Victor Guzman has breakout game while Cruz Azul back on top of table
In the midst of a weekend in which Mexico City took in a derby, Chivas clung to its final playoff hopes and Toluca visited Club America in a highly anticipated match -- it was the relatively low-profile Pachuca versus Necaxa that had everybody talking.
Victor Guzman is emerging as Mexico's newest young star, one that might be the latest export from the Pachuca talent factory. Here's what we learned in Week 15:
1. Victor Guzman's coming-out party raises eyebrows
Pachuca's main goal scoring threat is best deployed when he begins games in the middle of the pitch. That was the case against Necaxa, where Guzman started as a central box-to-box midfielder with heavy physical usage and somehow ended up scoring four times.
Pachuca deploy Guzman in a specific fashion. As the game rolls on, when Pachuca builds its attacks from the wings, Guzman sneaks to the middle with ease, taking advantage of defenders who aren't expecting him to drift forward.
On Saturday, that's exactly how he scored his first, second and fourth goals, vaulting him to nine on the season and two behind Golden Boot leader Julio Furch.
2. Cruz Azul returns to top spot against Pumas
Following their emotional Copa MX championship against Monterrey on Wednesday, Cruz Azul's momentum carried into the league with a 2-1 win over Pumas. After an early scare with Carlos Gonzalez nearly beating Jesus Corona with a tough shot in the 10th minute, Edgar Mendez put away a header to grab the lead seven minutes later. Cruz Azul put the game to bed ten minutes from the end, but how they did it is what makes this team the prohibitive favorite to win it all. Andres Renteria made it 2-0 coming off the bench, which shows how ridiculously deep this team is. Cruz Azul dominated a tough, playoff-bound team on Sunday while keeping guys like Igor Lichnovsky, Roberto Alvarado, Angel Mena and Renteria off the starting eleven.
3. Club America underwhelms at home - again
Miguel Herrera's team hasn't lost in the league since August, and yet there's a sense of doom and gloom around the squad -- especially when they face a top-tier team like Toluca. It was pointed out after the team drew last week against Cruz Azul that Las Aguilas were unable to win any of their three biggest matches of the season (Pumas, Chivas and Cruz Azul) despite playing all of them at home at the Estadio Azteca. This weekend, another draw at home, this time against Toluca keeps the narrative lingering for at least another week.
4. Chivas says goodbye to the postseason
It would take nothing short of a veritable miracle to see Chivas playing in the liguilla come playoff time. The 2-2 draw against Puebla leaves them at 17 points with six still up for grabs -- with four teams currently sitting between 22 and 23 as is. Worse yet, one of Chivas' remaining fixtures will come against Tigres, a team still in the thick of the postseason race that needs every single point to make sure they get the best possible matchup in the quarterfinals.
5. Lobos' late run bodes well for 2019
Let's assume Lobos' six-match unbeaten run will end next weekend against Cruz Azul. It would be their first loss since September, when they dropped a six-goal thriller to Pumas. In their current streak, they have scored 12 goals (they have 18 in the entire season) and found a developed a bona fide goal scoring threat in Leo Ramos. If they can keep Ramos in the winter and look for some defensive help in the transfer market, this could be a sneaky good team come the Clausura 2019.
6. El Diego in Liga MX?
Tijuana's atrocious Apertura campaign has many wondering if the club will recall Diego Maradona from sister club Dorados come next January. The Argentine legend has turned his current team's fortunes around, and with interest waning in a region once enthralled by Xolos, the move could be in the cards for next season.
7. Five teams in the mix for two playoff spots
Only six points separate Tigres, the league's seventh-seeded team, from Puebla, who sit in twelfth. The next two weeks will understandably be a free-for-all, with Tigres and Puebla facing off directly next Saturday. Given the league's unpredictable nature, it wouldn't be a stretch to see surprises as the regular season winds down.
8. First-place still up for grabs
On that note, only four points separate Cruz Azul, the top team in the league, from Monterrey, who are sixth. Santos Laguna and Club America will hook up next week in a game that could see the top of the table move, while Toluca and Pumas can also impact their position as they face off directly on Sunday in Week 16.
9. Can Queretaro maintain their pace?
Only three teams have scored less goals than Queretaro all season: Veracruz, Tijuana and Atlas. With just 16 goals in 15 games, it's all been about timing and clutch scoring for Los Gallos. Assuming they beat hapless Veracruz next Friday, that sets them up with 25 points going into the final weekend. It's been amazing to see this team do so much with so little firepower up front.
10. Hot stove season begins for non-Liguilla teams
Chivas has been hot on Alexis Vega's trail of late, with Alan Pulido rumored to go to Monterrey. Necaxa will have plenty of suitors for Victor Davila, and Lobos BUAP will have to entertain offers for Leo Ramos. The Apertura 2019 transfer market is heating up early this year, with plenty of teams already looking to rearm for next season.