The Liga MX’s Clausura 2014 is starting to shape up, with nerves setting in at some clubs, confidence spilling over at others and some head-scratching going on elsewhere.
Here are some of the main stories to come out of this weekend's matches:
Magic Marco Fabian
Cruz Azul was far from its best on Saturday against a rejuvenated Puebla, but as much as La Franja huffed and puffed, you always got the feeling that La Maquina would pull through.
Having said that, no-one could’ve predicted the genius Marco Fabian produced with virtually the last kick of the game. The 24-year-old brought the ball down with his back to goal, turned onto his right side and launched an exquisite chipped shot that kissed the crossbar before nestling into the net.
The three points means Cruz Azul remains the dominant force this Clausura and the only undefeated team, with 19 points from its seven matches and having conceded just two goals.
Leon focusing on Libertadores
There has been a feeling coming out of Leon that the club would be focusing on the Copa Libertadores ahead of the Liga MX this season, and Gustavo Matosas’ team sheet for Saturday’s 2-0 away win at Monterrey proved it. Luis Montes, Carlos Pena, William Yarbrough and Rafa Marquez were left out of the squad and only two players who had started against Brazil’s Flamengo began the match against Los Rayados, with one eye very much on Wednesday’s Copa Libertadores game in Bolivia.
Not that it stopped Leon performing, with the ‘B’ team dominating the game. Players like Elias Hernandez, Sebastian Maz and Miguel Sabah will be desperate to use any chance they get to stake claims for more minutes, and they took advantage on Saturday.
Monterrey clubs struggling
It wasn’t very long ago that there was a strong argument that the Monterrey derby pitted Mexico’s two best teams together, but both have been on the slide and are enduring tortuous Clausura tournaments.
Monterrey fans chanted the name of former coach Victor Manuel Vucetich after Saturday’s defeat and, the team lies in 16th. Aside from the results, fans are unhappy that the likes of Aldo de Nigris, Jesus Corona and Dorlan Pabon were sold and that money hasn’t been seriously reinvested in the squad. Obviously, having Humberto Suazo on the long-term injury list certainly hasn’t helped.
On the other side of town, Tigres just can’t put the ball in the net. They have scored just twice in seven games and sit in last place in the league after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Chiapas.
Managers on the brink?
Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti has been backed by the club’s hierarchy and will likely be given more time, but over at Monterrey, Jose Guadalupe Cruz’s position is shaky, with Vucetich the prime candidate to take over.
Ruben Omar Romano is perilously close to the sack at Puebla and although a defeat against Cruz Azul was set to seal his fate, the fact his team played well may have bought him some more time.
Chivas/America draw level
When the season started, most onlookers saw a clear gap in quality between Chivas and America, with Las Aguilas one of the favorites to win the league.
But both are now on 12 points, after America suffered consecutive defeats in Liga MX regular season play for the first time since November 2012 and Chivas capitalized, stringing together back-to-back victories for the first time since … November 2012.
It’s still six weeks until the Clasico Nacional, but the way things are shaping up, both clubs will arrive fighting for playoff places. It is what Mexico’s biggest game needs.
Uphill struggle for Chelis at Veracruz
Immaculately dressed, Jose Luis “Chelis” Sanchez took to the Veracruz bench for the first time on Saturday and will quickly have realized that he has a difficult challenge on his hands.
Toluca defeated Veracruz 3-0 and the Tiburones Rojos are slipping quickly into the relegation zone. A couple of wins in the coming few weeks would likely dig them out, but Atlante and Atlas are picking up points and Veracruz has gone 422 minutes without even scoring.