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A team that had been pegged to once again become one of the contenders for the playoffs struggled heavily in the first half of the season before saving face in the second half.
 Apertura 2014 season preview: Atlas
07/14/2014
 
Atlas 1-3 Santos

The Clausura 2014 season ended in a disappointing, yet successful,  way for Atlas. A team that had been pegged to once again become one of the contenders for the playoffs struggled heavily in the first half of the season before saving face in the second half. Despite not making the Liguilla, the club was able to avoid relegation, and will now be aiming towards improving their position in the percentage table and avoid future relegation threats; all while aiming for a return to the playoffs. 


CLUB DETAILS


Full Name: Club Social y Deportivo Atlas de Guadalajara

Nicknames: Los Zorros, Los Rojinegros, La Academia

Founded: 1916

Stadium: Estadio Jalisco (63, 163)

Owner: Grupo Salinas (TV Azteca) 

Manager: Tomas Boy

Liga MX Championships: 1 (1950-1951)

Copa MX Championsips: 4 (1945-46;  1949-50; 1961-62; 1967-68)

Continental Championships: 0


LAST SEASON

Apertura 2013: 15th 

Clausura 2014: 12th 

Aoertura Copa MX: Runner-Up 

Clausura Copa MX: Group stage elimination 



The Clausura 2014 season couldn't have started in a more high-profile way for Atlas after news broke-out of TV Azteca's decision to take over the club; this despite Liga MX's bid to ban multiple ownership in the league. The TV Giant's financial capacity allowed both the club and it's player to forget the money issues that had severely plagued them throughout previous seasons, and had even forced the entire squad to go on strike. 


Along the financial news, was the return of manager Tomas Boy for his third stint with the club after having recently left for the 2013 Apertura after his contract had run-out. 


Having ended the Clausura 2013 Tournament in 3rd place, many had expected Boy to once again reignite the fighting spirit in a team that has struggled for positive results constantly in recent memory. However, after eight games, the club had only mustered up 6 points out of 24; putting both Atlas and Boy in danger as the fires of the relegation battle began to heat-up their seat. 


However, the team would finally get their act together for the second half of the season; winning most of their away matches, and being able to grind out some points at home: securing victories against the likes of Santos Laguna, Cruz Azul and Toluca. Winning 15 points out of 24, the club not only avoided relegation but was also able to make a late run for the playoffs. However, a 2-1 loss against Tigres in the last game of the tournament left the team two-points away from making it into the Liguilla. 


Fans might have been disappointed with the overall result of the season, it should be considered that the club struggled with constant injuries to key-players throughout the tournament, such as: Rodrigo Millar, Leandro Cufre, Maikon Leite, and star revelation Alfonso Gonzalez. 


THE MANAGER

Tomas Boy

Known for his fiery temperament, Tomas Juan Boy Espinoza has built himself a solid reputation as one of the best Mexican managers in recent memory; this despite not having one a league title in his career. 


The former Mexico Captain had decided to step away from Atlas; citing due personal reasons and a need to take a break from football. It was also around this time that the Mexican national team was in a state of crisis as former manager Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre's continuity was in question and Boy's named was repeated frequently as a possible replacement. 


Having last taken Atlas back to their first Liguilla appearance in six years, Boy was able to form a solid squad that relied heavily on their disciplined defense, which was the prime reason as to which the club finished as the best defense in the Clausura 2013 along with Santos Laguna. 


Boy tends to opt for a 4-4-2 system, in which both the right and left midfielders and fullbacks are relied on heavily to generate opportunities from the wings for their two strikers. The arrival of Aldo Leao will give the team a boost in dynamism in the center of the pitch, while also being able to reinforce the defense; allowing both Millar and Leiton to venture forward as either the Colombian or Juan Carlos Medina stay behind. 

MAJOR TRANSFERS IN


Aldo Leao (CM, Monarcas, 33)
Luis Nery Caballero (ST/CAM, Krylya Sovetov Samara, 24)
Juan Carlos Medina (CM, America, 30)

Edgar Castillo (LB/LWB-, Xolos, 27)
Luis Venegas (CB, Atlante, 30)
Enrique Esqueda (ST/CF, Pachuca, 26, loan)
Edy Brambila (CM, Toluca, 27, loan)

Jesus Chavez (CB/RB, Puebla, 28, loan)
Rodolfo Vilchis (CAM/RM/RW, Queretaro, 24)


Despite having been bought from TV Azteca, Atlas was unable to capitalize on their new wealth due to the timing of the financial takeover. However, this time around things are different as the club has been able to go on an interesting shopping spree. 


The arrival of both Leao and youth-product Medina have given Atlas, at least on paper, the best midfield in all of Liga MX. The elite midfield is reinforced by the arrival of fullback Castillo and forward Caballero; both offensive minded players that are characterized for their quick pace and ability to assist others. 

Vilchis is a promising young talent that enjoyed a breakthrough season with Queretaro is likely to be Boy's new Isaac Brizuela due to their similar playing style. The trio of Esqueda, Brambila, Chavez add depth to the squad and could potentially offer a surprise or two for the club; if not, Atlas risks nothing as they are all on loan. 


MAJOR TRANSFERS OUT


Leandro Cufre (To Leones Negros)

Antonio Briseño (To Tigres)

Christian Diaz (To Loenes Negros)

Luis Robles (To Chiapas)

Flavio Santos (To Puebla) 

Jorge Kalu Gastelum (To Queretaro)
Vicente Matias Vuoso (To Chiapas)
Ricardo Bocanegra ( To Irapuato)


Cufre's exit is the most significant loss for Atlas, as the former Captain had been one of the most consistent players in the club, while also being the crucial piece of the elite defense Boy had built in his previous stint. 


The Captain of the World Cup winning Mexican U-17 team in 2011, Briseño, had been the club's most valued youth-product and even being named the "Next Rafael Marquez". However, lack of minutes and inconsistent performances have seen him moved in search of redeeming himself. 


Inconsistent and rather poor displays in the last few tournaments from the likes of Vuoso, Gastelum and Santos, merited their exit among others for failing to live up to the expectations. 


EXPECTATIONS


The loss of Cufre will be a big blow to the team's backline as the center-back has left a gaping hole that the club was unable to replace properly. However, the arrival of both experienced and dynamic players have given the team a much needed depth and talent for the upcoming season.  Despite having spent well on quality reinforcements, the arrival of so many new faces could bring some instability to the squad. 


The team has shown indications that they are thinking big, perhaps aiming towards competing for a spot in the playoffs. However, the dangers of being relegated is still present, as the club will begin the next season in the 14th place of the percentage table; just four places above last place. 


Atlas should finish the season in the upper half of the table, and is expected to compete for one of the eight spots in the playoffs. Whether they are able to put an end to more than 62-years without a league title, is another story.  



OPENING SIX FIXTURES


19th July – vs Tigres (H)

25th July – vs Monarcas (A)

2nd Aug – vs  Chiapas (H)

10th Aug – vs Pumas (A)

16th Aug – vs Leones Negros (H)

23rd Aug – vs Pachuca (A)


 
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