Before the Clausura 2014 season even began, Atlante was so far ahead in the Liga MX relegation race that no team wants to lead, that the other squads at risk were almost an afterthought. Los Potros, many assumed, were going down.
So much for assumptions. With a 4-2 victory over Queretaro that vaulted them to sixth place in the league table, Atlante are now virtually even with Atlas, the other team now in danger in the drop zone. Veracruz and Jaguares are also at risk. The relegation many took for granted may not happen at all.
Ecuadorean Michael Arroyo is a big reason why Atlante is so close to salvation. He scored all four of the goals for the Iron Colts over Queretaro, allowing Atlante to dominate the match.
The other big surprise of the weekend’s games was at the top of the table. It wasn’t so surprising that Cruz Azul lost, really. The best of teams lose games on occasion. What was startling was that the team at the top of Liga MX was beaten so soundly by an opponent that has struggled to score even a single goal in its matches this season. The score was 3-0 and Tigres was so implacable throughout the match that the final goal, by Jose Francisco Torres, was scored while Tigres was a man down due to a red card for Carlos Salcido.
It’s as if Tigres finally got the memo that the season was underway and now the squad is fighting desperately to be a part of it. Ricardo Ferretti and his players still have some distance to go, but at 13th in the table, the playoffs are possible.
Cruz Azul, meanwhile, still lead Liga MX with 25 points, but perhaps the loss was an important reminder not to take any rival lightly.
Toluca was thus able to make up some ground on the leaders, via a 3-0 win over Puebla. The hallmark of this squad is how balanced their offensive attack is. It even varies week to week. Wilson Thiago Mathias, Raul Navas, and Carlos Esquivel all contributed to the victory over Puebla. Now the Red Devils have 22 points in the table.
Pumas, one of the league’s biggest surprises this season, faltered a bit over the weekend, however, losing 3-1 to Morelia. The Monarchs staged a big comeback at home after going down an early goal by Martin Bravo of Pumas, who remain fourth in the table even after the loss.
Pachuca was another big mover on the weekend, with a tidy 2-0 victory over Monterrey pushing the club into third place on 17 points. Both goals were scored by Enner Valencia, another Ecuadorian player performing well in Liga MX.
The old trope about a 2-0 lead being dangerous in soccer rang true for Club America in their match versus Santos Laguna. Las Aguilas were leading in the first ten minutes of the game thanks to a Rubens Sambueza goal and assist, but it all went downhill from there. The rest of the scoring belonged to the Laguneros, who scored four times. Team icon Oribe Peralta managed a tricky juke of his defender in the box before burying a shot for the winning goal. Peralta hasn’t been in the scoring groove for his club consistently this season, but this strike and the triumph over Club America should boost the veteran’s confidence.
For Club America, it’s humbling to be tied with Atlante on 15 points. Antonio Mohamed must return to the drawing board to get his club back to the usual dominance enjoyed by their fans.
For Guadalajara as well, it was a frustrating weekend with a 2-0 loss to the Xolos of Tijuana. Dario Benedetto and Jaime Ayovi pitched in with the goals, continuing Tijuana’s winning record versus the more-established club. Chivas has now gone nearly 300 minutes without scoring a goal.
Though remote, Chivas runs a slight risk of relegation now, and their fans will anxiously keep an eye on that end of the league table. Atlas and Jaguares, two teams providing a bit of a cushion for Chivas from that danger, split points this weekend with a 2-2 result that didn’t really help either team to climb higher.
Veracruz, though still last in the table, did claim all three points via a 0-1 win over Leon. The defending league champions had a prime opportunity to lead the match with a penalty kick opportunity in the 63rd minute, but Matias Britos struck a low shot that was too easy for Tiburones goalkeeper Edgar Hernandez to grasp. Then Luis Alberto Sanchez scored a wonder goal from an extreme angle into the side netting of Leon’s goal in the 90th minute.
The race for the liguilla playoffs and the chance of the Liga MX championship and the glory of that title is well and truly on, with a number of clubs vying for those coveted eight spots. However, the fight to escape the ignominy of relegation is almost as crowded and just as compelling.