Omar Campos: The Future of Mexico’s Defense

Santos Laguna Stadium

The Mexican national team is in a state of rebuild.

Mexico has long dominated North American soccer, a fact its fans regularly enjoy touting. Now, however, things are changing. The US has started to improve its player development, with Mexico not winning a match against the Americans since 2019. Additionally, many of Mexico’s long-term stars (Guillermo Ochoa, Chicharito, Hector Herrera, Andrés Guardado, etc.) are heading towards retirement, leading to the phasing in of new stars.

Fortunately, Mexico is never short on exciting talents. Edson Álvarez and Hirving Lozano now are El Tri’s biggest stars, with the likes of Santiago Giménez and Marcelo Flores expected to be the stars of tomorrow. There’s another particularly exciting talent, though, who has yet to be capped by Mexico: Santos Laguna’s Omar Campos.

LB Omar Campos, 20, Santos Laguna

Omar Campos was born in Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, where many of El Tri’s stars are born. In 2016, he joined the Santos Laguna academy, quickly making his way through the ranks of the team. In 2021, he made his debut at the age of 18, making Campos one of the club’s youngest ever debutants.

Campos went on to play 21 matches in his debut season, starting on the wings before being moved back as a left back, where he still plays. In fact, Campos played a full 90 minutes as left back in each of Santos Laguna’s 7 playoff games, losing in the final by one goal to Cruz Azul.

Last season saw Campos cement himself as one of the best left backs in Liga MX. Campos missed just eight of Santos Laguna’s 39 games, including nine clean sheets. Campos won 31 tackles, 44 interceptions, and had 46 clearances; all of these were big improvements over the previous year.

So far this season, only the Apertura phase of the season (the first part of the season, similar to what they have in Colombia) has been played. In those 19 games, though, Campos has been outstanding. He currently has 20 tackles, 25 interceptions, and 34 clearances. His four goal contributions are just one fewer than he had in nearly twice as many games last season.

Campos is a typical wingback. Since he started his career as a winger, he’s naturally very fast, a strong dribbler and crosser, and ultimately very dangerous on the flanks. His finishing is also impressive when he gets a chance to shoot. Defensively, he’s good, with particularly impressive tackling and an ability to read where the ball is going. One concern for some may be his size (5’9″), which can result in more physical players bullying him off the ball.

Campos has been linked with a number of clubs lately, including Turkish giants Galatasaray. Campos is certainly ready for the Super Lig, but Galatasaray have a decent bit of depth at the position and he wouldn’t necessarily be guaranteed playing time. Personally, I think he would be a great fit for RC Lens (Ligue 1) or Torino FC (Serie A), two teams that use wing backs/wide midfielders but lack coverage on the left.

With the World Cup rapidly approaching, there has been some debate as to whether or not Campos should be in the El Tri’s squad. Undoubtedly, the Mexican has talent, but it may be too early to bring in the 20-year-old, who has no caps to his name yet. It won’t be too long, though, until Campos is shining on a bigger, brighter stage.

Image Courtesy of MiguelCMuela, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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