‘Chino’ Huerta eager to show Chivas what might have been

Huerta vs Guadalajara

César Huerta showed tremendous promise with Guadalajara but management let him go in the summer of 2022, a decision they might now regret. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)

UNAM and Guadalajara square off on Saturday night in one of the more attractive Matchday 17 contests this weekend.

Both teams have clinched playoff spots and the host Pumas (25 points) will be looking to secure a first-round bye, something the Chivas (27 points) have already clinched.

Fifth-place UNAM will be aiming to be a rude host and leapfrog fourth-place Guadalajara in the standings with a win. A draw would allow the Pumas to remain in the top six which would give “Los Auriazules” a pass right to the quarterfinals.

A loss to the Chivas, however, would leave the door open for Atlético de San Luis (23 points) and Puebla (22 points) to relegate UNAM to the Play-In Tournament although Puebla would need to overcome a 10-goal deficit (an unlikely outcome, but mathematically possible).

‘El Chino’ eager to exact some revenge on Guadalajara

Winger César Huerta is UNAM’s leading scorer and most dangerous offensive threat. His mazy runs down the flank and into the box have become a regular feature of the Pumas attack.

A Guadalajara native, “Chino” would like nothing better than to take the Chivas down a peg or two, especially after his home-town team gave up on him … twice.

Huerta joined the Guadalajara academy as a young boy and advanced rapidly. He debuted in Liga MX at 17 in November 2018, but was shortly thereafter farmed out to Ascenso MX club Zacatepec on a year-long loan deal. After that, he was sent to the club’s Under-20 where he thrived, scoring 6 goals in 15 appearances.

He didn’t get his second Liga MX cap until a year later, after new Guadalajara coach Tomás Boy asked that he be promoted to the senior team. Unfortunately, “El Chino” saw little action and when Boy was fired, Huerta was deemed surplus to needs.

“Chino” spent the next year on loan to Morelia, only seeing action in 10 games. In summer 2020, the Morelia franchise moved to Mazatlán where lo and behold Boy had been named coach.

With “El Jefe” in charge, “Chino” started every game of the Apertura 2020, contributing 3 goals and an assist while proving to be a capable starter at just 20 years of age.

Huerta’s performance prompted Guadalajara to end his loan deal and recall him but he failed to convince coach Víctor Manuel Vucetich, only serving as a late-game sub across the next four seasons.

By the summer of 2022, Guadalajara had given up on Huerta and he arrived to UNAM on a free transfer, a transaction that has proven to be a boon to the Pumas. The 22-year-old Guadalajara native has been among the top 1v1 winners each of the past two seasons, blossoming into a star.

Huerta vs Guadalajara

Huerta scored 23 minutes into his debut with El Tri. (Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Three seasons later, “Chino” finds himself among the league leaders with 8 goals and he is a regular on the national team. Huerta scored on his El Tri debut, banging home a late-game equalizer against Australia.

So it is easy to understand that Huerta would love nothing better than to punish Guadalajara at the CU on Saturday. To do so, he will likely have to best Alan Mozo, the Chivas’ right fullback who is among the league leaders in1v1 defense while also boasting dangerous offensive weapons in his arsenal, most specifically excellent accuracy on his centering passes.

And in a bit of irony, Mozo came up through the Pumas academy system, so he’ll be out to one-up his former team as well.

However it goes on the CU pitch, there is bound to be a great deal of entertainment on the flank whenever Huerta and Mozo face off.