By Gerardo Martínez Gómez
Santos Laguna has won more games and earned the second-most points in Mexican soccer of the past two years. It hasn't won a title, however, since the 2008 Clausura.
As a result, the front office has continued to invest in the team's youth system, a new stadium, new player acquisitions and the coaching staff.
After unsuccessful trips to the finals of the 2010 Clausura (Bicentenario), the 2010 Apertura and the 2011 Apertura, Santos has another chance to claim a title when it faces Monterrey for the CONCACAF Champions League crown.
Benjamín Galindo reportedly has decided to rest the majority of his regulars for Saturday's game against America in Estadio Azteca, demonstrating the significans he and club has placed on having the best side possible for Wednesday's CCL first leg against Los Rayados.
Monterrey has its own nagging recent history shadowing it, desperate to win to quell criticism after last year's early exit from the Club World Cup.
Winning the CONCACAF crown would not only be a first for the Torreon side - and the first of any title in four years, but would also give it a chance in the FIFA club championship, a tournament where Mexican clubs have advanced to the semifinals only three times since the inaugural event in 2000 and not past their first match in two of the last four trips.
To accomplish this feat, Santos has one of Mexico's deepest talent pools, a mix of experience, youth, native players and foreign imports.
Oswaldo Sanchez, Ivan Estrada, Felipe Baloy, Juan Pablo Rodriguez, Daniel Luduena, Carlos Darwin Qunitero headline the roster along with national team players Oribe Peralta (Mexico) and Herculez Gomez (United States). With this level of talent, Santos will look to shed its new tag of the eternal runner-up.
While Monterrey may possess one of the best attacking duos in Mexico in Aldo De Nigris and Humberto Suazo, Santos has its own in the partnership between Peralta and Gomez, both of whom lead the Champions League in scoring with six goals apiece.
In fact, line by line, Santos and Monterrey seem virtually even, with the potential exception coming on the bench.
Víctor Manuel Vucetich is one of the most successful coaches in Mexican soccer history and is yet to lose a final. Galindo, on the other hand, is a young coach that is beginning to look to enter into the list of top Mexican coaches.
Therefore, perhaps on the bench is the only real difference between the two teams that starting on Wednesday will fight for CONCACAF supremacy and a trip to Japan to face the top clubs of the world.