Pressure on Club America, Pumas after hot starts cool

Both clubs started the season well, but with a third Mexico City team atop the table, Miguel Herrera and David Patino need a victory Saturday

It was short, but it wasn't sweet. Miguel Herrera sat down for his post-match news conference after America's 2-0 loss to Leon on Wednesday and stood right back up, saying only "We played a bad match. Good night."

The mood around Club America has shifted. The mood in Mexico City has shifted as well. This weekend America hosts crosstown rival Pumas with both teams in a cold snap after hot starts. The pressure is on for the capital clubs, and it's intensified by the fact that the third team in the city, Cruz Azul, currently sits atop the table with an undefeated record.

That's not how it's supposed to go, and it's definitely not how things have gone for the last several seasons. Saturday's Clasico Capitalino result will go a long way toward easing the pressure currently on Herrera and his Pumas counterpart David Patino.

The pressure is always on Herrera. Usually it's justified, but in this instance it feels harsh - and a bit like Herrera brought it upon himself with his abrupt news conference. Give the press a few interesting lines, even complain about the officiating like he did after an away draw against Queretaro last week and that will be the focus. When you say just one line, though, it's up to the journalists themselves to fill the rest of the newspaper page and the television segment.

After a defeat in which the attack didn't spark and Leon forward Mauro Boselli once against got through an America defense (he's scored more of his 101 goals in Mexico against America than against any other team), that's going to bring negative comments. The performance left plenty of questions, and Herrera is set to modify the middle of his team. Mateus Uribe may have been the best player in the squad last tournament, but he's failed to show the same level since returning from the World Cup. The manager likely will look to a typical center back, Edson Alvarez or Emmanuel Aguilera, to play in the middle with Guido Rodriguez.

Yet, there's no doubt there's a chance for Las Aguilas to bounce right back to the prominent position where they were in the table just three rounds ago. They sit fifth in the table, have scored more goals than all but one team in the league and the midweek defeat was just the second of the season.

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Patino's Pumas are a less obvious candidate to return to the upper positions in the table. After starting undefeated in the first four matches of the season and topping the table, Pumas have fallen in consecutive matches and now sit sixth, a spot behind America. Pumas fans might be more patient if they hadn't seen this before. Last tournament, they were leading the league for several weeks before it all fell apart, culminating in a seventh-place finish and a lopsided 6-2 aggregate loss to America in the quarterfinals.

Those memories are fresh, even if Pumas have a different look now than they did at the end of last season. The club didn't invest the resources its capital rivals did but brought in a smattering of players from other Mexican teams. The early returns were encouraging, but the last two weeks have raised legitimate concerns about all phases of Pumas' game. It's not a surprise the defensive form took a dip when Alejandro Arribas picked up an injury and fellow center back Luis Quinones also getting hurt forced Patino to go with a makeshift center-back pairing of Alan Mendoza and Pablo Jaquez. Arribas is set to return to face America, but Quinones will miss out. Carlos Gonzalez, who scored two goals in two games after arriving from Necaxa, also has been out injured and remains questionable for Saturday's matchup.

Getting back to health would be a big step for Patino's squad, as would finally getting past a Miguel Herrera team. "El Piojo" has nine wins and a draw at the helm of America. If his squad can make it 11 out of 11 unbeaten against Pumas, there's no doubt Herrera will be much more talkative this weekend than he was during the week. Not so if America falters. No one wants to be asked about being the third-best team in the city. 

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