Get to know the enemy - Club dé Futbol MonterreyApril 2, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) Los Angeles Galaxy
Champions of the Mexican league title in 1986 and 2003, and the now defunct Copa Mexico tournament in 1991, Monterrey has played in three of the last seven Mexican League finals since 2009 (in Mexico they play two tournaments per year). They won the 2009 Apertura and 2010 Apertura league titles and lost in the 2012 Clausura finals to Santos Laguna. During that time they've also won the CONCACAF Champions League twice, in 2011 and 2012, and have represent the region at the FIFA Club World Cup two times as well, earning a third place finish in the competition in 2012.
The rise of their success can be traced back to the arrival of head coach Victor Manuel Vucetich, who signed with club in January 2009. He took over a team that had missed out on advancing to the playoffs three of the four prior seasons and was replacing former Mexican National Team head coach Ricardo La Volpe, whose team finished near the bottom of the 2008 Apertura.
In his first season, Vucetich guided Monterrey back into the playoffs and a fourth place finish in the 2009 Clausura. The next season, they won their third title in club history. Monterrey finished the following year with a record of 10-1-6, one of the best short-season records in Mexican soccer history, but they were upset in the first round of the playoffs. The season after, however, they came back with a vengeance and won the league title again for a second time in the Vucetich era.
The Rayados, as they are known by their fan base for the pinstripes on their jersey, have acquired and developed some of the best players in Mexico over the last four years while also signing some top South American talent over the last four years. The nucleus of their team is spearheaded by Humberto Suazo, the Chilean-born striker who recently became the club's all-time leading goal scorer in all competitions.
Suazo, nicknamed "El Chupete", has formed a lethal combination with Mexican striker Aldo De Nigris, whose performance with Monterrey earned him a spot in the 2010 Mexican World Cup roster.
Their midfield is led by Mexican National Teamer Jesus Zavala, Ecuardor National Teamer Walter Ayovi and the Argentinean Neri Cardozo, who was acquired from Boca Juniors in December 2009. But their deepest position is defense, led by former Mexican National Team captain Ricardo Osorio, current Mexican National Team starter Severo Meza, U-23 national teamer Hiram Mier, who was a starter on Mexico's team that captured the Gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, who will miss the series with the Galaxy because of injury.
Currently, Monterrey plays at 32,000-seat Estadio Tecnologico, located on the campus of Monterrey Institute of Technology, one of the largest private universities in Latin America. The stadium, which was built in 1950, was one of the venues for the 1986 FIFA World Cup and is the second oldest stadium in Mexico. Current ownership, FEMSA, the largest beverage company in Mexico, is building a 50,000-seat stadium that is set to open in 2014.
Even though Monterrey is currently out of the playoff zone in the 2013 Clausura, the Rayados are in search of their third consecutive Champions League title. They won all four games in their group stage by a combined score of 15-0. Their points total and goal-differential earned them the top seed for the knockout rounds. In the quarterfinals, Monterrey beat Xelaju of Guatemala by an aggregate score of 4-2- they won the first leg of the series, which was played on the road, 3-1, and used a team of mostly backups for the second leg. They will travel to Los Angeles for the first leg of the series on Wednesday and then host the Galaxy in Monterrey for the second-leg on April 10.
MLS teams have had some success in Monterrey the last two Champions League seasons. In the 2011, Real Salt Lake played Monterrey to a 2-2 draw in the first leg of finals, though they were ultimately unable to hold on to their lead in the second leg and lost the series 3-2 on aggregate. Last year, Seattle Sounders FC beat Monterrey in their stadium 1-0 in the group stage with Alvaro Fernandez scoring the game-winning goal in the 38th minute of that game. A crowd of just 10,234 was announced for that game with the Galaxy figuring to see three times as many fans pack the Estadio Tecnologico on April 10.
Even though the Galaxy and Monterrey have never faced each other before, with a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Finals on the line, expect both legs of this series to have the atmosphere of a playoff game.
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