Posted by : Stephen Eastepp September 4, 2012
We are six weeks into the Apertura 2012 in Liga MX, and we're finally starting to see a few teams separate themselves in the league table. While some have risen, others have fallen and now we're starting to see the normal carousel of managers Mexican fans are accustomed too. Three managers are out of work and there are a few more that are walking thin lines. We'll talk about the coaching changes a bit later in the post, but let's start with the positives and recap where we stand today.
Toluca remained unbeaten and at the top of the standings with 16 points, while newly promoted Leon began a descent and now sit fifth after a big loss. Morelia and Cruz Azul are the only other unbeaten clubs, and both got huge wins to move up to third and fourth with 12 points. Club America dropped to sixth spot after a loss, now sitting on nine points, while Chivas continued their struggles with a loss to Monterrey. Chivas now have only one win in six games and a fanbase becoming uneasy. Queretaro continues to struggle and have all but secured the worst spot in Mexico as they are winless in six tries.
In what was widely considered the upset of the week, Club Tijuana went into Estadio Azteca and got a full three points against America. The game was tense from start to finish, but Tijuana midfielder Cristian Pellerano gave his side the lead shortly before the halfway point. America was unable to find the tying goal, but was awarded a penalty in stoppage time. Christian Benitez, Mexico's leading goal scorer this season and last, stepped up for what should've been the equalizer, but sent it well over the crossbar. If there is a game of highlights to watch in Liga MX from this past weekend, this is it. There may have been only one goal, but it wasn't offense that was the star. Tijuana goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo put on a show worthy of a "how-to" video for kids. America was credited with 20 shots on the night, with eight on goal. Of those eight saves for Saucedo, most were highlight worthy and it's evident this keeper wasn't intimidated by the historic stadium. With the win, Tijuana jumped up to second in the table, just three points out of first.
In Monterrey, Tigres hosted the unbeaten league leaders Toluca on Saturday. Toluca started the season by not only avoiding a loss, but winning their first five games to start the season. Tigres won their first two games, but are winless in their last three so were hungry for a positive result against Toluca. Toluca forward Lucas Silva has started the season strong and got Toluca up early with a goal in the 6th minute. Tigres' Lucas Lobos equalized just four minutes later, but neither team put together another successful attack. The game ended in a 1-1 draw,
On Sunday, two of the big four battled it out in one of the more high profile matches of the weekend. Mexico City's Cruz Azul visited Estadio Universitario and the Pumas in one of Mexico's best rivalries. Cruz Azul came into the game with a sputtering offense, but found themselves unbeaten behind their tough defense. Pumas were coming off a big road win last week and were trying to get back on track at home. The problems with the inconsistent play of Pumas has been their downfall, and that was evident in this game. Pumas looked uninspired to even play the match but Cruz Azul just couldn't find the net for much of the match. In the 69th minute, forward Mariano Pavone gave La Maquina the lead they deserved and they left with a big 1-0 road win. Shortly after the match, rumors began about the possible firing of Pumas head coach Joaquin Del Olmo, who was hired at the start of the year. Today, it was announced Pumas cut ties with Del Olmo and will name a replacement soon.
Chivas are another team that is known to have a short fuse with their managers, and their start to the season has people talking already. With one win in their first five games, many have called for a change but Chivas ownership has continued to back John Van't Schip. Chivas came into the game fresh off their first win, with two draws prior to that so things were beginning to look up. Newly added striker Rafa Marquez Lugo put Chivas up early in the 16th minute, and Monterrey weren't able to get their offense going in the first half. In the second half, Chilean striker Humberto Suazo entered the game for Monterrey and was easily the man of the match. Suazo put Los Rayados up 1-0 in the 57th minute and added the winning goal just four minutes later. For now, Van't Schip still has his job, but in Mexico nothing is guaranteed to the next match.
In other action, Jaguares and Puebla both got their first wins of the year against Queretaro and San Luis respectively. Queretaro and San Luis remain winless and at the bottom of the table. San Luis fired their manager last week and Queretaro's Carlos de los Cobos is rumored to be on the chopping block.
Morelia got a 3-1 road win over Club Leon, while Santos and Pachuca played to a 0-0 draw in Hildalgo. In Cancun, the home team Atlante got a 1-0 over Atlas who is fighting with Queretaro in the relegation battle.
Here's three games to keep an eye on this weekend.
Pumas at Morelia, Friday, 9:30 pm
It's do or die for Pumas as they face an unbeaten opponent in their house. With their coach gone, will they be able to respond and get back on track to try and salvage their season?
Tigres at Santos, Saturday, 7:00 pm
Defending champions have slipped to 10th in the table and it will be interesting to if they can gain momentum after their CONCACAF Champions League win against Toronto or if they show fatigue. Another loss could be devastating for their playoff chances.
America at Toluca, Sunday, 12:00 pm
Club America is coming off a 1-0 loss at home and now will have to travel to face the league leaders in their house. Part of Toluca's success has come at home where they are 3-0 this year. Depending on other results, an America loss could see them fall out of playoff positioning.
Job Watch 2012 is underway in Mexico as three managers have been let go and more are rumored to be on the way out. I mentioned Joaquin Del Olmo was the most recent victim after being let go today after Pumas lost three of their first six games. San Luis and Atlas also made changes recently, while a change in Queretaro could happen at any moment. While this is not uncommon in Mexico, it does raise some interesting questions. Is it devastating to the league to hire and fire just as quick? Or does this force a coach to drive for immediate results, therefore creating a competitive environment and an exciting league? Have your say below.
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