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 By Eric Gomez

Liga MX Power Rankings: Cruz Azul's tactical excellence rewarded to go No. 1

It took Liga MX less than a full afternoon to help fill the massive soccer gap left after France bested Croatia in the World Cup final.

On July 15, Southern California was the setting for Mexico's Supercopa and Campeon de Campeones matches. After last weekend's pair of primers, the first division was back in full force, with fresh storylines and plenty of new faces on each one of the league's teams.

The opening salvos did not disappoint, with plenty of surprises and excitement stemming mainly from what happened with the league's four most popular teams. Here are the Power Rankings for the first week of the Apertura 2018:

1. CRUZ AZUL

Record: 1W-0D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 1

However odd it might have been to watch Cruz Azul hosting at the Estadio Azteca, the familiarity of it missing chances and frustrating its fans was on display early on. Multiple chances were wasted against Puebla, and it seemed like Los Cementeros were cruising toward an early disappointment. A late reaction, led by the genial Elias Hernandez, turned a 0-0 nail-biter into a 3-0 rout. The result brought justice to Cruz Azul's excellent build-up play and tactical clarity.

2. NECAXA

Record: 1W-0D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 2

Marcelo Michel Leano quietly signed on as Necaxa's manager this summer. The most eye-catching detail behind his arrival? He's 31 years old. In his first two games as the team's head coach, he's already amassed victories over Monterrey in the Supercopa and a Week 1 win over Club America, no small feat.

3. TIGRES UANL

Record: 1W-0D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 3

In the win over Leon on Saturday, Tigres held the ball for 68 percent of the game. They completed more than twice as many passes as their opponents and dominated play at will with their talented midfield. Although they put just five shots on target, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Lucas Zelarayan were brilliant enough to score.

4. MONTERREY

Record: 1W-0D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 4

At the Estadio Hidalgo, Monterrey saw less of the ball, took fewer shots and completed fewer passes than Pachuca. On the surface, the win looks like a smash and grab, but Diego Alonso's team was highly effective when on the ball, and defensively stout as well. Pachuca shot 12 times, but only two of those were in the direction of Monterrey goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero.

5. CLUB TIJUANA

Record: 1W-0D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 5

The Estadio Caliente continues to be a fortress against Chivas. After their initial match in Tijuana seven years ago, Guadalajara has failed to win after each visit there. This time, Juan Martin Lucero and Ignacio Rivero scored en route to a 2-1 win over the Goats.

6. PUMAS UNAM

Record: 1W-0D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 6

A simple, uncomplicated win for Pumas over Veracruz in their post-Nicolas Castillo era will give them the confidence to move forward in the Apertura 2018. Felipe Mora and Pablo Barrera scored toward the end of the first half to allow the Mexico City side to cruise to victory.

7. SANTOS LAGUNA

Record: 1W-0D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 7

The defending champions started on the right foot despite massive personnel losses in the offseason. Although Santos is without Djaninny, Nestor Araujo and Carlos Izquierdoz, goals from Bryan Rabello and Jonathan Rodriguez, as well strong defensive displays from Gerardo Alcoba and Hugo Nervo, were key in this victory.

8. TOLUCA

Record: 1W-0D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 8

A controversial red card that left Morelia with 10 men was key in this one. Toluca had already gone up thanks to Alexis Canelo's opening strike, but an otherwise competitive match was derailed after that. Rubens Sambueza finished up the scoring in stoppage time to complete the win.

9. PACHUCA

Record: 0W-0D-1L
Week 1 ranking: 9

Although they outshot Monterrey and possessed the ball more than half the time this weekend, shooting practice remains a must for Los Tuzos. They failed to put pressure on Monterrey for long stretches of the match, allowing this one to get away from them.

10. LEON

Record: 0W-0D-1L
Week 1 ranking: 10

As difficult as the endeavor appeared to be from the outset, Leon looked especially toothless against mighty Tigres. Yes, it mustered 10 shots (one more than its opponent did), but most of those were low-percentage attempts from way out. After Zelarayan popped in a masterful free kick, the die was cast.

11. CLUB AMERICA

Record: 0W-0D-1L
Week 1 ranking: 11

Last season, the attack was the problem. This season, it looks like Club America's defensive unit will give it fits. Bruno Valdez was especially dreadful, bestowing opportunities upon Necaxa throughout the match. The good news? Roger Martinez scored again, proving there will be at least some amount of firepower up front.

12. CHIVAS

Record: 0W-0D-1L
Week 1 ranking: 12

Through the first half, Chivas looked well organized and up to the task of moving through the post-Matias Almeyda era. Even early in the second half, when they conceded, the red and whites clapped back quickly. It seems, however, that coach Jose Cardozo's struggles will emanate from the bench. After Tijuana went up 2-1, there were few options for him to counter.

13. ATLAS

Record: 0W-1D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 13

A scoreless draw at home against one of the league's weakest rosters is not a promising start, even for Atlas. Historically, the Guadalajara side is known for fast-paced offense and great ball movement. None of that was on display last weekend.

14. QUERETARO

Record: 0W-1D-0L
Week 1 ranking: 14

On the flip side, Rafa Puente Jr. will not be too disappointed with grabbing a point away from home in the start to this season. The young Mexican manager will be tasked (once again) with leading a team short on stars to overachieve this season.

15. PUEBLA

Record: 0W-0D-1L
Week 1 ranking: 15

A little surprising that the Camoteros fell apart at the Estadio Azteca after holding for most of the match. After their great start in the Clausura 2018, some of us expected them to be a bit more competitive this time around.

16. MORELIA

Record: 0W-0D-1L
Week 1 ranking: 16

Although the Monarcas will point to the referee's decisions throughout the game in their loss to Toluca, the truth is Roberto Hernandez's side was unable to react after going down early in the second half. A 2-0 loss is, in a sense, welcome, considering this could have been a blowout.

17. LOBOS BUAP

Record: 0W-0D-1L
Week 1 ranking: 17

Never forget: this team should be in the Ascenso MX this season. If it continues with displays like the one against Santos Laguna last weekend, there won't be a second deus ex machina to save it in 2019.

18. VERACRUZ

Record: 0W-0D-1L
Week 1 ranking: 17

A home loss against one of the league's better teams is understandable, but the team's toothless display was accompanied by off-the-pitch antics that stain the league's waning credibility. Violence in Veracruz is an unwelcome staple at every home game, and an issue that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

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