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Atlético San Luis, FC Juárez, and Pachuca have all given surprises this year most wouldn’t expect

Typically we see San Luis and Juárez at the bottom of the table while Pachuca hovers at the top, but this season is different.

Atletico San Luis v Atlas - Torneo Apertura 2023 Liga MX Photo by Ricardo Hernandez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Only seven matches have been played so far and it might still be early to predict which teams will make the liguilla, but Atlético San Luis and FC Juárez have thrown their names into the ring while former champion Pachuca might not even be in the fight. San Luis currently sit at the top of the table in first place, while Juárez sit in third, all while Pachuca have slid down to 15th. That’s a sentence most would not have believed two months ago, but now it is a reality.

A year ago, Pachuca were crowned Apertura 2022 champions and just a year later might not even make the postseason. Their current record is 1 win, 3 draws, and 3 losses with only 4 goals scored to 14 goals against. Their only win came against Cruz Azul who currently have their own struggles. So, what happened to go from champions to 15th place in a matter of a year? Well, it doesn’t help when some of your important players leave the club. Nicolás Ibáñez left to join Tigres at the beginning of the Clausura 2023 which was a big surprise, considering he was the starting striker and had a league high 16 goals when they won the title. At Tigres he doesn’t receive many minutes due to depth which led many to believe he left for financial reasons.

Then youngster Kevin Alvarez left for Club América before the start of the Apertura where he’s been excelling up to this point. Then, a couple of weeks ago, Luis Chavez made his way to Russia to live out his dream of playing in Europe. Leaving Pachuca was not an easy feat as the club made it difficult for him and he eventually paid out his own clause in order to leave. It’s understandable why they wouldn’t want to lose out on Chavez and his lethal left foot, but the situation left a sour taste in many fans’ mouths and now they sit near the bottom of the table with only one win in seven games.

While Pachuca struggle, Juárez are on the opposite side of the spectrum as they sit in third place. Many people, and rightfully so considering their history, didn’t believe the Bravos would be at the top of the league after the first game of the season. In that game they defeated Club América 2-1, but most considered it luck. In their next few games they went on to draw with reigning champions Tigres, defeat Toluca 4-2 and draw with Chivas. Maybe it wasn’t luck anymore as much as the club’s front office making the decision to bank on the young talent. Usually league clubs have proven they would much rather play older players than give minutes to younger ones. The Juárez front office changed that when they brought in three young players: Haret Ortega, Diego Campillo, and Sebastian Perez Bouquet. The latter two were crucial in helping Tapatío win the Liga de Ascenso title. While it looked like those additions wouldn’t make a difference immediately and this new project would take a while to shape, that’s not the case as seven weeks have passed and the Bravos have excelled so far.

Just like Juárez, many didn’t believe Atlético would have a good season and it would be the same as in seasons past. Especially since head coach André Jardine had left the club to go coach Club América. Instead of falling off like many thought they would, San Luis have excelled and sit atop the league table. Then there’s Jardine’s new team that sit in sixth place where many are calling for his departure as América are not playing to the level many are accustomed to. Maybe his departure was the best that could have happened as San Luis have five wins, one draw and one loss with 15 goals scored so far. This has all been under the helm of Gustavo Leal who worked under Jardine as his assistant. Leal had the opportunity to head to Mexico City with Jardine, but instead made the decision to stay and take the head coaching position. The last time he had that role was back in 2018 and five years later has taken a mediocre team to first with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

There are still 10 games to be played and a lot can happen in that time. However, one cannot say the top and bottom of the table have not yielded surprises. Pachuca still have time to make the postseason, but need to change things now. Both Juárez and Atlético can’t take anything for granted in these final 10 weeks as they hope to have a successful season after years of disappointment.