Champions, Liga MX
By Daniel Rubens
One of the oldest clubs in the Americas is back in the winner’s circle. C.F. Pachuca, known as Los Tuzos (The Gophers), have been one of Mexico’s most successful clubs over the past two decades after years of mediocrity. However, the side from the South-Central Mexico had been in the midst of a title drought until this week, when they secured the Liga MX Clausura trophy in remarkable fashion for their first domestic championship in nine years.
While they’ve been something of a powerhouse in recent times, Pachuca were far from one throughout the majority of their history. Created by migrant miners from Southwest England working for the Compania Real del Monte y Pachuca in 1901, Pachuca Athletic Club was the first football team in the Pachuca area and had some early success competed against local teams founded in the ensuing years.
The club was one of the founding members of the Mexican Primera Division in 1907, though they remained an amateur side, and Pachuca won two Mexican Cups in the following five seasons. The Mexican Revolution would destroy the football association over those seasons, to the point where Pachuca were one of three teams remaining in 1912, the year they won the second of those cups. They would proceed to win a few district titles over the next eight years, but the club disbanded in 1920-21 and re-formed as a lower-league side.
It would be years before Pachuca would make another dent on the Mexican football scale. In 1966-67, Los Tuzos won promotion to the top flight, but they didn’t find much success during their six-year stint in the First Division, which was followed by a 19-year stay in the second.
When they went back up in 1992-93, Pachuca struggled to retain their footing, sliding between the top two tiers over the next few seasons. But after the Mexican football federation split the year into two half-season tournaments, Los Tuzos finally figured out life in the top flight, and they did so in a big way.
The next decade-plus was far and away the most successful stretch in Pachuca’s history. After avoiding relegation in their first season back in the big time, the club found itself champions of the winter tournament in 1999, their first title since the professionalization of football in Mexico, defeating Cruz Azul in the playoff final despite entering the postseason as the No. 7 seed under coach Javier Aguirre.
They would lose in the 2001 summer final in their next trip to a season championship before winning the winter trophy after the departure of Aguirre to
It was a period of major achievements for the old club, but those high quickly came to an end after the most recent Champions League title in 2010. They would make a few playoff runs in the following seasons, going to the Clausura final in 2013 and losing a heartbreaker, 4-3 to Leon after extra time, but not again hoisting the hardware come the end of the campaign.
That finally ended this week. For the first time since 2007, Pachuca clinched a domestic trophy, and they did so in a tremendous way.
After finishing 13th in the Apertura 2015, Pachuca shot up the table in the Clausura with 11 new faces in the squad, including American international center back Omar Gonzalez. Their defense improved massively in the Clausura, conceding just 16 times in 17 games to finish the regular season in second place. They entered the postseason as the No. 2 seed and won a pair of tight matchups, beating Santos Laguna 4-3 and Leon 3-2 — courtesy of a 93rd-minute winner by Hirving Lozano — on aggregate to set up a meeting with top-seeded Monterrey.
It was a memorable way to end a terrific season for the club, and they’ll look to improve upon this season’s success next year in the CONCACAF Champions League and in their domestic competition. The taste of victory is now back in the mouths of Los Tuzos, and it’s not something they want to lose any time soon.