CCL Semifinal Team Preview: Monterrey

The opponent of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Mexican club Monterrey is previewed ahead of the CCL semifinals.

Nicknames: Most commonly referred to as “Los Rayados” (the striped ones) Monterrey is also occasionally referred to as “La Pandilla” (the gang) or “Los Albiazules” (the white and blue.)

Home Stadium: Monterrey plays their home matches at Estadio Tecnológico, the second-oldest operational soccer stadium in Mexico. The facility is located on the campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (the club rents the stadium and isn’t affiliated in any way with the institution). They’ll soon move into a brand new, state-of-the-art venue with room for 50,000+ supporters, the Estadio de Fútbol Monterrey. The structure, which is projected to be among the most environmentally-friendly stadiums in the world, should be complete sometime in mid-2014.

History: C.F. Monterrey is among the oldest soccer teams in Mexico, dating back to the mid-forties. Los Rayados spent most of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in the middle or bottom of the table, and finally rose to prominence in 1986, when they won the first of their four league titles. After another extended spell of mediocrity, they returned to glory with a Clausura title in 2003 and have remained relevant since then, collecting Apertura titles in 2009 and 2010.

INFOGRAPHIC: Monterrey Team Profile

Monterrey has qualified for the past two editions of the CONCACAF Champions League, and they won both of them handily. In 2010-2011 CCL play they went unbeaten in group play before breezing past fellow Liga MX competitors Cruz Azul and Toluca in the knockout round. After a 2-2 draw with MLS side Real Salt Lake in the finals, Monterrey returned home and sent the Claret and Cobalt packing with a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat.

The 2011-2012 edition of Champions League was an even easier ride for La Pandilla. After coasting through group play – suffering only narrow losses to the Sounders and Guatemalan side Communicaciones – the team trampled over Liga MX’s Morelia in the quarterfinals and eliminated Pumas in the semis. After disposing of Santos in the finals, Monterrey became the first team to win back-to-back CCL titles since the tournament’s 2008 redesign.

Both titles resulted in FIFA Club World Cup berths. After a fifth place finish in 2011, Monterrey finished third in 2012 after a victory over Egyptian club Al-Ahly in the third place match.

How They Got Here: Monterrey qualified as the runner-up in 2012 Clausura play; unlike many other tournaments, there is no automatic berth in Champions League for the defending champion, so Monterrey had to earn their spot in the 2013 CCL the old fashioned way. The Group Stage draw found them placed alongside two much less formidable opponents, and the Mexican giants in no way played down to their competition, throttling Guatemalan representatives Municipal and Panamanian side Chorillio by a combined score of 15-0.

After having secured the full 12 points from their four group encounters, Los Rayados entered the knockout phase of the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions League as the top seed. They found little resistance in their quarterfinal opponent, Guatemala’s Xelajú, and cruised into the semifinals, where they await Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.

Current Form: Monterrey’s 2013 Clausura campaign has been a disappointment. Mired in the middle of the Liga MX table, Los Rayados are currently three points shy of the eighth and final “Liguilla” (playoff) berth.

Monterrey’s offense is led by Mexican-born striker Aldo de Nigris, who’s enjoyed a relatively successful Clausura campaign, finding the back of the net on six occasions. Supporting him in midfield is fellow countryman Jesús Zavala, who enters this weekend’s Liga MX action fresh off the Mexican National Team’s most recent set of qualifiers against Honduras and the United States.

Much like fellow CCL and Liga MX competitors Santos Laguna, Monterrey has played a near-full strength lineup when they’ve needed to. They’ll face a tough opponent in the Galaxy, who’ve impressed in league and CCL play despite a recent rash of injuries and (until recently) the absence of their talismanic leader Landon Donovan. La Pandilla has been equally if not more impressive in Champions League, however, and as back-to-back Champions of CONCACAF they have to be considered favorites in their semifinal matchup with the Galaxy. If they manage to hoist the CCL trophy for the third time in as many years, we could be looking at the first-ever CONCACAF Champions League dynasty.