By Gerardo Martínez Gómez
Only two different teams have won CONCACAF club titles in consecutive years. Monterrey wants to be the charm.
Looking to join fellow Mexican sides Cruz Azul (1969-71, 1996-97) and Pachuca (2007-2008), Monterrey also can become the first team to win back-to-back crowns since the start of the Champions League four years ago.
This comes amid a Mexican Clausura race in which four teams - including Monterrey are within three points of Tigres and the lead. With the first leg of the CCL finals on Wednesday against Santos, manager Victor Manuel Vucetich rested most of his regulars Saturday and result in a 1-0 loss to Atlas.
"It's not worth it to be there and not win,' midfielder Luis Perez said. "That's the way we've felt during the whole tournament. We focus on the league and the following day we switch our mentality and think about the Champions League."
Humbero Suazo (four) and Aldo de Nigris (nine) lead Monterrey with 13 goals between them in the Mexican Clausura -- nearly half of the team's league-leading 28.
In the Champions League, Suazo and Abraham Carreno have scored five each with another four by De Nigris. It's evidence that Monterrey at least has sufficient goal-scoring prowess to reclaim CONCACAF trophy.
Much of Monterrey's attack generates in the midfield, led by the likes of Perez, Jesus Zavala, Angel Reyna and Neri Cardozo, who make Monterrey a constant threat.
However, Monterrey will have to play without two important players: Ricardo Osorio who is likely to miss both legs due to injury, and Cesar "Chelito" Delgado is suspended for Wednesday's match in Monterrey.
It's likely that Sergio "Cherokee" Perez will take Osorio's role on the right side of the defense while Ecuadorian Walter Ayovi, relegated to a substitute's role this season, will replace Chelito.
The defense will be especially key for Monterrey, with Jose Maria Basanta and Hiram Mier trying to limit the Santos attack - which has the second-most goals in the Mexican Clausura (27) -- and take a lead back to Torreon on April 25.
"The idea would be to leave with a lead and not to allow a goal…Yes, the idea is to get a lead, small or large, but a lead," Defender Severo Meza said. "We are going to try and keep a shutout in our own goal."
The duel between "Los Rayados" and Santos will undoubtedly focus on the both team's high-profile offenses. However, that could also influenced by another potential duel -- between two of Mexico's top goalkeepers: veteran Oswaldo Sanchez of Santos and youngster Jonathan Orozco for Monterrey.
Perhaps the most important member of Monterrey is perhaps its coach, the 56-year-old veteran Vucetich, undefeated in 11 finals - including five Mexican first-division league championships -- and easily considered one of Mexico's top coaches.
Vucetich's leadership may be key as he looks to keep his perfect record intact and enable Monterrey to hold on the Champions League trophy for a little longer.