The quarterfinals of the Liga MX Clausura once again highlighted something that has been a consistent feature of the Mexican league for a while, but has rarely been more prominent: South American forwards making the difference.
In America’s game against Pumas on Saturday, it was Paraguayan Robin Ramirez who opened the scoring for Pumas with a fine strike, with a double from Ecuadoran Christian Benitez swinging the tie in favor of the Aguilas.
Over in Monterrey, Brazilian Danilinho handed Tigres the lead with a moment of magic, and Chilean Humberto Suazo scored the all-important goal for Rayados in the first leg.
On Sunday, Cruz Azul’s tie with Morelia was defined by its four goals in the first leg, scored by Argentine Mariano Pavone (2), Colombian Teofilo Gutierrez and Christian “Chaco” Gimenez.
In the Estadio Jalisco, it was Colombians Andres Renteria and Carlos Darwin Quintero who struck the hammer-blows against Atlas.
One look at the scoring chart for the regular season gives an indication of the influence of South Americans in the Liga MX, with the top five made up of players from four different South American countries – Benitez, Hector Mancilla (Morelia – Chile), Pavone, Luis Gabriel Rey (Jaguares - Colombia), and Emanuel Villa (Tigres – Argentina).
Who is the best? It’s not an easy task and there will be debate, but here’s an attempt at listing the top five South America attacking players in the Liga MX.
1. Humberto Suazo
Chile – Age: 32 – Monterrey
Choosing who is number one is a difficult decision made slightly easier due to the fact that Suazo’s quality has been a decisive factor in Monterrey winning three consecutive CONCACAF Champions League titles and two league titles.
Suazo may only have scored four goals this Clausura, but he leads the field in assists with 12 in total. Now playing in a more withdrawn role, Suazo is capable of dictating a game in a way few can match in the Liga MX.
2. Christian Benitez
Ecuador – Age: 27 - America
The statistics speak for themselves when it comes to Benitez. Forty-nine goals in 74 appearances for America is no mean feat, and his power, explosiveness and ability to produce something from nothing sets him apart. A move to Europe is very much on the cards this summer, but if there is a question mark over Benitez it is with his temperament and ability to play for the team. He has regularly spit his dummy out during his time in Mexico.
3. Lucas Lobos
Argentina - Age: 31 – Tigres
The playmaker is the heartbeat of the Tigres side and pulls the strings, setting up chances and scoring 30 goals in his last 72 games over the last two seasons. A model professional, Lobos was inspirational in Tigres winning the 2011 Apertura and finishing the current season as leader in the regular season.
Lobos possesses vision, technique on the ball and a work ethic to go with his talent.
4. Christian ‘Chaco’ Gimenez
Argentina – Age: 32 – Cruz Azul
The former Boca Juniors attacking midfielder has the kind of quality you would expect from a player who can boast three Argentine titles, two Copa Libertadores titles, one Copa Sudamericana and three CONCACAF Champions League titles. Chaco has the strongest shot in the Mexican league and has the vision to exploit the whole pitch with his range of passing.
Although he has suffered along with a Cruz Azul side that has usually failed to shine in playoffs, in regular seasons it has usually been in the top spots and Chaco has been a major figure. Seven goals this Clausura is a good return for a player who plays in a more withdrawn position.
5. Duvier Riascos
Colombia – Age: 26 – Club Tijuana
When Riascos first arrived in Mexico, he was a bag of tricks that too often lacked a finishing product, but that has gradually changed as he has grown with Xolos. Now, he is a player that can make the difference in games, as shown by his inspired form last season in Tijuana’s championship run. Riascos is an unpredictable nightmare for defenders to mark and combines natural agility with pace and an increasing awareness of teamwork.
He’s another player that could well be making a move to Europe this summer, with rumors linking him with Stuttgart.
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