Graphic: Cory Mizer, Cleveland SC
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As you know, FC Buffalo is extremely proud to host Monarcas Morelia reserva for a Friday night match on Cinco de Mayo weekend, the first visit to Buffalo by a Mexican club in almost 90 years, as the Liga MX side visits Buffalo, Cleveland, and Kalamazoo.

To American eyes, there is perhaps no one better to tell us about a Liga MX club than Tom Marshall, ESPNFC’s Englishman in Mexico with a remarkably deep understanding of Mexican soccer. We thank him for sharing some time with us today.

1) So what do Buffalo supporters need to know about Monarcas Morelia as a club?

Morelia is club with a long history. Founded in 1924, Monarcas have become one of the more regular teams in Mexico in recent years, although winning trophies hasn’t been something the club has become known for. Morelia has only one Liga MX — Invierno 2000 — title to its name. Located in-between Mexico City and Guadalajara, Morelia did win the Copa MX in 2013 and finished runner-up in the 2017 Clausura.

2) What is the Morelia area of Mexico known for?

The team’s nickname is the “Monarcas” (monarch in English) butterfly. Every year in later summer/autumn the butterflies take off from the northern areas of the United States and Canada and migrate south, with millions ending up in the “monarch butterfly biosphere reserve,” which is a world heritage site in the state of Michoacan, of which Morelia is the capital. Morelia itself is a colonial city with lots of rose-colored buildings and a population of just under one million people. 

3) How about the match day atmosphere in Mexico?

It’s a unique experience, especially when there’s a big game on. From the birria (stew) outside the stadiums to the color, the way fans mingle — unlikely to happen in many European or South American countries — and the passion that accompanies Mexico’s number one sport, it something that sucks you in. 

4) Who are the heroes of Monarcas’ recent history?

Current Seattle Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz famously saved the club from relegation and went on to become a firm fan favorite. The Peruvian netted 40 Liga MX goals in just 72 matches and featured at the World Cup in Russia. He signed for the Sounders in June 2018. 

Aside from Ruidiaz, local hero Carlos Morales retired from the club earlier this year. Defender Morales had made his debut for Morelia in 1998 and retired aged 39. 

5) How would you compare the Mexican style of football to what we see in the U.S.? Is it similar?

In general, Mexican football is more technical, there’s a commitment to playing out from the back, along the ground and going out to attack. It’s quite rare to see a Liga MX game in which one of the teams sits back and plays entirely on the counter-attack. It’s more usual to see two teams go out and attack each other. It’s overall less physical than in the United States. 

6) Finally, as someone who’s spent a lot of time in Mexico, what can we do best to make sure traveling fans have a great time.

Turn up early, tailgate, and join the party, rather than watching from the side!

7) What should we have asked that we didn’t?

The team hasn’t had a great 2019 Clausura, but is actually 10th overall in the relegation table — worked out over the last three years — and has been consistently in the playoff mix over recent seasons.

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