Chivas continue to fall, Rafa Marquez likely nearing retirement
The Liga MX 2018 Clausura regular season passed its halfway point this weekend, leaving plenty of talking points.
Here are five:
1. Retirement nearing for Rafa Marquez
As Mexican legend Rafa Marquez exited the pitch after a foul that led to a red card, a penalty, and Monterrey's winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Atlas, thoughts how much longer he can play may have crossed his mind. It was the second time the 39-year-old was called for a penalty in the game.
He is theoretically in the running for a spot on the national team headed to Russia this summer, but a potential fifth World Cup appearance seems a long way off -- even if you put aside the U.S. Treasury Department's sanction on the former Barcelona player for an alleged connection to a drug trafficking organization.
Marquez has been battling injuries in recent months as his Atlas side has won just two of the 14 games he's played in since last summer -- when the veteran was part of El Tri's Confederations Cup squad.
It feels like Marquez's time as a player is almost up. Atlas president Gustavo Guzman revealed as much in an interview last week, indicating that plans are underway for Marquez to retire in the summer to take up a place within the Guadalajara club.
The only questions are whether the legal issues surrounding Marquez can be cleared up before Russia and, if they are, whether Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio will bow to sentiment and include the Atlas captain to enable him to join Lothar Matthaus and Antonio Carbajal as the only players in history to play at five World Cups.
What seemed clear on watching Marquez stretch out a tired leg and bring down the rapid Aviles Hurtado is that perhaps the second-best player in Mexico's history is playing his last few games as a professional.
The loss to Monterrey rooted Atlas at the bottom of Liga MX table with just four points. There may have been just short of 30,000 fans for Friday's game, but the Atlas faithful are not at all happy with how the club is being run. A first championship since 1951 if looking as distant as ever.
2. Guadalajara clubs hit rock bottom
Over at Chivas, it may have only been a matter of months since the club lifted its 12th Liga MX title, but that hasn't stopped the giant of all hangovers submerging the 2017 Clausura champions.
Following Sunday's 1-1 draw against Pumas, Chivas currently sit in 17th place on seven points -- just three more than Atlas -- and now require an absolute minimum of 18 points from their final eight games of the regular season to have a chance of making the playoffs. It's very unlikely to happen.
There has been improvement from Chivas in recent weeks and Oswaldo Alanis had a last-minute penalty to earn the draw on Sunday, but Matias Almeyda's side is now in a six-game victory drought when facing Liga MX opponents.
Next up for Chivas in Liga MX is first-place Club America in Estadio Chivas in the Clasico Nacional on Saturday. There is no doubt America is the favorite and while the cliche about form "going out the window" in clasicos is likely to be spouted by both sides, Las Aguilas could run riot on a Chivas defense that isn't inspiring much confidence.
3. Lobos BUAP stun Veracruz and take step to safety
The outstanding result of the weekend was Lobos BUAP thrashing Veracruz 5-0 at home, taking the Puebla-based club further away from relegation.
It was a famous win and performance from Rafa Puente's free-flowing side -- including 15 shots on target to Veracruz's zero.
The three points from the win vaults Lobos BUAP up into 15th place -- while Veracruz is eight points adrift of Atlas and Queretaro with eight rounds of games to go.
4. Golazos all around
Puente described Lobos BUAP's fifth goal as a "poem," while Cortez's score was also a golazo in a weekend of great goals in Liga MX.
#NoTeLoPierdas— LIGA Bancomer MX (@LIGABancomerMX) February 25, 2018
G⚽⚽⚽L de Irven Ávila@LobosBuapMX 5-0 @ClubTiburones #Jornada9 #Clausura2018 #LIGABancomerMX
⚽ #SienteTuLiga ⚽ #CreandoOportunidades #PorLaEducación #AbrazadosPorElFutbol pic.twitter.com/JrlCEnUYvw
Peruvian International Raul Ruidiaz did what many have attempted to do over the years and caught Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman off his line, finishing from long range for Morelia with viciously dipping strike.
In the same game, Rafael Carioca hit a rocket into the top corner for Tigres, who won the match 2-1 in Estadio Universitario on Saturday.
Over in Pachuca, substitute Sebastian Palacios opened his Liga MX account with a driving run from his own half and a curled finish in the 2-1 win over Leon. Perhaps the best of all the goals was Martin Barragan's, who netted late to secure a 1-1 tie for Necaxa on the road against Puebla.
#NoTeLoPierdas— LIGA Bancomer MX (@LIGABancomerMX) February 24, 2018
G⚽⚽⚽LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZZZZZOOOOO de Martín Barragán@ClubPueblaMX 1-1 @ClubNecaxa #Jornada9 #Clausura2018 #LIGABancomerMX
⚽ #SienteTuLiga ⚽ #CreandoOportunidades #PorLaEducación #AbrazadosPorElFutbol https://t.co/ShzN6Vz4uD
5. Tight race for playoff places
In other results this weekend, Santos Laguna won 2-0 against Cruz Azul, Toluca defeated Queretaro 2-0 away, and Club America was held to a 0-0 draw against a stubborn Club Tijuana.
With the Clausura now past its half-way point, the league table is even tighter than normal. Club America and Santos Laguna are in first and second on 17 points, with only two points separating third-placed Monterrey -- who are on 15 points -- from 11th-placed Morelia.
Teams as far down as Lobos BUAP -- on eight points -- in 16th won't be throwing in the towel just yet, although they, Queretaro (nine points), Veracruz (nine), Cruz Azul (eight) and Chivas (seven) need a minor miracle. Atlas are beyond even that.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.