Veracruz was in a heap of trouble before week 15 of the Liga MX Clausura 2017. Most people had deemed Veracruz as the franchise that was doomed to abandon the Liga MX and relegate to the Ascenso MX. Many people also wanted to see Los Tiburones suffer after the incidents from the fans and the ownership that had occurred all year long. In week 15 the ‘jarochos’ got an enormous 2-0 victory over Pumas UNAM away from home. The victory was highly unlikely and was Veracruz’s first road win since 2015 and its first win at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario in 13 years.
This past Friday Los Escualos sealed their fate with another highly unlikely win at home. Veracruz came out on the pitch with a ridiculous looking uniform that already attracted a lot of mockery and attention before the game had started. Los Tiburones came onto the pitch of the Luis “Pirata” Fuente with their white and red away top which was not anything out of the ordinary. But it was the shorts that made this uniform “unique” as the home team was sporting purple shorts to go along with the white and red jerseys. The eccentric chairman of Veracruz, Fidel Kuri had adopted purple as a talisman to secure the victory on the field as he too sported purple attire.
Well whether it was due to the purple shorts or not, Veracruz did secure the 1-0 win over one of the top teams in the Liga MX, Monterrey. The win did not only secure salvation from relegation for Veracruz but also made Juan Antonio Luna’s side a playoff contender now with 21 points. Veracruz’s Clausura 2017 campaign has been very peculiar and once you analyze some of the players that helped keep this franchise aloft it becomes even more unlikely.
Veracruz is a team that seemed doomed to fail coming into this tournament having sold its two best players, Julio Furch and Gabriel Penalba. The Argentine pair were the core of the team and success without them seemed impossible. The players that Carlos Reinoso had brought into the team also seemed doomed to fail, as the Chilean skipper brought in 14 players into the Liga MX team. A team built with no chemistry and several players that had played in the Ascenso MX seemed like a garbage fire waiting to happen.
Somehow this team found success, with some players that seemed like they would not fit into any Liga MX team. The star signing for Reinoso was Angel Reyna, the once Liga MX star was now at another stage in his career. Reyna was not the young talented kid with the attitude problems anymore he was the 32-year-old veteran with the same attitude problems. The Mexican midfielder has spent 2016 in the Ascenso MX with Celaya but Veracruz gave him a shot and he has worked wonders for the team. Reyna is the creative spark in the team that can generate the key opportunities even at 32-years-old. Angel Reyna was not the only veteran midfielder that was playing in the Ascenso MX that Carlos Reinoso decided to bring in.
The Chilean manager also brought in Cristian Pellerano who was once a talented defensive midfielder but was now a 35-year-old midfielder who had seen his best days. The Argentine was playing in the Ascenso MX with Cafetaleros de Tapachula a team that was fighting relegation in the second tier of Mexican soccer. Pellerano has been amazing controlling the midfield for Veracruz with his partner in crime, Egidio Arevalo Rios. Carlos Reinoso was trying to reconstruct the midfield that Club Tijuana once had with Arevalo Rios and Pellerano and brought a version of it to Veracruz.
Antonio Briseno was also signed from the Ascenso MX, having played with FC Juarez in the Apertura 2016 competition. “El Pollo” had an outstanding tournament being one of the best defenders for Los Tiburones not even playing in his natural position, playing as a fullback in 2017. Like Briseno, Veracruz also obtained the services of another defender that was once a promising talent.
Miguel Angel Herrera had seemed lost for a few years not getting much playing time with Tigres UANL or Monterrey but has proven to be a solid defender for Veracruz as of late. Of course, once Juan Antonio Luna came in as the replacement for Carlos Reinoso things changed, from the playing style to the players being used. Reinoso had been utilizing Eduardo Herrera as his main striker who was signed for Veracruz after being on the bench for Pumas UNAM for most of the Apertura 2016 tournament.
Luna was now using Angel Reyna as an unconventional false nine as his main striking option. Another player that “El Cabezon” incorporated into his squad was Adrian Luna, who had been with the team since the Apertura 2016 but before that had played with Merida in the Ascenso MX. Luna was not a player that Reinoso took much into consideration but has proved to be a key player under his namesake.
Other unlikely heroes have emerged in this bizarre season for Veracruz like Edgar “El Gordo” Andrade and Leandro Velasquez. Veracruz was a team that was constructed for failure but proved to be a complete success and may now even sneak into the playoffs. The drama generated by the franchise has overshadowed its accomplishments but this season was worthy of achieving salvation from El Infierno and maybe even more than that.