Atlas fires coach Jose "Profe" Cruz after slow start to Liga MX Clausura

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Hector Guerrero
The 50-year-old is no longer in charge of Los Zorros after a rough start to the tournament with the potential of relegation still looming

Just two matches into the season, Atlas has decided it needs to go in a different direction.

The Guadalajara club fired manager Jose Guadalupe Cruz on Monday night, electing to seek a new man in charge after losing its first two games of the Clausura.

"The Atlas FC directors determined Monday to conclude the working relationship with el Profesor Jose Guadalupe Cruz, who arrived to the Rojinegros position in the Apertura 2016 tournament," a club statement read.

Cruz took Los Zorros to back-to-back Liguillas in the previous two tournaments and both times saw his team eliminated by an eventual finalist at the quarterfinal stage. When taking November's defeat to Monterrey into account, though, Atlas has lost its last five contests in all competitions. That includes two losses to start the season, a 2-1 home defeat against Club Leon and Sunday's 3-1 loss against Pumas.

There is not much room for error at Atlas. Despite fears subsiding somewhat thanks to an 11-point cushion over last-place Veracruz, the team still is in the fight against relegation. Missing out on the chance at more points in the Clausura not only increases the risk Atlas would get sent down but also puts it in a worse position in future tournaments, with Liga MX's relegation system sending one team down based on the previous six short tournaments.

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"Our directors will begin formal conversations about the hiring of a new Rojinegro coach, staying with Gerardo Espinoza Ahumada as the interim coach of the first team," the release read. Espinoza is a "homegrown Rojinegro who knows the club's philosophy to perfection, who participated as the assistant coach of the first team in the Apertura 2016 and currently was working as coach of the Under-20 team."

Atlas is the first team to make a change during this tournament in a league infamous for in-season managerial switches. In the Apertura, seven of the 18 teams in Liga MX hired new managers.

Espinoza first takes Atlas into Friday's home match against Toluca at the Estadio Jalisco before the club resumes Copa MX play during the week.

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