Cruz Azul stumbles, but Mexico City trio still atop Liga MX table
Soccer returned to Mexican stadiums over the weekend, with the international break providing a chance for teams to recharge their batteries and get ready for the second half of the Apertura campaign. The return to action did not disappoint, with just one of the games ending in a draw. Here are 10 things we learned from Week 9:
1. Mexico City teams go 1-2-3
The Liga MX table is top heavy with the three teams who play in the nation's capital after nine games. Cruz Azul retains its first-place spot with 20 points, while Pumas and Club America round out the rest of the podium with 17 points each. Although Cruz Azul dropped its first game of the season (more on that later), there's still a good chance we might see at least three of the four grandes make it through to the postseason.
2. Cruz Azul's unbeaten streak snapped
Necaxa played a perfect game against the league leader on Saturday, managing to wrest possession away from Pedro Caixinha's club and jump on the score sheet early. After Matias Fernandez scored in the 18th minute, the Aguascalientes side continued playing its game and did not allow Cruz Azul to get back in it by dropping back. The frustration boiled over just enough to provoke a late second-half penalty kick in its favor and ice the match.
3. Chivas stays hot
Four wins in their past five games have Chivas right back in the playoff conversation, just one point behind eighth-place Queretaro. Just a month ago, it looked like Jose Cardozo would be fired and Chivas' season would fall into further controversy after a rough offseason resulted in former manager Matias Almeyda leaving the club. After the comeback win in Monterrey on Saturday, those days seem further and further away.
4. Accuracy still a problem for America
Although his sid picked up a 2-1 win at home against Morelia on Saturday, the result was a little tighter than Miguel Herrera would like. Despite Jorge Sanchez's rocket opening up the game's scoring, and Mateus Uribe putting away a fantastic pass from Henry Martin to double the lead, there were times during this game when it seemed like it would end in a blowout. It didn't. Putting chances away has been this team's Kryptonite this season, and the issue did not go away after the international break.
5. Santos celebrates birthday with big win
It's been 35 years for one of Mexico's youngest and most successful Liga MX clubs. Throughout the course of its still budding history, Santos Laguna has won big, debuted one of the best stadiums in Latin America and housed some of the league's best players -- foreign and national. The 3-0 win against Leon could be a look ahead at what it could do this season: repeat as champions. Julio Furch leads the league with seven goals, and despite managerial upheaval, the team is still in the driver's seat for a top playoff spot.
6. VAR still a talking point
Toluca beat Veracruz on Friday with controversy in tow. Rubens Sambueza appeared to have exaggerated a tackle from Luis Caicedo. The play resulted in a triple whammy: penalty kick, red card and goal. Meanwhile, two of the other four red cards shown this weekend could have been overturned with the help of technology, potentially affecting results there, as well.
7. Pumas on the rise
Sure, it was Lobos BUAP, but Pumas took care of their inferior rival on Sunday and moved up to second place in the table. It was only a few weeks ago when they couldn't find the back of the net and coach David Patino was on the hot seat, but things are looking pretty rosy right now in both those regards. Even players like Juan Iturbe -- who debuted a year ago in Liga MX and had not yet scored -- got on the score sheet this weekend.
8. Little movement at the bottom
Tijuana and Necaxa crawled up in the bottom third of the table with their wins, while Leon sank after it was thrashed in Torreon on Sunday. That's about it, however -- although there's only a slight differential between ninth-place Guadalajara (13 points) and fifteenth-place Leon (10 points), Veracruz with seven, Lobos with four and Atlas with two seem hopeless at this juncture.
9. Where are the Mexican scorers?
This weekend saw quite a bit of young Mexican players getting on the scoresheet, but the Golden Boot race is still dominated by foreign names. Veterans like Elias Hernandez, Oribe Peralta and Pablo Barrera are the league's top domestic scorers, while the significantly younger Angel Zaldivar (four goals this season) will get his chances with El Tri, but he was pretty underwhelming in his first pair of outings this past international break.
10. Stage is set for Maradona
It's rare whenever a second-division team languishing midtable is the focus of most media attention for days at a time, but that's what Diego Maradona is doing for Dorados de Sinaloa. One of world football's greatest has landed in Culiacan, with media circus in tow. His debut on the bench happens Monday night, against Cafetaleros. The gambit recalls one of El Diego's most famous quotes: "You can say a lot of things about me, but you can never say I don't take risks."