This week there was soccer. After the referees' strike forced the suspension of last weekend's matches, this weekend everything went ahead as planned.
Aside from a beer tossed from the stands and a few clashes between supporters and security at Sunday's Pumas-America game (more on the on-field action in point two), things went mostly according to plan across Liga MX.
Thankfully, that means we learned plenty from this weekend's games. Let's take a look at the five things we learned from Round 11 of the Liga MX Clausura.
Monterrey, Chivas make up upper echelon
Entering the weekend, we knew that Chivas was looking like one of the league's best teams. As expected, it was able to dispatch Veracruz without too much labor.
Monterrey was playing at home, where it's next to unbeatable, but the manner in which it toyed with Atlas was impressive. Which teams in the league have defenses that can stop Edwin Cardona? And even if the Colombian is bottled up, teams then have to figure out what to do about Rogelio Funes Mori, who scored both goals in the 2-0 win, and Dorlan Pabon, who has scored more goals than anyone not named Nicolas Castillo this tournament.
This week solidified the notion that coach Antonio Mohamed's team belongs next to Chivas in the league's upper echelon heading into the international break. Another collapse on the road like the one the team had two weeks ago in Tijuana may call that into question, but even if Rayados lose to America after the FIFA dates, it's a team that is going to make the Liguilla and be very tough to knock out once in the postseason.
The future is now for Club America
Club America boss Ricardo La Volpe sent two teenagers out in his starting lineup at Pumas on Sunday and, while the home side rallied from two goals down to tie the match, America ended up with a 3-2 victory that puts the team back in the playoff places.
Diego Lainez, making his first league start despite being just 16, didn't look out of place, regularly controlling the ball, and 19-year-old defender Edson Alvarez continued to show his versatility, returning to the field after CONCACAF U-20 qualification and showing well at right wingback. Alvarez could be useful at that position, though La Volpe also could use him at center back where most of his options are players who perform better when lined up at other positions.
While not a teenager, 22-year-old Cecilio Dominguez's individual goal gave the team the win. It's the third match he's scored in since arriving from Paraguay, with America winning all three.
When the team bid farewell to players like Rubens Sambueza and Osvaldo Martinez during the winter transfer window, it seemed to be a tactical move from La Volpe. The decisions haven't worked out, but selling out to a full-on youth movement may be the best thing the club can do at this point. Pachuca reaped the benefits of playing Hirving Lozano, Erick Gutierrez and Rodolfo Pizarro as teenagers with the 2016 Clausura title, and Oscar Perez showed how a veteran presence on and off the field can be a big assist.
That seems to be the role left for Oribe Peralta, whose recall to the national team may have boosted him in a season that's been full of peaks and valleys thus far. He already looks to be embracing it.
"Today you're an inspiration for me and for many people Diego," Peralta wrote to Lainez on Facebook. "Keep on the same path without straying from this passion and happiness you have for playing football at the moment."
"Stalemate Santos" returns
A big welcome back this week to "Stalemate Santos," a team that doesn't seem half bad but somehow manages only draws in nearly every match. It actually takes work to have just one defeat so far this season, yet still not sit in the top eight. Why? Well, winning is better than drawing, and Santos has done that just twice through 10 rounds (that actually have been played).
This weekend it looked as though Santos had earned a hard-fought win away from home. But despite his team being down a man, Aviles Hurtado drove forward in stoppage time and fired in a shot on Jonathan Orozco. The Santos goalkeeper made the stop but the rebound went to Juan Martin Lucero's feet, and the Argentine condemned Santos to a seventh draw of the tournament.
Santos needs to figure out how to put a full 90 minutes together if it hopes to change the situation and return to the postseason. With the exception of the scoreless draw with Tigres to open the season, Santos has had, and blown, a lead in every draw this season.
Pachuca can't do everything
Pachuca is a good team, maybe even a great one when Hirving Lozano is healthy. But even a great team might not be able to deal with what Pachuca tried to do. This week when we were looking at potential hangovers from midweek games, we highlighted Pachuca as a potential victim.
Jimmy Lozano's Queretaro is a team eager to prove it's for real and one that matches up well with Pachuca. It was able to use its week off to game plan and eventually control the match for a 3-0 victory over Tuzos.
"Queretaro was better," Pachuca coach Diego Alonso said. "Sometimes we play poorly but we settle things by being concentrated, with a good attitude and effort. Today that wasn't the case. We made mistakes in the first few minutes and they scored on us in the first few minutes."
It's been a long week for Pachuca, with the trip to FC Dallas in the CONCACAF Champions League demanding a lot and the team heading to central Mexico before going right to Queretaro. If there was a hangover or jet lag or whatever you want to call it, the Gallos Blancos took advantage with two goals in the first 12 minutes that sealed Pachuca's fate. Alonso wasn't looking for excuses, but there's one built in. If the team comes out of the international break flat, things won't be as forgiving.
Leon letters bad signs for Torrente
Javier Torrente turned things around when he arrived at Leon, but it looks like another change may be needed. A 3-2 home loss to Toluca kept Leon rooted to the bottom of the table where it has just six points and a -8 goal difference, the league's worst.
Torrente's team scored twice in Saturday's defeat, but Mauro Boselli put his goal in with his hand, something he admitted in a long letter posted to Twitter on Sunday. It's another letter that might have Torrente worried, though: the one club president Jesus Hernandez posted.
A toda nuestra afición. pic.twitter.com/OgQYcNI3hV— Jesus Martinez M. (@jmartinez_leon) March 19, 2017
In it, he speaks of the values of the club, about the directors' commitment to paying high salaries and says he, the coaching staff and the players are all aware of the situation. It would be hard not to be, of course. But fans are far less than happy.
One got into Torrente's news conference and unleashed a string of criticism at the coach, replete with profanity. Despite the fans' anger, Torrente said he'd like to continue.
"I want to keep working and fighting to turn things around," he said after the game. "We'll use two friendlies (during the international break) to get those who aren't playing much into rhythm."
Whether that will help, or if Torrente will be around to see it, is still an open question.
Goal of the Week
With apologies to Chiapas' Dieter Villalpando, who had a nice chip in a draw with Necaxa, this week's honors go to Santos Laguna No. 10 Osvaldo Martinez. He loses the ball multiple times during the build-up to this strike but eventually wins it back, takes a few touches and fires it into the right section of the side netting.
Good thing it was a rivalry match! Club America's bench wasn't complete until the 17th minute Sunday, when Carlos Rosel arrived and took his place at the stadium. America coach Ricardo La Volpe reportedly was ready to hand a starting spot to Costa Rican phenom Gerson Torres. But Torres is registered for the Under-20 team in one of the two foreign player slots, meaning he currently can't play for the first team. Inserting Diego Lainez into the starting lineup was an easy enough fix, but from there Las Aguilas needed another player to fill out the team.
They called up Rosel, who drove his own car to Pumas' stadium and ended up taking in the match from the America bench instead of from his couch as he'd planned.