Thomas Harrison has a look at 5 unheralded Liga MX youngsters making a name for themselves this season.
With the likes of Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Guido Rodríguez, Erick Gutiérrez, Orbelín Pineda and César Montes, there are plenty of talented youngsters in Liga MX that have the potential to play in Europe in the future. But, whilst these players have developing reputations outside of Mexico, there are plenty of lesser known young talents in Liga MX. Here are some of the unheralded Liga MX talents that have been rapidly developing their reputations this season.
Mateus Goncalves // Chiapas (On loan from Pachuca) // 22 // Winger
Probably one of the rawest talents in the world right now, Brazilian Mateus is being given an opportunity to prove himself after being sent on loan by Pachuca to Chiapas this season.
Mateus is ridiculously fast with the ball at his feet, perhaps faster than anyone else in Liga MX, and has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. Watching him for Chiapas so far this Clausura (second half of the season) has been thrilling at times.
The 22-year-old needs plenty of coaching though. Mateus lacks an understanding of when to use his tricks, when to take on defenders, and when to look to combine with his team mates.
If Mateus can develop his football intelligence, without losing his flair and confidence to take on defenders, the Brazilian could become an incredible footballer. His potential is enormous, but meeting that potential will be highly difficult. Becoming an intelligent footballer isn’t easy.
Edson Álvarez // América // 19 // Defensive-midfield/Centre-back
Edson Álvarez had a huge slice of luck when Ricardo La Volpe became head coach of América last September. La Volpe has a reputation of finding and bringing through young players, and that’s exactly what he’s doing with Álvarez.
The 19-year-old, who’s played at defensive-midfield and centre-back, has impressed with his superb abilities in possession. This skill is increasingly important in the modern game, with most teams playing out from the back, particularly in Mexico.
Álvarez’s rapid rise to prominence culminated in an international debut during the recent friendly against Iceland, and Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio is a fan of the teenager. “We think that Edson is a very technical player with a good aerial game…it seems that he has that pause (alluding to the technical concept of la pausa), that extra second to make a good decision”, Osorio was full of praise during the pre-Iceland press conference. If he can build on the promise shown so far, Edson Álvarez should earn plenty of El Tri caps.
Leonel López // León // 22 // Centre-midfield
After impressing for a few seasons in Copa MX, Leo López finally got a run in the León side in the league when Javier Torrente became head coach. Torrente, a former assistant to Marcelo Bielsa, was likely to have been attracted to López for the dynamism of his play, an important factor in Torrente’s pressing style.
López doesn’t just impress physically though. Leo has consistently displayed a good level of technique and footballing intelligence. As a roaming playmaker, the León midfielder is capable of retaining possession and creating opportunities with killer passes.
With Mexico boss Juan Carlos Osorio set to take different squads to the Confederations Cup and Gold Cup this summer, López could find himself in the national team shake-up.
Paul Arriola // Tijuana // 22 // Winger
Paul Arriola can be seen as the embodiment of Xolos Tijuana’s cross-border identity. A Mexican-American, Arriola was born in San Diego, but plays his football just across the border in Tijuana.
A rapid and direct winger, Arriola is making the most of his first-team opportunities after Tijuana lost key attackers Gabriel Hauche and Dayro Moreno during the winter transfer window. With 2 goals so far this Clausura, Arriola has helped Tijuana top the table after 5 matches.
Recent displays have led to raised expectations of Arriola’s return to the US national team, with whom he’s scored twice in just 3 games.
Santos have 4 young players that could be discussed in this article; Gerardo Arteaga and Jorge Sánchez, who are currently playing full-back, holding midfielder Ulises Rivas, and winger Gael Sandoval. Arteaga was chosen as he’s the youngest of the trio at 18, and has started 11 league games this season.
Versatile Arteaga has perhaps benefited from Santos Laguna’s struggles during the Apertura (first-half of the season). Los Guerreros finished in 16th and changed coach mid-way through the campaign. New boss José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, former Mexico manager, decided to switch up things a bit, and Arteaga received some first-team football.
Gerardo clearly impressed “Chepo”, and has kept his place in the starting line-up for the Clausura. With just 3 goals conceded in 5 games, Arteaga has been part of a solid defence, and his hard-work has caught the eye. Only one player has covered more ground so far this Clausura. Interestingly, the player is teammate Ulises Rivas.
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