We're going to keep this brief. There was a full slate of matches Tuesday and Wednesday and things kick off again Friday. The Liga MX Apertura started a bit slowly but is in full swing now.
Here are five thoughts from the midweek matches:
Palencia's time was up at Pumas
After a 2-1 defeat to Morelia, Pumas decided they'd had enough of manager Paco Palencia.
The game showed symptoms of the larger sickness that had taken hold at Pumas during Palencia's tenure. Nicolas Castillo scored, and the forward is very good – one of the best in the league. However, other than Castillo, the attack has few ideas. And while some young 'canteranos' were available for selection, some haven't been given enough minutes to make a real impact, and others who have seen time have done little to prove they need to earn more.
The club will regret not moving to do this sooner, with Pumas' finish in the penultimate place in the table last tournament the beginning of the end for a tenure that had started brightly with a playoff bid, but quickly faded. While the loss to Morelia was the last straw, the continual beatdowns at the hands of Tigres, including Saturday's 2-0 triumph by Tuca Ferretti's side, reminded the club's directors just how far they have to go before entering back into the elite.
Pumas' next coach will have a few building blocks – though Castillo's potential return to Europe in this transfer window will be a major concern – but will have work to do to get this team back to the level even of Guillermo Vazquez's teams. Aside from one final appearance, those sides weren't even at the level where a club with Pumas' history really should be.
Herrera again getting things ticking at America
Wednesday's 2-2 draw between Club America and Tigres left plenty of us wanting more, and a playoff series between the two teams would be enticing. Tuca Ferretti held back some of his best players, keeping Andre-Pierre Gignac and Eduardo Vargas on the bench to start the game while Enner Valencia put in work up front. It was a plan Herrera had put in place earlier this week, resting Valencia and Jurgen Damm for the weekend win over Pumas and showing just how deep the team is.
But while Tigres looked good even without their biggest stars, Club America also came out of the draw feeling positive. One of the biggest pluses so far this year is how coach Miguel Herrera, just six weeks into his second go-round as the club's manager, is getting the best from many of his players.
Darwin Quintero was an outcast under Ricardo La Volpe but Herrera has the Colombian back in the starting lineup and clicking with fellow South Americans Renato Ibarra and William da Silva. If the team continues to get goals from places other than Oribe Peralta, they too will be able to boast of some serious depth.
Honda shines in start but will face tougher tests
After working to get his fitness up, Keisuke Honda finally made his Liga MX debut Tuesday and had a half-hour to remember. The Japan international scored his first Liga MX goal from range after Victor Guzman found him making a run between Veracruz's defenders. His low shot past goalkeeper Meliton Hernandez capped off four unanswered goals in what eventually was a 4-1 victory for Tuzos.
It won't always be this easy for Honda, though. Eventually he needs to get his fitness up to where he's going a full 90 minutes. The connection with Guzman, who suddenly has four goals in two matches, is encouraging – as are the pair of doubles for Guzman. After a rough start Pachuca looks like it could be the kind of team coach Diego Alonso wants to build to compete for both the Apertura title and the Club World Cup in December.
Honda is a big piece of that – the club wouldn't have signed him otherwise – but he and Pachuca will both face tougher teams than Veracruz and do it in much less friendly atmospheres than the Estadio Hidalgo. Exhibit A is Tijuana at the Estadio Caliente on Friday. We'll see then if Honda can continue his quick adaptation now that he's finally on the field.
Monterrey flexing its muscle
We often hold up a scoring move built up with dozens of passes as a piece of footballing brilliance, and that's fair. But that overlooks the subtle genius of goals that happen quickly, where teams are ruthless with their decisions and make the right moves immediately. That's what happened for Monterrey on Rogelio Funes Mori's first of two goals in Wednesday's 4-1 dismantling of Toluca.
From the ball being won, Rayados make five passes, the final one being Carlos Sanchez putting in a cross for the Argentine forward, who headed home.
We're seeing a very strong Monterrey right now, one of two teams that remains undefeated in Liga MX. Since an opening-round draw, Monterrey has been able to take three points from the rest of its contests. The connection Sanchez and Funes Mori have built with attacking midfielder Aviles Hurtado, acquired from Tijuana this summer, is no small part of the team's success so far. Antonio Mohamed has coached strong teams in the past but is yet to take Rayados to the title. It's very early, but fans in the north already are wondering if this might be the group to do it.
True test coming for Tijuana
Tijuana topped Queretaro 3-1 in a game it controlled, following up the first victory in the Eduardo Coudet era with the first road win under the new coach. It's great for the club, which topped the regular season table in each of the previous two tournaments, to get a bit of rhythm and for Coudet to show that he can lead this team.
The real test, though, is yet to come. Xolos now turn around and host Pachuca on Friday before traveling to Pumas and hosting America. They'll also travel to face Lobos BUAP and meet Tigres before September is over. It is the next three games that will dictate whether Tijuana really has turned things around or if the border club simply was taking advantage of a pair of weaker opponents who currently look unlikely to be contesting the Liguilla.
Goal of the Midweek
Veracruz midfielder Cristian Pellerano pulled this trick out of his bag to get Veracruz on the scoreboard in a losing effort.