The 5 best players of the 2017 Liga MX Clausura ... so far

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

We've hit the Clausura's midway point - the perfect opportunity to single out the tournament's most influential stars.

It wasn’t easy to narrow this list down to five names.

With a total of 72 Liga MX matches and 178 goals to consider, there are countless players who have emerged with remarkable performances during the Clausura.

Nonetheless, after hours spent analyzing, researching and sorting through the lengthy list of candidates, I have narrowed the field down to the finest this tournament’s had to offer.

In no specific order, here are the five best Liga MX players of the first half of the season:

Dorlan Pabon, Monterrey

Pabon is the most in-form striker in the league. Thanks to his incessant shots in nearly every match, and the ensuing five goals to his name, the Colombian is the tournament’s leading goalscorer.

After a dismal 2016 Apertura, Pabon has become the key figure reinvigorating the once struggling Rayados. Despite the fact Monterrey has a number of highly-talented stars, the former Valencia player has emerged as the team’s leader in the attack, in large part because of those numerous opportunities he’s created.

Pabon’s already 29 years old, so it’s difficult to envision a return to Europe. That said, with his contract due to end this summer, who knows what another noteworthy season could mean. At the very least, it could lead to his first-ever Liga MX title.

Be sure to keep an eye on the striker who is able to pull-off the occasional golazo from distance.

Oscar Murillo, Pachuca

There is no better central defense partnership in Mexico than Omar Gonzalez and Murillo. With only five goals allowed in the Clausura, Los Tuzos’ defense, led by its center back duo, has been superb.

Of the two, Murillo has stood out through his marking and well-timed interceptions, making goalkeeper Oscar Perez’s job much easier in net. In addition to being an asset in defense, the Colombian also scored his first career goal with Pachuca in early February with an impressive header.

More minutes in Mexico will also likely mean more appearances with the Colombian national team. Since his move to Liga MX last year, the 28-year-old has not only made his debut with Los Cafeteros but also earned seven starts for the national side in 2016.

With a key role for club and country, 2017 should prove to be a memorable year for Murillo.

Tiago Volpi, Queretaro

Much has been made of Queretaro’s rise during the past few weeks. Although the reason for the resurgence should deservedly be given to new manager Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano, Volpi should also be given praise for his constant game-changing saves in net for Los Gallos Blancos.

The goalkeeper, who was salvaging much-needed points even before Lozano’s arrival, is second in the league with 38 saves. With the Brazilian taking charge between the sticks, Los Gallos Blancos have only allowed eight goals in eight matches.

As mentioned in early January, Volpi should easily be on the radar of bigger clubs abroad. The 26-year-old is still fairly young for a goalkeeper, and given more time to shine in Mexico, a move to Europe appears inevitable.

For now, though, there is opportunity in Mexico. With Lozano leading on the sidelines and Volpi controlling the net, Queretaro has a decent chance of earning a championship.

Aviles Hurtado, Club Tijuana

Not to be outdone by his fellow Colombian countrymen, Hurtado has had little trouble stealing headlines with his four goals and three assists for Tijuana. Following the significant winter departures Dayro Moreno and Gabriel Hauche, Hurtado has stepped up as Tijuana’s new leader in a thrilling attack.

At his best, the winger/striker is one of the most agile and creative dribblers in Mexico. Over the Clausura’s opening months, Hurtado’s creative playmaking, finishing and dangerous runs have helped carry Xolos to a current spot at first place in the league table.

Although the Colombian has never been given a chance to play for his native country, an opportunity to represent a national team might arrive from Mexico. Keeping in mind FIFA’s five-year residency rule, and Hurtado’s first Liga MX deal with Pachuca in December of 2012, the Tijuana player could play for Mexico in less than a year.

If Hurtado maintains his momentum in Liga MX, we might soon see him donning El Tri’s jersey.

Nicolas Castillo, Pumas

Castillo has hit the ground running in Mexico. The Chilean, who joined Pumas in December, has collected four goals and two assists in his first seven matches with the club.

Unlike the other players on this list, Castillo is a newcomer, one that has seamlessly transitioned over from his recent time in Chile with Universidad Catolica. In less than three months the striker has become one of the top names in Liga MX.

Despite problems earned a spot with Club Brugge, the 24-year-old’s form has hinted he is worthy of playing abroad. Luckily for Castillo, he is likely going to get plenty of opportunities to shine with Pumas.

It may be only a matter of time before we see the Chilean again make the leap the across the pond. Until then, Pumas fans will surely be thrilled to have him in their roster.

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