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For three years we’ve also published a Talent Radar Team of the Season across Europe’s top six leagues, having monitored these players in our Team of the Week and Player Rankings feature. Thomas Harrison bucks the trend and provides us with the inaugural Liga MX Young Players Team of the Season.
You can read this for all details on Talent Radar, who is eligible under it and what else we publish within this feature.
Antonio “Toño” Rodríguez // Chivas // 23 // Goalkeeper: Toño Rodríguez’s stop-start career continued this season. This Chivas keeper first broke into his side’s starting line-up in the 13/14 season, making 19 appearances that campaign, but has failed to nail down a starting spot in following seasons. It looked like Rodríguez had finally done this, but he was replaced in the Chivas net by Rodolfo Cota in February, and Cota’s impressive displays have kept him out ever since. Toño is undoubtedly a very talented young keeper though, and whilst his positioning needs some work, his reflexes make him a great shot stopper. Could go onto become first choice for Mexico in future years.
Carlos Guzmán // Tijuana // 22 // Right-Back: Tijuana’s two wing-backs were certainly one of the bright sparks in a disappointing season. Along with Kevin Gutiérrez, Carlos Guzmán, part of the Mexico side that won the U-17 World Cup in 2011, was consistently impressive. There’s plenty of competition to be the long-term replacement for current Mexico right-back Paul Aguilar, from the likes of Raúl López, José Abella and Erick Aguirre, but Guzmán’s well-rounded skill set gives him a great chance of winning that competition.
César Montes // Monterrey // 19 // Centre-Back: One of the biggest surprises of the season, Montes has come from nowhere to become a regular in the Monterrey defence, displacing significantly more experienced centre-backs. It didn’t take long for Montes to turn heads in Mexico. With maturity beyond his years, an imposing physical presence and an impressive range of passing, Montes helped his Monterrey side top the Clausura table pre-play-offs. If Montes is able to develop on his current ability, expect to see him playing in Europe in the future.
Carlos Salcedo // Chivas // 22 // Centre-Back: Another young Mexican likely to play in Europe in the future is Carlos Salcedo, with recent reports linking the Chivas defender to the likes of Swansea and Hertha Berlin. Whilst Salcedo isn’t the finished article yet, he’s certainly an impressive ball-winner, and was a key part of Chivas’ solid defence this Clausura. The Guadalajara giants conceded just 16 times in 17 games, the joint best in the division. If he improves his reading of the game and ability to defend when holding a high line, Salcedo could make it in Europe.
Kevin Gutiérrez // Tijuana // 21 // Left-Back: Sometimes it takes a move to kick-start a young footballer’s career, and that’s exactly what’s happened with Kevin Gutiérrez. After just three league appearances in two and a half years with Querétaro, Gutiérrez made the winter move north to Tijuana, and has nailed down a starting place with Los Xolos. Whilst Tijuana, managed by the man sacked by Mexico for punching a journalist, Miguel Herrera, had a poor Clausura (2nd half of the season), Gutiérrez impressed from left-wing-back.
Javier “Chofis” López // Chivas // 21 // Right Winger: Nicknamed Chofis due to a resemblance to an ex-teammates ex-girlfriend, we’ve finally started to see some of López’s massive potential this season. Injury-hit for much of his career so far, and forgotten by many, Chofis became the talk of Mexico as he scored two stunning goals in five minutes on his latest return from the side-lines. Chofis’ close control and trickery is up there with the best in the league, and there’s a finishing ability and eye for a pass as well. Along with the injuries, attitude has been an issue in the past, but if he can use his self-confidence well, Chofis could go very far in the game.
Orbelín Pineda // Chivas // 20 // Central Midfielder: Since making his debut for Querétaro last season, Orbelín Pineda has been one of the most spoken about young Mexicans. After picking up where he left off from last season for Querétaro in the Apertura (1st half of the season), Orbelín made the huge move to Mexican giants Chivas. The pressure and expectation was cranked up on Pineda, but he’s dealt with it extremely well, establishing himself as a key part of the Chivas side. Defensively he needs work, but few in Liga MX are as creative as young Orbelín.
Erick Gutiérrez // Pachuca // 20 // Central Midfielder: One man who can compete with Pineda when it comes to creativity is Erick Gutiérrez. Despite being just 20-years-old, Gutiérrez has been part of the Pachuca first-team squad for almost two and a half years and now often captains the side. Previously characterised for his driving runs forward, as well as his superb eye for and execution of a pass, Gutiérrez has had to play a more pragmatic style this season. The forward runs are missed, but the change in approach has really shown off Guti’s long range passing ability.
Hirving “Chucky” Lozano // Pachuca // 20 // Left Winger: Mexico’s brightest young prospect had a quiet Apertura, as selfishness and a lack of awareness limited performances, but Lozano’s been much more effective in the Clausura. 11 Liga MX goals this season is a great return for a left winger, and Chucky has also broken through to the full Mexico squad in 2016, scoring on his competitive debut against Canada. I still feel that Lozano needs to improve his vision and awareness, but as a goal scoring inside forward, there’s huge potential. In fact, the selfishness which I criticise could become a positive aspect of his game, as it could lead to him scoring more goals.
Rodolfo Pizarro // Pachuca // 22 // Attacking Midfielder: Played mostly as a right-back in previous seasons, new Pachuca manager Diego Alonso decided to use Pizarro as an attacking-midfielder after taking over last summer. At first, Pizarro didn’t impress much, often looking unsure of how to play that role, but Alonso kept faith and Pizarro has grown into the attacking-midfield position very well. Pizarro is hard-working, has accurate passing, links play up well and scored a decent six goals this season. As a right-back in the past, the 22-year-old is competent defensively as well, and I could see him playing in central-midfield in the long-term.
Alexis Vega // Toluca // 18 // Striker: With injuries to regular strikers Fernando Uribe and Enríque Triverio, 18-year-old Ernesto Alexis Vega was drafted into the Toluca attack towards the end of the season, and put in some impressive displays in both Liga MX and the Copa Libertadores. Full of confidence, blessed with pace and possessing a fair amount of technical ability, Vega will hope to kick-on next season after making a name for himself in recent months.
Written by Thomas Harrison