The Guadalajara side has the look of a title contender while the reigning champion has big issues. Goal looks back at the weekend in Liga MX.
It was a wild weekend in Liga MX. Look, you probably could write that most weekends, but this one certainly fits the bill. We had both of last tournament's finalists struggling. We had a team that missed the postseason last time around, Toluca, go to the top of the table the same day it celebrated 100 years since its founding.
That was just the start.
It's time to look back on the lessons we learned and the best moments from Jornada 6:
They didn't start the week in the playoff positions, but in the logjam that is the middle of the Liga MX table Chivas now sit well in the mix after a win in the Guadalajara derby.
The opening 45 minutes from Chivas were strong. There were attacking chances created and converted. Atlas had one chance but was otherwise kept totally quiet as Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez and Orbelin Pineda controlled the midfield, freeing Angel Zaldivar, Rodolfo Pizarro, Isaac Brizuela and Javier "La Chofis" Lopez to get forward and put pressure on the Atlas defense.
Alan Pulido, who came off the bench after playing and scoring with the Mexican national team during the week, only adds to the danger Chivas pose up front. With Oswaldo Alanis returning to the form he showed before his injuries, the defense looks improved as well. At least, the defense looked improved in the first half. In the second, Atlas saw much more of the ball and was able to pull a goal back before falling, 2-1.
"In the second half, two goals up, we tried to keep the ball and the possession was more even," Chivas manager Matias Almeyda said. "That's normal. A team that is losing has to go on the attack."
This could be the Chivas team that fans have been waiting to show up for quite some time — since the team's last title win in 2006. Maybe six weeks is too early to be talking about title favorites, but this week — with some of their chief rivals falling — Chivas had the look of a team that could win it all.
The reigning league champion has won just once in six matches and, after Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Pachuca, has lost three straight. Tigres were undefeated after eight weeks of play in the Apertura, and while Andre-Pierre Gignac wasn't in great form, the rest of the team was supporting him.
Gignac hit the bar with an audacious attempt in the first half, but the Tigres attack was otherwise cold. Javier Aquino's sending-off in the 65th minute sealed Tigres' fate. With a team that has so many weapons, failing to score in five of six matches is ridiculous. The 4-2 win over Club America in a rematch of the league final now stands as an anomaly, but even that game saw two goals scored from set pieces.
The goals may come for Tigres, but right now the club's scoring issues look very real. Ismael Sosa, Jurgen Damm, Aquino and Gignac must recapture the spark they had in the previous seasons to avoid a catastrophic tournament. Eduardo Vargas is still acclimating to the team, but he too could provide a welcome boost.
"It's a situation that worries all of us: players, coaches, everybody," manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti said. "We're going to keep looking and trying to find attacking plays to be able to finish.
"Thinking it's a crisis would be bad on my part. I have to analyze what happened on the field. We had a very average first half. In the second half, the red card was well called. It's very complicated to play with a man less."
Ferretti is blunt, but he also chooses his words carefully. That even he is concerned about the lack of goals gives credence to the belief that the problems go beyond misfiring forwards. How the veteran tactician tweaks his team to end the drought will determine the course of the season.
Club America came away from the weekend with a point against Puebla, but that's not going to satisfy fans who want to see the grande get wins at home, not draw with the league's last-place team.
Like Tigres up the road, America didn't function in attack Saturday. Oribe Peralta's miss in the seventh minute after Cecilio Dominguez cut through the Puebla defense to get to the end line and put a chance on a platter for El Cepillo stood out as the most egregious, but there were other misses as well.
Oribe olvida lo 'hermoso' y falla un gol cantado. pic.twitter.com/fqHgvJmuF0— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) February 12, 2017
The better chances, though, were for Puebla, with goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin making a number of tough saves and coming off his line for balls in a superb performance. Ultimately, though, America shouldn't be playing to a 0-0 draw with a team like Puebla at home, and there are more and more people questioning whether Ricardo La Volpe is right for the job with Las Aguilas.
La Volpe did fine as an emergency option, putting out the fire that was burning while Ignacio "Nacho" Ambriz tried to put it out with a 20-ounce water bottle. La Volpe's fire-hose approach put out the fires and America delivered a respectable performance in both the league — getting to the final — and the Club World Cup, where America finished fourth. But the sheer force of his personality has sprayed away elements of quality from the America team.
The Clasico Nacional next weekend at Chivas may determine his fate. The club hasn't exactly been known for having patience with managers, and La Volpe isn't exactly known as being easy to get along with.
Tijuana is a difficult place to play. As we've discussed in this feature before, there are number of factors that feed into this. It's one of the longest journeys teams have to make, and when they do so they are in an unfamiliar time zone and have to play on a Friday instead of Saturday. Estadio Caliente also has the league's only artificial surface. That's before we even get to how staunch Tijuana's defense is this season or that the team has scored more goals than anyone else in the league so far.
So Necaxa's 2-1 win on Friday is all the more surprising when taken in context. Yes, the side from Aguascalientes found victory against the team that entered the weekend as the league leader, but it also pinned only the second home loss on Xolos in 16 matches.
What happened? For one, Claudio Riano made intelligent runs, finding space between the midfield and the defense to score a double, putting him at three goals in two contests. For another, Necaxa goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero was on top of his game, making four stops, while the defense held its shape — something that has become the trademark of Alfonso Sosa's team.
Tijuana should be able to bounce back, but the win could be a big motivator for a Necaxa team struggling to reach the heights it did in the Apertura, its first back in the top division in years.
Monterrey had four consecutive draws heading into this round but showed Saturday that it's a team that can get three points. Rayados saw off Pumas, 2-0, to get a second win this season and stay among the ranks of the undefeated.
More and more, this Monterrey looks like the one that finished as the runner-up of the 2016 Clausura and not the one that missed the Liguilla in the 2016 Apertura. Dorlan Pabon's double led a dangerous attack against a Pumas defense that has played well during the season.
Monterrey boss Antonio Mohamed was thrilled to end the streak of stalemates with a victory.
"The win calms us down, it takes the pressure off with the doubt that we had at home. We were better from the first minute of the match. We were better the whole game," Mohamed said. "The team had a noticeable intensity. It didn't stop running and it deserved to win against one of the best opponents in the league. We're happy, and we're on a good path."
Pumas didn't test Monterrey's defense as much as other teams have this year, but Jesus Molina and Celso Ortiz made things difficult in the middle. Mohamed is right that his team is doing well, and now that the string of draws has ended, perhaps a string of wins will follow.
With plenty of love for Pabon's goals above, Cruz Azul's Angel Mena scoring this free kick takes the honors this time around.
Quality halftime obstacle course from Atlas including a guy with oversized boxing gloves laying out contestants. pic.twitter.com/Mp06UGY3b9— Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) February 12, 2017