Tigres, Monterrey stars dominate Liga MX Apertura Best XI of 2017
Another season is in the books, and this one included one of the most colorful endings to date, with the first Clasico Regio final, a two-legged clash that showcased the best of Mexican football. Two clubs that have become strongholds in the league went head-to-head in a final that was elegantly played both on and off the field.
The memories of that final will linger, but the main takeaway is that Monterrey and Tigres have left a high benchmark, and it's up to the rest of Liga MX clubs to catch up.
Here's the 2017 Apertura Best XI (4-3-3):
GK: Marcelo Barovero, Necaxa
Entering the last week of the Apertura regular season, Barovero had saved 62 shots, per InStat. Although Monterrey's Hugo Gonzalez and Tigres' Nahuel Guzman had multiple standout games in the Liguilla, Barovero's regular-season games were impressive because in the same number of games, Gonzalez had 36 shots saved, while Guzman managed 46. Since his arrival to Liga MX in the 2016 Apertura, Barovero has participated in three Liga MX regular seasons but only one Liguilla.
RB: Luis "Chaka" Rodriguez, Tigres
Rodriguez's performance in the second leg of the final was key in Tigres' victory. He attacked and defended with the same confidence, and at the moment, there isn't a natural right-back playing at Rodriguez's level. In 22 Apertura matches, he started 18 of them, averaging 2.2 tackles per game. He also finished the season with one goal and assist.
Juninho, CB, Tigres
Tigres' captain scored four goals in the Apertura, but what makes him a great Liga MX center-back is his ability to simplify the game. He's a great passer who is not afraid to possess the ball in busy areas of the field, and his defensive interventions tend to be on point, even if he doesn't have the speed that he used to have. He's also a natural leader whose presence has been fundamental in Tigres' current golden era.
CB: Hugo Ayala, Tigres
This season, Ayala averaged 2.4 interceptions per game, 2.8 tackles per game and five duels won per game. His defensive numbers prove why he is well-positioned to go to next year's World Cup with Mexico.
LB: Leonel Vangioni, Monterrey
Vangioni might have started only 12 games in the Apertura, but his presence in Rayados' defense proved to be key. The defensive backline he created with Jose Maria Basanta, Nicolas Sanchez/Cesar Montes and Stefan Medina was the main reason Monterrey finished the regular season with the best defensive numbers. Monterrey conceded only 12 goals in 17 regular-season games while Vangioni averaged five tackles per game and 7.3 duels won over that span.
RCM: Elias Hernandez, Leon
Hernandez completed a superb season with seven assists and six goals. Also, he created 12 big chances in 17 starts. Pachuca's Victor Guzman, who was the Mexican footballer with most goals in the regular season (eight), could have been selected as the best El Tri footballer in the Apertura, but that award should be given to Hernandez, who was constantly creating dangerous plays on the wing.
CDM: Carlos Sanchez, Monterrey
It's true that Sanchez's influence in the final second leg wasn't what fans would have expected. His performance in the final wasn't decisive as Antonio "Turco" Mohamed would have hoped for, but also, his erratic play was a direct product of Tigres' solid defense for much of the 180 minutes. Nevertheless, his four goals and four assists in the Apertura were key to Monterrey's great season, which couldn't be capped off with a league title.
LCM: Diego Valdez, Morelia
Perhaps the best playmaker in the Apertura was the 23-year-old Chile native, whose contributions in Morelia's attack allowed the club from Michoacan to finish among the top four in the regular season. Valdez finished the season with five goals and three assists.
RW: Enner Valencia, Tigres
Valencia has played two full seasons in Liga MX and in those two seasons, he's scored 30 goals. In his first season with Tigres, he scored 12 goals, three of those in the semifinal and final series. Four of his 12 goals were scored in games against America. All signs point to the idea that Valencia's best games in Liga MX are yet to come.
ST: Rogelio Funes Mori, Monterrey
Even though Funes Mori scored six goals in the regular season, the striker from Argentina went on to score another six goals in the Liguilla. He completed a phenomenal season, and his numbers in Liga MX keep rising. Since arriving to Mexico in 2015, Funes Mori has scored 47 Liga MX goals.
LW: Aviles Hurtado, Monterrey
The missed penalty in the second leg of the final against Tigres will haunt Hurtado for some time to come. Had Hurtado scored that penalty, the game could have gone to extra time, giving Monterrey a chance of finally winning a league title in its brand new stadium. However, the missed penalty doesn't take away from the fact that Hurtado has been one of the league's most dominant attackers over the past year. In his first season with Monterrey, he finished with 14 goals and three assists.
Manager: Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti, Tigres
Ferretti has already won six Liga MX titles, with four of them coming while he has been manager of Tigres. But what is remarkable is that he has led Tigres to three straight Apertura titles, and that dominance doesn't seem to have an end in sight. His tenure there is becoming Liga MX's version of Sir Alex Ferguson's at Manchester United. Tigres are living their golden era, and there's no better manager to lead them right now than Ferretti.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.