Soccer  > General Soccer  > Stability, changes mark Mexican clubs in CCL
February 2, 2011, 12:16 PM
It's almost a new season in the CONCACAF Champions League. Three months since the conclusion of the Group Stage, the quarterfinals will look very different - at least for some teams rosters.

When the Championship Round begins in three weeks, the favored Mexican teams will be facing off against each other, with Cruz Azul against Monterrey, and Santos playing Toluca. Among Mexico's survivors, Cruz Azul and Toluca have experienced the biggest personnel changes.

After nearly losing Enrique Meza to the Mexican national team, Cruz Azul has held on to its coach along with the core of its roster, but saw the departures of defender Joel Huiqui and Argentine forward Maximiliano Biancucchi.

To compensate, the "Maquina" acquired four newcomers in its bid to finally capture the CONCACAF crown after falling in the finals in the past two years.

Chilean World Cup defender Waldo Ponce arrived to strengthen the backline, while Isaac Romo was signed from Quer??taro in order to provide cover up front. In addition, Uruguayan Marcelo Palau was added to help the midfield and Chilean Hugo Droguett was picked up to get more of an attacking talent on the left wing.

Its rival in the quarterfinals, Monterrey opted not to shop in the transfer market, although it did shed itself of reserve defenders Brayan Martinez and Pierre Ibarra.

Despite winning the fall 2010 Apertura title, "Los Rayados" (the Stripes) have won only one game entering the fifth round and have the second-worst record in the 18-team Primera Division. The team and coaching staff have pointed to a short pre-season - due to playing into December and an extended break -- as the cause for the slow start. However, they insist that the team will recover to contend for Mexican and Champions League titles.

Santos enters the quarterfinals with extra motivation after losing in the Mexican final a second straight time in December - the last one to Monterrey.

The Torre??n club has kept its roster relatively intact, neither adding nor purging anybody major from the Apertura season, and thereby looking to extend the form that earned it the third-best record in Mexico.

While Santos remained virtually the same, Toluca has undergone a massive change, particularly coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre, who is taking his turn at the Mexican national team job and relinquished his seat on the bench to assistant Sergio Lugo.

In addition to the sale of leading scorer Hector Mancilla to Tigres, "Los Diablos Rojos" (the Red Devils) also sold Manuel "El Tripa" Perez and Argentine Juan Ezequiel Cuevas. In Exchange, its brought back midfielder Diego de la Torre from San Luis and signed attackers Luis Carlos Arias and Jaime Ayovi from Colombia and Ecuador.

Regardless of the changes, with the winners of the two all-Mexican quarterfinals meeting in the semifinals, Mexico is assured of a club in the two-leg championship series. It puts the already favored Mexican sides in good position to win a third straight Champions League crown, a sixth consecutive CONCACAF club title and a 27th trophy in the continental championship overall.

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