Join soccerly to save and share the best soccer stories
Sign up with Facebook
By login in with Facebook you agree on the terms and conditions specified here

 
 
The previous year for Pumas was truly night and day. Pumas likely want to forget the Apertura even existed, as the club’s finish was the worst in their storied history. They scored only eight goals all tournament, gave up more than 20, and finished with just a single win in 17 games – all good enough for the last spot in the table. Fortunately, the club admirably turned the results around in the Clausura and finished in the third spot of the Liga MX table with 25 points.
Apertura 2014 season preview: Pumas UNAM
07/11/2014
 
Pumas will try and build on their Clausura success with little changes.

Club Universidad, commonly referred to as Pumas, are one of Mexico’s “Big Four” due to their level of fan support in Mexico. Like Chivas, Pumas are known to be an organization that has one of the top youth academies in Mexico and has been responsible for some of the country's best talent throughout the years. While there hasn't been as many breakout stars in recent times, Pumas have been one of the more successful clubs in the recent era with four championships since 2000. The club had a spectacular turnaround from last to third between their previous two tournaments and will be looking to become a contender again in the upcoming year.


CLUB DETAILS


Full Name: Club Universidad Nacional A.C.

Nicknames: Pumas, UNAM, Auriazules, Universitarios

Founded: 1954

Stadium: Olimpico Universitario (75,000 capacity)

Owner: Universidad Nacional Autonomo de Mexico (UNAM)

Manager: Jose Luis Trejo

Liga MX Champions: 7 (1976-77, 1980-81, 1990-91, CL2004, AP2004, CL2009, CL2011)

Copa MX Champions: 1 (1974-75)

Continental Champions: 3 (CONCACAF Champions Cup, now CCL – 1980, 1982, 1989)


LAST SEASON


Apertura 2013: 18th

Clausura 2014: 3rd

Apertura Copa MX: Quarterfinals

Clausura Copa MX: Group Stage


The previous year for Pumas was truly night and day. Pumas likely want to forget the Apertura even existed, as the club’s finish was the worst in their storied history. They scored only eight goals all tournament, gave up more than 20, and finished with just a single win in 17 games – all good enough for the last spot in the table.


Fortunately, the club admirably turned the results around in the Clausura and finished in the third spot of the Liga MX table with 25 points. The tournament didn't start quite how the club wanted though, as they went winless in the first three games and rumors of another coaching change circulated. But UNAM was able to gather six wins in the following eight games and quickly jumped to the upper portion of the standings. In mid-March, Martin Bravo left a game against Atlante injured, and the season began to slow. Pumas won only two games of the remaining six in the regular season as they struggled to replace Bravo’s scoring touch. Bravo was leading the league in goals at the time of injury and he finished with nine on the season, which was a career high.


In the playoffs, Pumas earned a road draw and positioned themselves well heading into the return leg at home, but Pachuca’s offense was too potent and they lost the second match 4-2. Pumas hadn't given up four goals to an opponent in league play since September 2013.


In addition to the successful improvement on the season overall, Pumas also had their way with a couple of bitter rivals. In January, Pumas beat fellow university rival Tigres in Monterrey by a score of 2-1. In February, they knocked out their biggest rival in Estadio Azteca, Club America, with a commanding 3-1 scoreline in the capital classic.


In Copa MX, Pumas weren't major contenders in either tournament. In the Apertura, they went undefeated in group play, but were eliminated by Atlas in the quarterfinals. In the Clausura, they weren't as fortunate as and bowed out in the group stage. Pumas are pretty consistent in using an academy based squad in the Copa MX – something that has both positives and negatives. It makes it difficult to contend for the title, yet gives the younger players professional minutes and experience.


THE MANAGER


An issue that has plagued Pumas for the last few years has been a revolving door of managers. The inconsistent results over the last couple years can certainly be attributed to Pumas board of director’s impatience around results. Unfortunately, changing coaches during short tournaments is far too common in Mexico, but Pumas could have finally realized how negatively this has impacted the organization.


Jose Luis Trejo was brought back in a one-year contract after turning the team around from their historically bad Apertura in 2013. As was mentioned earlier, Pumas finished that season dead last in the table, but Trejo was able to stabilize the team and they finished the 2014 Clausura in third.


Trejo doesn't impress on paper, and his tactics haven’t necessarily made Pumas an attacking threat, but it’s got the job done. It’ll be interesting to see if he can replicate that this time around. If things go south quickly, Pumas would likely opt for a coaching change.


MAJOR TRANSFERS IN


Matias Britos (Forward, Leon, 25-years-old)

Eduardo Herrera (Forward, Santos Laguna, 25-years old)


Sporting Vice President Mario Trejo set the offseason up for fans shortly after their playoff loss to Pachuca. The club reiterated their commitment to the academy and insisted the club wouldn't be making too many changes for the upcoming season. The biggest roster move was a striker exchange of Martin Bravo for Matias Britos. Bravo had been a staple in Pumas’ starting lineup for years, but will get a change in scenery as he heads to Leon. Britos – who was a two time champion with Leon – is coming off a poor tournament in terms of offensive production where he scored just one goal. Despite the drop in production, the Uruguayan has tremendous upside. He’s younger than Bravo and if he recaptures the level of performance he reached with Leon a year ago, Pumas will come out on top in this deal.


Eduardo Herrera is a Pumas academy product that is returning from a one-year loan with Santos Laguna. The forward will continue to find it tough to break through to the starting lineup behind Britos and Ismael Sosa, and likely is a late sub. Herrera saw limited playing time in Torreon, but did pick up some international experience with Santos as they made a run in the Copa Libertadores. He is still young and talented, but like most academy stars, must start producing soon.


MAJOR TRANSFERS OUT


Martin Bravo (Forward, Leon, 27-years old)

Efrain Velarde (Defender, Monterrey, 28-years old)


EXPECTATIONS


It’s hard to imagine Pumas will either mirror or improve on last year’s results with the lack of moves they made in the offseason – unless the younger academy stars begin to break out this year. Pumas have a decent goalkeeper in Alejandro Palacios, but their backline is aging with Marco Antonio Palacios and Dario Veron. Last season, young centerback Luis Quintana filled in for injuries and suspensions, but aside from him Pumas lack quality depth in their defense.


Another issue Pumas could struggle with again is their offensive production. UNAM was reliant on Martin Bravo and Daniel Ludueña all too much. When Bravo went down injured, no one stepped up to fill the void. Ludueña had a stellar first season with Pumas, but his ability to go a full 90 minutes has declined. When he’s not on the field, the team has struggled to create chances and connect with the strikers.


Diego Lagos and Ismael Sosa – both entering their second tournament with Pumas – will have to prove they've adapted to the Mexican league and perform to the level they were signed to do so last year. Sosa was the leading goalscorer in the Chilean league prior to coming over, and he needs to be a top striker in Mexico if Pumas have a chance of succeeding.


Even though they finished third last season and made a return to the playoffs, this season is likely to be more challenging. Pumas have potential to keep themselves in the playoff race, and will like settle for a spot in the table between sixth and eighth before exiting the playoffs in the first round again. 


OPENING SIX FIXTURES


18 July – vs Queretaro (a)

27 July – vs Chivas (h)

3 Aug – vs Toluca (a)

10 Aug – vs Atlas (h)

16 Aug – vs Leon (a)

24 Aug – vs Tijuana (h)

 
3
   
More stories
 
6
   
 
1
   
 
0
   
 
2
   
 
2
   
 
1
   
 
1
   
 
1
   
 
0
   
 
1