Cruz Azul, Club America both lose as Chivas records rare victory
Cruz Azul made headlines for all the wrong reasons in Round 14 of matches in the Liga MX 2017 Apertura this weekend. Here are five takes from the games:
1. Jemez's denies Cruz Azul is a "grande"
One of the central storylines in Mexico's first division is the idea that there are four "grandes," or a "big four." It's based mostly on the size of fan-bases, with Club America, Chivas, Pumas and Cruz Azul enjoying support all over the country.
But Cruz Azul's Spanish coach Paco Jemez isn't buying into it after seeing his team lose 3-0 away to Lobos BUAP on Saturday.
"No, we are not a big team, sorry," said Jemez after the game. "Today we have made it very clear that we are not a big team."
Jemez did praise the fans, but it was the latest in a series of controversial statements that have divided opinion in Mexico.
On one hand, it is hard to argue with Jemez, who said the players should be "ashamed" and labeled the performance as "horrible." He wasn't wrong. Cruz Azul may currently be in the final playoff spot, but La Maquina won't be there long if it can't improve on Saturday's display.
Lobos BUAP should be praised, however. The minnow had showed signs of fading in recent weeks, but this win puts it back in the playoff race. That is a fine achievement from coach Rafa Puente and the players, given Lobos BUAP's comparative lack of resources.
2. Necaxa demonstrates playoff credentials in Azteca
Fresh from Wednesday's Clasico Nacional victory over Chivas, Club America coach Miguel Herrera made changes for Saturday's visit of Necaxa. Oribe Peralta and Darwin Quintero were dropped to the bench and Las Aguilas missed their firepower, drawing a blank and losing 1-0 against a solid Necaxa club.
There are a few concerns about Club America. Even if the Mexico City team remains in second place and is virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. The performance against Chivas on Wednesday wasn't up to the usual standard, while Necaxa was able to win while only allowing America two shots on goal.
For Necaxa, this was its fourth clean sheet in its last five games. Chilean center back Igor Lichnovsky is proving to be one of the best signings of the summer and the club from Aguascalientes is now up in the seventh position.
With playmaker Mati Fernandez -- the club's headline summer signing from Fiorentina -- still adapting in Mexico, Necaxa can get even better between now and the postseason.
3. Atlas hitting form
After the 1-0 loss on Tuesday to Morelia, Atlas fans chanted for coach Jose Guadalupe Cruz to leave the club. It was strange considering the team had just won three consecutive Liga MX games, but Los Rojinegros don't exactly have the world's most rational fanbase. The catch-phrase, "If I explained it to you, you wouldn't understand" is even used by the club.
But the fact is that following Atlas' 1-0 home win against Club Tijuana, no Liga MX club has earned more points than Los Rojinegros over the last five Liga MX games.
Cruz might not be the most popular, but he is getting better results than some teams with more resources. The coach took a huge risk on Saturday by dropping Matias Alustiza and Fidel Martinez from the squad, resting them for Wednesday's Copa MX Round of 16 game against Chivas.
The result was a hard-fought victory, but after a season plagued by injuries (Clifford Aboagye, Leiton Jimenez) and scandal (Rafa Marquez), Atlas have a seven point cushion from the bottom of the relegation table and is fighting for a playoff place.
English midfielder Ravel Morrison even dared to suggest that winning a title is possible, although there is much work to do for this Atlas side to win a league title for the first time since 1951.
4. Lozano out as Queretaro project comes off the rails
Queretaro's 2-1 loss on Saturday in Estadio Corregidora spelled the end for coach Jaime Lozano's time in charge. The club announced on Sunday that he'll be replaced by Luis Fernando Tena.
That wasn't all, however, with sporting director Joaquin Beltran and president Arturo Villanueva also exiting in a major shake-up at the club. The writing was on the wall for Lozano. Queretaro is in last position in the Apertura table and hasn't won a game in league or cup since Aug. 12.
Queretaro is another club that hasn't spent big money on players in line with institutions like Monterrey, Tigres, Chivas and Club America. Instead, Lozano, Beltran and Villanueva were focusing on the youth academy and giving younger Mexican players a chance.
It'll be interesting to see if that now continues with relegation a real possibility next May.
5. Chivas off the bottom of the league
Chivas went from 2-0 up at half-time against Veracruz on Sunday to 2-2 after 54 minutes. It looked as though the reigning champions -- which started this weekend in last place in the table -- were crumbling against relegation-threatened Veracruz.
But Javier "Chofis" Lopez came up with the winner in the 69th minute to lift Chivas off the bottom of the league and record the Guadalajara club's first victory since Sept. 9.
Elsewhere in the league, Monterrey defeated Pumas 1-0 on Sunday to remain in first position. Pachuca overcame Puebla 1-0 to keep its playoff hopes alive. Tigres won 3-0 against Toluca and Morelia drew 0-0 at home to Leon.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.