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Mexican soccer has a new protagonist in its hands, shaking the normal hierarchy of the tournament and bringing new life and philosophy to the league in a way that the restructuring of the “Liga MX” could not provide.
Leon has roared into the tournament from the Promotional League refusing to give up on the soccer that got them there. Much like Swansea in the Premier League, they’ve decided style and substance is more important for survivable. Without a Manchester United or Manchester City style powerhouse in their wake in the Mexican League, Leon has surprisingly flourished.
Leon has 9 out of 12 possible points. Their only loss came against Toluca (who leads the tournament with 12) in a match that they dominated and could have won were they able to convert their opportunities before goals. It's like they've immediately transformed back to the years when they were regular protagonists of the Mexican league.
This past Friday, they showed they are not afraid to give up on their program. Using their traditional possession football akin to Barcelona and the Spanish national team, they dismantled the defending Champions Santos 3-0.
It is unprecedented for a team fresh out of the Promotional League to take over the league like this. Along with their offensive mindset, they have an unbeatable defense led by reinforcement Jonny Magallon. While Queretaro and Tijuana struggle to survive, Leon is leading the league in goals scored with 10 while only allowing two in the entire tournament (both against Toluca).
It’s also not a result of a team that hires one premier player to stand out in the tournament while sacrificing former stars. The leading scorer in the tournament is the largely anonymous attacking midfielder Carlos Peña, originally from Pachuca. The only other player with more than one goal is the Colombian Hernan Burbano, a defensive midfielder who personifies the "complete football" of the tema.
It isn’t only the style of play on the field—much more attractive than the conservative play that has come to characterize much of the field—but also from its front offices.
In a league that treats its players like slaves through their “Pacto de Caballeros” and refuses to respect contracts (like San Luis refusing to pay players if they did not win), Leon has stressed that the happiness of the players in the club house is paramount to having success in the field.
The team is not perfect, and questions will remain throughout the season about having two teams owned by the same company in the same league (Pachuca and Leon share the same ownership), but for now with what they’ve showed in the front offices and with their style of play—Leon deserves to be the top dog in the League.