 47 | 1st
Saves: 74 | 2nd
Clean Sheets: 7 | 4th
Without a doubt the best signing of the winter transfer window. Puebla acquired Paraguay’s No. 1 shot-stopper on a free from Nacional Asuncion and the 37-year-old wasted no time getting settled in the league. He was a big reason behind Puebla’s monumental season, which was fueled by a rock-solid defense that only conceded 14 goals, the fourth least in Liga MX.
Backup: Carlos Acevedo (Santos Laguna, Mexico)
This was really close. This season was Acevedo’s breakout season, without a doubt. He made it all the way to the final and has earned his way into National Team talks. Watch this space.
RB: Juan Escobar
Cruz Azul | Paraguay
Shots on Target: 9 | 1st
Accurate Crosses: 11 | 4th
Total Duels Won: 102 | 7th
Escobar was crowned champion with Cruz Azul after yet another solid season with La Maquina. He’s one of the best right-backs in Liga MX at going forward and getting involved in attacks, but was still rigid in defense enough to cover his tracks and take on opposing attackers with ease.
Backup: George Corral (Puebla, Mexico)
Another one of Puebla’s stars this season, Corral offered the underdog team a veteran leader with great passing, vision, and tackling.
CB: Pablo Aguilar
Cruz Azul | Paraguay
Accurate Long Balls: 83 | 4th
Clearances: 77 | 5th
Aerial Duels Won: 54 | 8th
Even at 34 years old, Pablo Aguilar is still as strong and sturdy as ever holding down the line for the best defense in Liga MX. Cruz Azul conceded just 11 goals in the regular season, and just four more in the playoffs, two of them coming from penalties. You simply could not break down their defense this seasson, and Aguilar is a big reason for that.
Backup: Anderson Santamaria (Atlas, Peru)
Atlas finally had a good season, and a lot of it has to do with Santamaria leveling up to an elite defender this season. The Peruvian international is one to watch at this summer’s Copa America.
CB: Matheus Doria
Santos Laguna | Brazil
#LigaMX | EVITÓ EL PRIMERO— ONCE Diario (@oncediariomx) May 28, 2021
Matheus Dória, de #Santos, interceptó un balón y cortó una jugada clara de peligro por Cabecita Rodríguez. #CruzAzul perdió su primera oportunidad de un mano a mano.
Blocked Shots: 9 | 1st
Clearances: 83 | 3rd
Accurate Long Balls: 92 | 3rd
Aerial Duels Won: 58 | 7th
The former Marseille man was a tower alongside Felix Torres for the runners-up this season. Doria is the definition of a brute; a tough, no-nonsense player and he’s just as great in the air as he is on the ground.
Backup: Nicolas Freire (Pumas UNAM, Argentina)
If Pumas had as good of an offense as its defense, they’d be one of the best teams in the league. Last season, Freire’s partner Johan Vasquez was on our Starting XI and this time around the Argentine makes the bench.
LB: Erick Aguirre
Pachuca | Mexico
Accurate Opp. Half Passes: 371 | 1st
Key Passes: 24 | 2nd
Successful Dribbles: 17 | 5th
Aguirre upgraded from being a bench option on our Team of the Season last season to being a starter this time. At 24, he already serves as one of Pachuca’s vice-captains and a versatile force to be reckoned with. He can play anywhere on the pitch and the talent to be successful wherever he roams. He serves as the Mexico U-23’s captain, so watch out for him at the Summer Olympics.
Backup: Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey, Mexico)
Another solid season under Gallardo’s belt with Rayados. Mexico’s No. 1 left-back lead all defenders in tackles and was an important piece for Javier Aguirre as he took Monterrey to the top four spots.
RM/RW: Maximiliano Meza
Monterrey | Argentina
Big Chances Created: 8 | 1st
Goals: 5 | 2nd
Key Passes: 30 | 7th
Maxi finally had his breakout season in Mexico. The Argentine international has been with Rayados for two years but this season was finally when he became unleashed. He was a creative spark for Javier Aguirre’s squad and finished his own chances regularly as well.
Backup: Rubens Sambueza (Toluca, Argentina)
Once again, Sambu was the heart and soul of Toluca this season. The things he can do with the ball at his feet are amazing at his age (37!). It’s like he has the ball attached to his foot with a string, seriously.
CM/CDM: Fernando Gorriaran
Santos Laguna | Uruguay
SofaScore Overall Rating: 7.34 | 1st for All Liga MX Players
Accurate Opp. Half Passes: 542 | 1st
Interceptions: 32 | 3rd
Total Duels Won: 127 | 4th
Nando had a spectacular season with Santos Laguna. The Uruguayan international was the anchor that complemented the defense while also starting plays for the attack. He was unstoppable at times. Cruz Azul’s tactics forced Gorriaran to get subbed out early in the final in order for Santos to field more firepower up front, and ironically, that was their death sentence. He’s that crucial to Guillermo Almada’s lineup.
Backup: Richard Sanchez (Club America, Paraguay)
Sanchez is very unfortunate not to recieve a starting spot here, but had Gorriaran not existed, then the Paraguayan would have been a lock for the CDM role. He was vital for Club America this season.
CM/CAM: Luis Romo
Cruz Azul | Mexico
Aerial Duels Won: 92 | 1st
Assists: 6 | 2nd for All Players
Big Chances Created: 6 | 3rd
What a rise Luis Romo had had. Three years ago, the Sinaloa native was playing at CB for Queretaro, and now, he’s on the brink of a European move after an incredible year with Cruz Azul. He’s upgraded his game to play more of a CAM role, and we think he’s set to be an important player for El Tri for years to come.
Backup: Omar Fernandez (Puebla, Colombia)
The last of Puebla’s players to make our squad, La Franja was simply a better team with Fernandez on the field. He’s a tireless workhorse who never stops running and keeping him on the squad will be a priority if Puebla wants to keep a solid team together.
LM/LW: Nico “Diente” Lopez
Tigres UANL | Uruguay
Scoring Frequency: Every 113 minutes | 1st
SofaScore Overall Rating: 7.28 | 5th for All Players
Accurate Crosses: 16 | 2nd
If this was the NBA, Diente would have been Sixth Man of the Year for two seasons now. Under Ricardo Ferretti, Lopez was an incredible spark off the bench, and at times, was the difference maker in Tigres victories. Now with Ferretti gone and Miguel Herrera in, we’ll have to see what kind of role Lopez takes on now.
Backup: Victor Malcorra (Atlas, Argentina)
If Santamaria was Atlas’ defensive catalyst, then Malcorra was the player that kickstarted the attack each and every time. He picked up the responsibility that Luciano Acosta left and Atlas were a better team for it.
ST: Alexis Canelo
Toluca | Argentina
Goals: 14 | Top Goalscorer
Goals + Assists: 18 | 1st
Scoring Frequency: 128 | 4th
No debate here. The league’s top goalscorer has to be in our Starting XI. Canelo has been playing in Mexico for five years, but it’s this season that his knack for goals exploded. He formed a telepathic relationship with Sambueza and Michael Estrada, and together, broke down even the toughest of defenses.
Backup: Nicolas Ibáñez (Atletico San Luis, Argentina)
San Luis was a one-man team this season, and that man’s name was Nicolas Ibáñez. The Argentine scored half of Atleti’s goals (10) and was as clinical as ever from the penalty spot and with headers.
ST: Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodriguez
Cruz Azul | Uruguay
Goals: 11 | 2nd
Goals + Assists: 16 | 2nd
Shots on Target: 30 | 1st
Another one that needs no explanation. Cabecita was so important to Cruz Azul’s title chances, that without him, the title drought would have continued. There are murmurs that he may leave Mexico after this season, and if those turn out to be true, he has all the tools to be a solid player at a mid-major European club, of that there is no doubt.
Backup: Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey, Argentina)
The record-breaker himself had to make this squad. Funes Mori tied Humberto Suazo’s All-Time goalscoring record with Rayados this season (121 goals) and if it weren’t for a scoring drought he suffered at the end of the tournament, he might have even earned a starting spot.
Coach: Juan Reynoso
1997 ➡️ 2021— FMF State of Mind (@FMFSoM) May 31, 2021
He did it. He really did it. ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/HxGsbdFCyX
Liga MX Champion
Most Points in Regular Season: 41
Best Offense: 26 goals scored
Best Defense: 11 goals conceded
23-year title droughts ended: 1
No other words needed. GRANDE, REYNOSO!
Follow Antonio on Twitter @antonio1998__