Thanks to their victory on aggregate over América on Saturday night, Toluca punched their ticket to the Apertura 2022 final. It’s their first final appearance in four and half years; the last coming in the Clausura 2018 when they lost to Santos on a 3-2 aggregate. When was the last time they won a title? Well, for that one we have to go all the way to the Bicentenario 2010 season when they again faced Santos, this time defeating them in a PK shootout. So, it’s 12 years and counting since the last time they hoisted the Liga MX trophy. That’s a long time considering what this fanbase had become used to in the late 90s and early 2000s.
But make no mistake; this season was no accident. There’s one signifcant factor that brought change to this club, and it isn’t a player. That would be manager Ignacio Ambriz. After an unsuccessful stint with Spain’s Segunda División SD Huesca to start the 2021-22 campaign (12 matches), Ambriz was let go in October of 2021. A month later, he was announced as the new Toluca manager for the upcoming Clausura 2022.
But things didn’t go as planned last season. After his amazing run with León, winning 61 out of his 113 total matches (54%), as well as bringing a level of consistency you rarely see from a Liga MX club, fans expected Ambriz to hit the groung running with the Diablos Rojos. Much to their suprise, Toluca had a subpar season at the very best, garnering a 5W, 4D, 8L record, good for just 19 points, but most importantly, 15th overall, not even making the Repechaje.
But the front office’s patience paid off, proving if you give a project time and continuity, great things can happen. With the addition of players like Volpi and Meneses, they started the Apertura 2022 winning 4 out of their first 5, and after slumping for the better part of the second half of the season, still finished 6th overall with a 7W, 6D, 4L record. After taking out FC Juárez in the Repechaje, they’ve stood their ground in both series against Santos and América, despite being underdogs in both. They displayed offensive and creative soccer in their home games, which has been enough to get them through.
But it isn’t just his great track record with León that has got him here. His previous role as América manager saw him win 37 of his 68 total matches in charge (54.4%) and winning the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League, propelling his coaching career in Mexico. Even his role as Querétaro manager prior to that started turning some heads, having quality game spans despite lack of investment in the squad, and even led them to their 2nd all-time Liguilla in his 4+ seasons with the club.
But now he’s proven that after a brief unsuccessful stint elsewhere, he was able to rebound and take charge of a historic team that was lost, regroup them, and in barely his second season in charge, lead them to a league final. What a story for Ambriz. With this, he has confirmed his status as one of the best managers in Liga MX, and according to sources, this now even has FMF officials considering him for the Mexico NT gig once the World Cup passes over. And an interesting choice at that he would be indeed.
Ambriz and company will meet Pachuca for the first leg of the final in the Nemesio Diez on Thursday at 8:06 pm local time.