The Clausura is moving right along, but Mexico's two best-supported clubs have found the going tough.
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- The 2012 Clausura is six weeks old, and many of the teams are where you'd expect them to be. The likes of Tigres UANL, Santos Laguna, Monterrey, and Cruz Azul all sit in the top six, while Estudiantes Tecos and Queretaro are rooted close to the bottom, thinking about the possibility of relegation. The two anomalies, though, come in the form of Mexico's two best-supported clubs, America and Chivas.
While America sits just one point outside the playoff places, the team's inconsistency was highlighted by a 1-1 draw at relegation-threatened Atlas. While it would not be hard for America to top its performance in the Apertura – the team finished second from bottom – a midtable struggle is not exactly what it had in mind in terms of objectives for the Clausura.
On a rain-soaked pitch at Atlas' Estadio Jalisco, one which almost forced the game to be postponed, America struggled to match Atlas, with Paul Aguilar's looping header providing an equalizer minutes after Atlas had taken the lead in the first half. However, America head coach Miguel Herrera believed the game shouldn't have even been played because of the condition of the field.
"[It was] a game that did not have to be played," Herrera told Goal.com after the game. "The officials are attached to playing the game, and there was a spectacle. But you can't play soccer like that. You end up digging balls out of the midfield, both them and us. [America goalkeeper] Moises Muñoz hurt himself in the same way."
He also claimed the conditions, and the direct nature of the game that resulted from the rain-soaked pitch, forced him to make unwanted tactical changes, including the removal of the 5'3" Christian 'Hobbit' Bermudez.
The eventual result left Herrera with a poor taste in his mouth.
"No one is leaving happy, the point serves them because of their situation, but I believe that no one leaves happy," he said. "Today you can do an analysis of the soccer, the ball came just from long balls. The truth is that there is no way – one cannot evaluate soccer this way."
While Herrera took aim at the conditions in looking for an explanation for his team's continued struggles, young midfielder Diego Reyes, who was recently called to Mexico's squad ahead of Olympic qualification, opted to look for the positives in the result.
"We have not lost as visitors and that is important, now we have to do it at home," Reyes said exclusively to Goal.com, alluding to America's not having won at home since Aug. 21.
He did, however, mention the weather as a factor in the result, adding, "We are not happy because of the the state of the field and the weather – it's a complicated game, but we can't let points escape. We have a young team with a lot of experience, there are many components to the team and we have to show it on the field."
Chivas, meanwhile, finds itself in a real mess. The team has taken only one point from its opening six games, and sits squarely at the bottom of the Clausura table. A coaching change – Fernando Quirarte made way for Ignacio Ambriz after three straight losses to open the campaign – had little effect, with Ignacio Ambriz's lone point from three league games coming from a 0-0 draw at Pumas UNAM.
Most recently, a distinctly average-looking Chivas side was brushed away by Monterrey on its trip to the north of Mexico. Despite the loss, though, Chivas' players and staff were looking to keep their heads up high.
"Yes, I believe that we are in a situation that not one of us wanted to be in, I believe we have already hit bottom, that we have to lift our heads up and continue forward, there is work to be done," Chivas attacking Marco Fabian told reporters after Saturday's game. "We know that it was going to be a difficult match, but now we have to think about what is coming and try to move forward."
Though Chivas has had three coaches since the start of Apertura 2011, Fabian also denied that frequent coaching changes are the cause behind the team's continued struggles.
"No, that is a question for the front office, whoever decides, we as players, whoever is here, we have to get to work, because Chivas is a big team and cannot be in this situation," Fabian explained.
While Chivas is already nine points off the playoff spots, Fabian also believed that Chivas could still turn things around in the remaining 11 games of the season.
"Yes, I think that nothing is lost yet, we never have to give up, we have to fight until the end," he said.
There is indeed plenty of time remaining in the season, but for both Chivas and America to turn things around, they will have to look for different answers to their on the field problems.
Other scores from the weekend's Clausura action were: Morelia 3-1 Santos Laguna, Jaguares 3-0 Queretaro, Pachuca 2-0 Estudiantes Tecos, San Luis 0-2 Tigres UANL, Atlante 0-2 Toluca, Pumas UNAM 0-2 Puebla, Tijuana 0-0 Cruz Azul.