RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Saturday, January 25

14-Man Micro-Metaphysical Roster: TIGRES UANL

{tifo display the last time Copa Libertadores final was held in Mexico}

[14-Man Micro-Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology calculating minutes played per the last 50 competitive matches for a North American football club, weighting that shit more heavily for most recent matches, and using them calculations to list the 14 players constituting the strongest psychic force on a club’s current path. This is done at Football Metaphysics Space twice a month for the Premier League clubs in England, and now I’m doing it for the top clubs in North America, two per month. Venmo me for my emotionless labor @ravenmack23.]

I'd been struggling with motivation to continue with this North American excursion through football metaphysics, because soccer in America is a such bullshit bourgeoisie affair for the most part. Plus I'm not sure people actually read words in abundance, much less some dipshit American dude's words about soccer/football when it spirals down to Liga MX and MLS clubs. But then Chicharito got signed by L.A. Galaxy, and I realized this was still important, because for all the bougie ass bullshit that surrounds American soccer - the same bullshit which defines "American" as the United States - there's still a whole world of football culture on this continent that has nothing to do with that. And Chicharito represents that so wonderfully.

Now make no mistake about it, this is a twilight of his career move, with Chicharito even referring to it on a web series clip to his parents as the beginning of retirement. Big names don't come to MLS for the competition; they come for the paycheck which far outweighs the competition. But Chicharito in his press conference referred to the fact that southern California is considered home territory for the Mexican national team, and how he's been playing in that area since he was 16. I mean fuck, that whole part of the United States was Mexico long before it was USA, which is part of why so many who are considered "illegal" immigrants don't even regard that as legitimate discourse. And I respect that.

But this episode of the North American metaphysics has nothing to do with MLS, because the second club to get covered for being prominent at continental level is, of course, south of the current border, at a club associated with one of the most prominent public universities in Latin America - Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, and their official football club, Los Tigres.

Immediately, it's interesting to note how there's two major professional franchises at the top tier of Mexican football - both Tigres and Pumas - that are the teams of universities. In the United States, this false notion of student-athletes is still enforced, even though by all means at most major American football programs this is obviously circumvented in a multitude of ways. It's a false pretense of amateurism. Meanwhile, in Mexico, they just straight up have pro teams that are associated with the university, but run separate from them. Tigres' stadium is actually inside the university complex.

In terms of successes, being I've ranked these clubs according to performances in the past decade, five of Tigres seven Liga MX titles have occurred in this decade, and they've also won a Copa MX in that time, won the North American Campeones Cup in 2018, and were runners-up in the North American Champions League three of the past four seasons. But their most prominent achievement was probably being runner-up in the South American Copa Libertadores in 2015, one of only three times where a Mexican club has made it to (and always lost in) the Copa Libertadores final.

Tigres successes have been built almost entirely by Brazilian director tecnico Ricardo Ferretti, who is in his third stint as their manager, a role he's held this time round ever since 2010, when he had been manager at Pumas, who were upset far before expectations in the playoffs, so he quit, and almost immediately returned to Tigres. Apertura 2011, they won their first title in 25 years, and it's been nothing but peaches ever since. Ferretti is not only the longest-serving manager in Liga MX, he's got seven years on second place Miguel Herrera of Club America. Ferretti is so beloved in Mexico, he's also been interim manager of El Tri twice during this time. Even those appointments have been testament to what kind of guy Ferretti is, because he's very openly stated he does not want to manage the Mexican national team, as there is a strong tradition of natives managing the squad, but has done so both occasions by agreeing to do so until the national football federation found a good long-term replacement. At this point, being most all of Tigres successes are associated with Ferretti, he has a Sir Alex Ferguson-style status, where likely he can continue coaching for as long as he wants. And though 65, the Brazilian still looks fit as fuck in that sweet white, yellow, and blue Adidas Tigres track suit. Tuca, as he's lovingly known as, probably still has a few years left in him.

And yet, global capitalism is also part of all this (of course). CEMEX was a large concrete company in Monterrey (where Tigres is located is considered part of the greater Monterrey metropolitan area), but in the '90s started expanding internationally, purchasing up large cement companies in Spain, as well as concrete factories in the USA, Panama, and then the Caribbean, South America, Asia and Africa. CEMEX purchased Tigres, and in fact celebrated its centennial as a company in 2006 with an exhibition between Tigres and Barcelona in Monterrey, a crowning achievement of footballing globalism for the Mexican brand. That CEMEX money has been integral with Tuca's vision in creating the powerhouse club. The money won't dry up anytime soon, but once Tuca does retire, it will be interesting to see what happens with the club, not unlike what we've seen with Manchester United and Arsenal in recent seasons after similar culture-building managers have retired.

So here's the top players for Tigres over the course of the past fifty competitive matches...

#1: GUIDO PIZARRO – An interesting feature of footballing metaphysics philosophy that's on high display at Tigres is the presence of a specifically defensive midfielder. In a properly flowing eleven-man side, the defensive midfielder role is key, allowing the move from back heel to FLYING THE FUCK FORWARD POSSESSED WITH SUDDEN POTENCY. Two of the top four presences on Tigres list are defensive midfielders. And at the top is Guido Pizarro, an Argentine (and also naturalized Mexican) who grew up in Buenos Aires, and came through Lanus down there. His first time at Tigres began in 2013, where in four years, he made enough of a presence known that he got a deal to play in La Liga for Sevilla. Though he performed well enough, he came back to Tigres in July of 2018, and has been back with Tuca ever since. He's still only 29, and though the core of Tigres decade of success is aging, Pizarro still seems to be in prime range for a few more years you'd think.

#2: NAHUEL GUZMAN – For the past half a decade, this big Argentine’s stern face has been a Liga MX fixture in important matches. Aperture 2015 for example, when he was GK for Tigres in the finals. The way Liga MX playoffs works is the year is split into two seasons, and each season, the top eight clubs in the table play in a torneo, each round a two-leg home-and-away, with higher seed at home in the second leg. If it ends up even on goals, the higher seed advances automatically, except in the finals, where it goes to penalties. Thus, GKs in Liga MX become far more important far more quickly than you see in European football, as shootouts happen in prominent moments a little more commonly. Guzman’s a club legend back home at Argentina’s Newell’s Old Boys club, where he was GK for nearly a decade, before coming to Mexico. At age 33, he may be hitting the twilight of his career at this level, but that’s the case with a number of players on this squad, and what they say about Ferretti himself. The Mexican football press has been ready to shovel dirt on Tigres for a couple of years. Guzman made news at the beginning of this season though for playing the first match with his hair dyed in rainbow colors. Mexican football just issued a ban on the crowd chanting homophobic chants at away GKs on goal kicks, and Guzman explained that he wore his hair in the rainbow to acknowledge that new rule, as well as the first transgender woman being signed to a First Division women’s club in January as well. It’s a pretty bold act in a horribly machismo culture, not just Mexican football but his native Argentina as well.

#3: HUGO AYALA – Hugo Ayala came to Tigres in the summer of 2010, the same time Tuca Ferretti came in this current stint, and it wasn’t long into that first year together that Ayala became a starter at central defender - a role he’s never given up in the decade since, accumulating around 350 appearances in Liga MX alone, not to mention being part of all those squads that gained continental and intercontinental renown. Ayala wears that captain’s armband firmly, and is a crowd favorite as well.

#4: RAFAEL CARIOCA – Considering Tuca's Brazilian, there's surprisingly few Brazilians on the Tigres roster. But the current one and only exception is defensive midfielder, Rafael Carioca, whose been at Tigres since 2017. Before that, outside of a five-season stint strangely at Spartak Moscow (with one loan stint in Portugal while there), he'd been entirely in Brazil as a professional. The colonial connections due to language are always interesting to see, how there's a direct flow of Brazilians to Portugal due to shared tongue, but also how Brazilians stick out in Mexico. Carioca's been key force in Tigres defense (and Latin American defensive efforts are WAY MORE PHYSICAL than European or MLS ones).

#5: ANDRE-PIERRE GIGNAC – You don't see a lot of non-Spanish speaking Europeans in Liga MX, so it's notable when you do, but nobody is more notable in this genre than Andre-Pierre Gignac, the Frenchman who's in his fifth year at Tigres. In that period, he's scored over 100 goals in Liga MX competition, and in fact the league's top scorer in both Clausura 2016 and Apertura 2018. At age 34, he's starting to slow down, but still more than deserving of that #10 kit he wears. Interestingly enough, there may be some cultural contribution to him ending up in Mexico, in very non-French-like ways, considering he was just as potent a striker when playing for Marseille and Toulouse in Ligue 1 before coming to North America. He considers himself Manouche, which is the Romani people of France, as his wife is Manouche, and he grew up in that community, living in caravans and working in markets. Early in his career, while still based in France, he told an interviewer he gave his extra clothes to his mother-in-law, who sold them in markets while still traveling in the Romani fashion. But Gignac has a ridiculously happy personality, which can be evident on the pitch, completely immersed in the moment. There's football metaphysics behind a guy like him ending up in Nuevo Leon state, Mexico.

#6: LUIS RODRIGUEZ – Rodriguez is a local boy, born and raised in Monterrey, where he played as a youth and made a couple of appearances at the senior level years ago. But he became known while at Chiapas, and joined Tigres in 2016. He can play up and down the right flank, as defender, midfielder, attacking winger, whatever, and his chill ass nature is well-known, and actually got him a few calls to the national team.

#7: JESUS DUENAS – Though almost 31, Duenas' entire professional career has been wit Tigres, having joined the club as a youth player. Since 2014, he's been their main starting central midfielder, and was instrumental to their famous successes in Copa Libertadores 2015. That same period began him getting the call for El Tri national team, mostly in friendlies, but the Mexican National Team has a policy of playing Liga MX players as hard as possible. Oddly though, Tigres success has depended on bringing in talent rather than growing it at home, as Duenas is the only Tigres youth player who has had any effect on the senior club to any extent.

#8: JAVIER AQUINO – Aquino’s a winger who’s been with the club for four years now, after having made the jump across the Atlantic for a two year tour of footballing duty in Spain, mostly for Villarreal. He was never able to catch on in La Liga or Spain’s second division while on loan, so returned to Mexico, where he’s been a component but not the key to Tigres offense the past few years.

#9: CARLOS SALCEDO – Salcedo’s a center back for Tigres who actually made the move to the United States while a youth player, from Tigres to Real Salt Lake. He played in MLS one season with them, then returned to Mexico for Guadalajara, his hometown club, although in that time he had made enough known of himself to have loans to both Serie A in Italy (with Fiorentina) and the Bundesliga (with Eintracht Frankfurt). He actually made a permanent move to Frankfurt, but was disappointing that stint, so returned to Tigres last January, a year ago, in the winter transfer window.

#10: ENNER VALENCIA – A footballing metaphysics theme that will run through Mexican clubs that you don't see in Europe is the Ecuadorian winger, born from the high altitudes, who roams the flanks like a pirate. Enner Valencia is probably one of the more famous one of this type internationally, having earned some renown while with West Ham United for three seasons. After his loan with Everton didn't earn him any new gigs in England in the summer of 2017, he came back to his home half of the globe, joining Tigres, where he's been ever since. In the 2018-19 cycle of competitions, he got 15 goals in 45 appearances, but thus far through Apertura 2019 into Clausura 2020, he's had 20 appearances without a goal. In fact, after scoring three last April (one in Liga MX play, two in CONCACAF Champions League), he's not scored. That dry spell put him on the transfer rumor board this past month, but thus far, he's remained a Tigre.

#11: LUIS QUINONES – Monterrey has a large Colombian presence historically, and in fact there's a strong tradition of cumbia music in the metropolitan area, largely due to sonideros (or DJs) who span cumbia music. One of the most famous of this scene was Gabriel Duenes aka Sonido Duenes who was essentially the DJ Screw of Monterrey, who made mixtapes of cumbia music. According to legend, he had a tape player overheat one time, and the machine started playing slow at a party, but people loved the sound and asked him to do it again. That's the legend of how cumbia rebajada was born, and Duenes still sells pirated CD mixes in Monterrey flea markets. Anyways, this all has contributed to a large presence of Colombian expats in the greater Monterrey area. Of course, Colombians are going to be present in Liga MX regardless, but they find an easier home in Nuevo Leon, definitely a strong non-Colombian empanada zone of sorts. But the weird thing with Tigres is they've had TWO Colombians with the surname Quinones in recent seasons who have been threats on attack up front, yet they're not related, and have rarely ever featured on the pitch at the same time. Julian Quinones came first, from Colombia as a youth player on the club, who started making appearances for the senior club as well, in 2016-17 seasons. That same time, Luis came to the club from Pumas, playing a bit at first, but getting loaned a couple seasons to Toluca most notably. The past year though, Luis Quinones' speed has caused Tuca Ferritta to play him more, although it's yet to translate into as many goals for Tigres as it did while he was with Toluca. With Lucas Zelarayan's transfer to MLS, and Gignac's age, Luis Quinones might get more of a chance in the coming months to become more of threat, having only scored once in Apertura 2019, early in the season. Of course, over the course of 2018-19 season, the other Quinones, Julian, got three braces in Liga MX, and he's six years younger, so maybe he shows back up. The point is, Colombians run deep in this region, so their presence on Tigres ain't going away.

#12: JORGE TORRES NILO – Jorge Torres Nilo’s a right back who came onto the club in the summer of 2010, as part of ol’ Tuca’s first batch of recruits. Torres Nilo and Ayala have been the backbone of Tigres success. In fact, most of the best Mexican clubs have a brutally stifling defense (which is sometimes outright violent) that will explode into offense quickly. Tigres’ slow start to Clausura 2020 has been blamed on lack of goals, which of course is always an issue in a sport decided by goals.

#13: EDUARDO VARGAS – Chilean winger who spent the better part of six years in Europe after leaving his home country for the first time, with stints in Italy (Napoli), Brazil (Gremio), Spain (Valencia), England (Queens Park), and finally spending two full seasons in the Bundesliga with 1899 Hoffenheim. He returned to Latin America as Tigres big signing in the January 2017 transfer window. Apertura 2017’s playoff finals was the blood feud of Monterrey and Tigres, which drew 1-1 at Tigres home. Vargas netted one of Tigres two goals (along with Francisco Meza) to give Tigres the 2-1 away win at Monterrey to be crowned Liga MX campeones against their biggest rivals.

#14: LUCAS ZELARAYAN – Zelarayan may become more famous to US soccer fans, because after five years under Ferritti's tutelage at Tigres, where he arrived from his native Argentina at age 23, he just signed a deal to move to the Columbus Crew in MLS. In his last three seasons in Liga MX, he got 2 goals (Apertura 2018), 3 (Clausura 2019), and then 4 last campaign (Apertura 2019). It's the club record transfer fee for Columbus, which also should put in context the difference between Liga MX and MLS stature, because Zelarayan was part of a group dynamic in attack for Tigres, but is being lauded as the proof of a brand new era for Columbus Crew football. That's not to disparage US football so much as to make anybody reading this shit who thinks the MLS is like just a couple big moves away from being equal to a European league (which it feels like dudes actually believe sometimes… fuckin' marks), that it's a whole lot of moves away from even being equal to Liga MX. If they ever do figure out a cross-nation league like there's been talks about, it'll be interesting to see how they work it out in terms of promotion and relegation (if they do), because they'd likely have to keep it the same number of clubs between nations, or it'd just end up being like 10 Mexican clubs, 5 US ones, and Toronto FC. That's actually a big part of why the breakdown of hosting cities for the World Cup coming to North America pisses me off. The US hasn't earned that large a percentage of the hosting, like it has commandeered. Of course, hosting a World Cup has far less to do with what you deserve and far more to do with how much money you pay the right people.

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