Chivas better but not back: Five Things from Liga MX Round 8

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Victor Cruz
Matias Almeyda's side getting its first win of the tournament is a positive sign, but the reigning champion is yet to turn the corner. Goal reviews J8

Liga MX's return from the international break didn't disappoint. We saw the diversity of the league in its return. Three matches saw three or more goals, two were scoreless and one didn't happen because of off-field issues (more on that in thought five).

Without making you wait any longer, here are five thoughts after Liga MX Round 8:


Chivas show good signs but not 'back' yet


Carlos Fierro Matias Almeyda Chivas

Chivas got their first win of the season in emphatic fashion, heading into the Estadio Hidalgo and coming out with a 3-1 triumph over Pachuca.

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From the first minute, Chivas were able to find chances - something you can't say about their attack in most of this tournament's previous matches. Rodolfo Pizarro and Carlos Fierro both turned in good performances, another rarity in the Apertura, while Javier "La Chofis" Lopez made former Chivas right Raul Lopez's life difficult. Still, the result should be taken with a grain of salt. The ball bounced Chivas' way several times, and Pachuca coach Diego Alonso sat regulars like center back Omar Gonzalez, who was returning from international duty, forward Franco Jara and had Victor Guzman suspended because of his red card before the break. It was Chivas' first away win since February - a result over crosstown rival Atlas in an Estadio Jalisco that felt more like a neutral site with fans of both teams in the stadium.

Now that we've tempered a bit of the enthusiasm, let's talk about the good things for the Guadalajara side. First, getting a win was important, no matter how it came. "We needed a victory. That's the reality," coach Matias Almeyda said.

"We were able to finish the chances that we had today, in contrast to other games this season," he said. "Today the team showed something different. It's been growing, but today was good."

We've been writing for weeks that there's no reason Chivas can't make a charge up the table, get into the Liguilla and put together a decent title defense. News that forward Alan Pulido is taking part in portions of training sessions after fracturing his humerus, gives even more credence to that idea. But Chivas aren't "back" yet. It will take more than just one win for that to be the case.


Don't sleep on Monterrey's defense


Efrain Juarez Monterrey

It's easy to be seduced by Monterrey's attack. With so many quality players forward for Rayados, it's the natural starting point for looking at the leader. Aviles Hurtado has been a brilliant signing, linking up quickly with teammates Dorlan Pabon, Rogelio Funes Mori and Carlos Sanchez, who scored in Saturday's 1-0 victory over Necaxa. 

The goal itself didn't come from creation through loads of passes, but Rayados have played with a direct style the whole tournament. They've also played with a defense that is solid as right center back Cesar Montes and left center back Jose Basanta lock things down in the middle (Basanta had six clearances in Saturday's victory). The team has allowed just four goals so far this year, two fewer than any other team in Liga MX, putting them at an average of conceding just once every 180 minutes.

If often starts further up the field with those attackers putting pressure onto defenders and making it tough for teams to get out of their own half.

"We've been working on that since the preseason, generating pressure up high to complicate teams from getting at our goal, and it's working well, things are going well," goalkeeper Hugo Gonzalez said. "We've also been doing well getting the ball back in midfield and going forward. You feel it less because from our forwards to our defenders they're putting really intense pressure on, so less pressure arrives on us."

Coach Antonio Momahed will be happy enough with the showings that he won't be too concerned about who gets the credit, but Monterrey's defense is a big reason they're running away at the top of the table.


Stage set for Herrera's return to Tijuana


Miguel Herrera Club America

Club America continues to roll through opponents and sits just behind Monterrey at the top of the table, this weekend dispatching Veracruz behind a two-goal performance from Silvio Romero.

Next week should present a far more interesting contest for Las Aguilas, as they travel to Tijuana to face the team Miguel Herrera coached the previous two tournaments before retaking control of Club America in the summer. Xolos had a rough start to life after Herrera but now are excelling under Eduardo Coudet, with forward Gustavo Bou one of the hottest forwards in the league and the defense showing marked improvement in a 2-0 win Sunday over Pumas.

There aren't many hard feelings on the border, where fans knew the team would always be stopover for Herrera as he got back on his feet after being fired from the Mexico national team for off-field conduct. That doesn't mean they won't be vociferiously rooting for Xolos to knock America off its perch in what will be the match of the weekend with America coming in at No. 2 and Tijuana just behind at No. 3.


Who scoreless drew it better?


Martin Cauteruccio Cruz Azul Alonso Zamora Puebla

Just when you thought Cruz Azul might do it and take the crown of "Team Most Likely" to draw, Santos Laguna shows up and does its thing. It's like when the hot-shot guitar player steps up and rips through a solo but then the legend, nodding his head after the young gun's showing, calmly steps forward and delivers a real face-melter. Stalemate Santos cannot be topped. 

In Cruz Azul's defense for this unwanted title of "King of the Draws," they've actually had more draws this season with six than Santos has with five and remain undefeated. Both teams' ability to continue going into matches and coming out with a point - not three, not a loss - is stunning if not downright admirable.

Cruz Azul should've topped Puebla, controlling possession and ending the night with 14 shots but just getting one on target. Santos Laguna at least was level with a good team in Toluca. It was a similar story with Santos the better team against Hernan Cristante's conservative away tactics. But they couldn't break through. This week, at least, #StalemateSantos remains the Liga MX King of the Draws.


Federation must put focus on infrastructure 


Timothee Kolodziejczak Javier Aquino Andre-Pierre Gignac Tigres earthquake relief

This weekend sent two strong reminders to the Liga MX community that life is more important than sport. The strong earthquake off the southern Pacific coast of the country resulted in dozens of deaths, and many players and clubs jumped at the opportunity to use their position in society to head up relief efforts. Oaxaca native Javier Aquino of Tigres was one of the most visible, spearheading a drive for supplies and water in Monterrey.

Aquino and Tigres had been set to play Friday against Atlas at the Estadio Jalisco but the match was postponed because of issues surrounding the installation of a new screen which was hanging too low to the field for player safety.

I've been in several Mexican stadiums, the Jalisco among them, and thought about the possibility of a tragic event taking place in the stadium. Between aging infrastructure, a lack of venue security and overcrowded passageways, it sometimes seems that it's when not if a wake-up call incident would come for the FMF.

But perhaps the response to the earthquake gives hope. The federation ordered all venues to be inspected for safety and also played a role in the decision to postpone the Atlas game - one not popular with Tigres fans who are expecting to have a number of players missing in the November international break when the game will be played. But the decision to postpone was the right one. Better safe than sorry may be a tired axiom, but it's a good starting point for a league that must continue to think about its facilities and response to disasters both natural and man-made.


Goal of the Week


Elias Hernandez of Leon scored the opener in a 2-1 win over Queretaro with this left-footed effort that goes off the post and in. You can't hit it much better than that.

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