Liga MX Best XI: Apertura week two
So the Liga MX Apertura season has come in like a lion, in that throughout the league excitement over the World Cup has translated into successful attendance numbers across the board. However, defending champions Leon seem to have lost their roar entirely, dropping their second straight game to open the season. Teams tend to come out gunning for the title-holders, but Leon currently look a far cry from the squad that achieved the rare feat of winning back-to-back titles. Coach Gustavo Matosas refuses to blame "champion-itis," so his players will just have to work through their current slump.
However, other players performed well and have helped their teams win games in the early days of this Liga MX season. Here's a look at the Best XI from week two.
Enrique Esqueda, Atlas: Sometimes it's not just about scoring a goal but how the goal is scored that can completely change a game. Against Morelia, with the game scoreless in the second half, Esqueda received a flicked pass from a goal kick by his own keeper and had the temerity to shoot immediately for the goal. His shot rifled into the net, zipping by the near post. It was a classic that-wasn't-supposed-to-happen goal, one that tends to crush the fighting spirit of the opposition. Sure enough, Morelia wilted, and Atlas cruised to a 2-0 victory that gives the team a bigger points cushion against the still-looming threat of relegation.
Vicente Matias Vuoso, Jaguares: New Liga MX signing Cuauhtemoc Blanco is older, of course, but 15 years isn't a short stint either. That's how long Vuoso, who is 32, has been playing professionally, yet he still scores goals with regularity. His timing and wily experience up top make up for his diminishing athletic skills. He kicked off the scoring against Toluca by netting the first goal of the match en route to a 2-1 victory for Chiapas F.C.
Dorlan Pabon, Monterrey: Sometimes it's not how but when one scores a goal that completely changes a match. The Colombian striker didn't get many minutes against Pachuca, but he made sure they counted by slamming a goal in off the post during second half stoppage time. It's completely deflating for opponents to feel like a point is safely in hand, and then suddenly have victory snatched away by a player who wouldn't settle for a mere draw.
Hernan Burbano, Tigres: For a player, there are few things sweeter than playing well against one's former team. It's hard to top Burbano's how-do-you-like-me-now performance. The Colombian midfielder scored the first two goals as normally goal-shy Tigres dominated Leon in a 4-2 victory.
Fernando Arce, Chivas: It's worth wondering if anyone in Guadalajara has a problem with Fernando Arce Jr. playing on the United States youth level team. Given how strict Chivas has been against players associated with the team playing for any national team other than Mexico, the elder Arce may have done himself and his family a favor in partially hushing such objections by proving to be a quality signing for the club. His free kick goal against Pumas secured Chivas their first victory of the season and likely quieted any grumblings about his son's national team choice.
Mauro Formica, Cruz Azul: After the dominant Clausura regular season that Cruz Azul had earlier in 2014, their fans probably feel that their slow start to the Apertura after a quick exit from the last liguilla is like adding insult to injury. But the one precious point that Cruz Azul have on the season is better than zero, and it came thanks to Formica's efforts against Santos.
Efrain Velarde, Monterrey: Rayados' late victory over the attacking guns of Pachuca wouldn't have been possible without Velarde's contributions to a stout defense in keeping the clean sheet.
Pablo Aguilar, Club America: It almost seemed like a playoff win, given how Aguilar's teammates piled on to celebrate their victory over Tijuana. The defender's efforts to put away a header just inside the post on a final late charge secured a 2-1 victory.
Miguel Angel Martinez, Queretaro: The veteran Argentine's steady play on defense helped the squad control the match against Leones Negros, shutting them out and allowing very few scoring chances. Queretaro finally got their own offense going, securing the one goal needed for the win.
Edgar Castillo, Atlas: The speedy defender doesn't seem intimidating, but he's persistently active, and his arrival to the squad is part of the reason why relegation is starting to fade away for Atlas, instead of the ever-present worry it had been.
Cesar Lozano, Chiapas: No, the goalkeeper didn't keep a clean sheet, which is the blue ribbon usually awarded for a good performance, but to his credit, only his team scored against him, not the opposition. The veteran stayed calm after the own goal and made sure that the 2-1 victory versus Toluca was maintained.
Andrea Canales covers both Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter @soccercanales.