Toluca goes six games unbeaten, troubled Club America axes Ambriz
MEXICO CITY -- While teams like Tigres, Club Tijuana and Pachuca are giving performances that suggest that they will be legitimate title contenders come Liguilla time, Monterrey and Club America continue to turn in lackluster showings, so much so that the latter's board came to the decision to part ways with coach Ignacio Ambriz on Sunday.
Here are five lessons learned from Week 9:
1. Toluca takes advantage of Chivas' poor first half
Chivas unexplainably gave a sombrous first-half performance against Toluca, allowing the home side to take a two goal lead into half-time. Who knows if both goals would have been conceded if Chivas' captain, Jair Pereira, had been present in the starting XI. Pereira has missed the last two games due to a muscular injury.
Pereira's leadership is imperative in a team that's average age sits right below 25-years-old. Without him, Chivas lacks the player on the field who's able to pull all of the defensive pieces together as the opponent surges into attack. The center-back duo of Hedgardo Marin and Juan Manuel "Abuelo" Basulto is still inexperienced, and it's not a tandem that provides enough guarantees for the team.
Toluca extended its six-game unbeaten streak by putting an end to the Guadalajara side's eight-game run, which included both league and Cup matches. Chivas' last loss before the surprise defeat took place back in July when it was still having difficulties in the scoring department.
However, that's no longer a problem as new signee, Alan Pulido, scored his first Liga MX goal in the loss. His strike put the game at 2-1 and lifted the spirits of the crowd during the last 15 minutes of the match.
Luckily, Pereira is scheduled to return for the important match against the league's No. 1, Tigres, on Tuesday. Against Andre-Pierre Gignac and Ismael Sosa, his presence will be fundamental for Chivas' winning aspirations.
2. Leon's win over America ends Ambriz's tenure
Ambriz is no longer America's head coach after the club confirmed via its official Twitter account that both parties had come to a mutual agreement that it was time for him to step down. Los Azulcremas' season has been a highly inconsistent one, and the crowd's frustration reached an all-time high after Leon defeated America 0-2 at Estadio Azteca.
After an epic comeback win over Cruz Azul, America's main task against Leon was to prove that its 4-3 win over La Maquina was not a surprise, rather a product of Ambriz's work week by week at the club. Unfortunately for Ambriz, America's performance against Leon, whose coach Javier Torrente is a Liga MX debutant, was equally as worrisome as its performance in the Clasico Nacional.
With the arrival of Torrente, Leon has recuperated its DNA. In Leon, the crowd doesn't care if the team wins or loses, they care more about the style and identity of the club, and Torrente has brought with him the attacking philosophy that satisfies almost all of the Panzas Verdes' faithful.
Meanwhile, at America, the coaching search has begun. For its Tuesday match against Necaxa, America will have Israel Hernandez, who coaches the club's under-20 side, as its interim coach.
De común acuerdo da por finalizada la relación laboral con el Sr Ignacio Ambriz. Agradecemos su entrega y dedicación pic.twitter.com/gceawTjw80- Club América (@ClubAmerica) September 18, 2016
3. Pachuca lets Xolos get a vital away point
"The game was great, with both teams creating chances," said Tijuana's head coach, Miguel Herrera, after his team achieved an important 2-2 draw against Pachuca at Estadio Hidalgo.
"Also, we have to admit that Pachuca had a great game. We leave satisfied because I think both teams searched for the win, and the tie makes justice for both teams."
Tijuana leveled things up in the dying minutes of the game, and Herrera celebrated on the sidelines as if Xolos had sealed a place in this season's upcoming playoffs. At least that's how it felt, as he raised his arms and walked towards his assistant coaches to celebrate the draw.
Visiting Pachuca is not an easy task for any Liga MX club. Los Tuzos boast of an undefeated home record that traces back to Nov. 2015. After the match, Pachuca coach Diego Alonso didn't look frustrated, rather calm, as he explained that his team did miss important opportunities to close out the game but reiterated that what he liked was his side's performance.
During the 90 minutes, Pachuca demonstrated the same intensity that allowed it to lift the 2016 Clausura championship, and what's worth noting is that key striker, Franco Jara, will likely close out the regular season in top form.
"We will be a dangerous team in the Liguilla," warned Alonso in the post-game news conference.
4. Tiago Volpi's saves help Queretaro get a huge win
On Saturday afternoon, both Queretaro and Monterrey needed wins. However for Queretaro, winning the match was hugely important after three consecutive losses. Monterrey had just suffered an embarrassing group stage elimination in CONCACAF Champions League play, so Queretaro had to take advantage of Rayados' poor state.
Edgar Benitez scored the winner in Queretaro's 1-0 win over Monterrey, but it was Volpi's seven saves that allowed the side to snatch three important points.
Thanks to Volpi's heroics, Queretaro is still strong and steady in the playoff hunt, while Monterrey's season appears to be heading for the abyss.
5. Raul Ruidiaz zoning in on worthwhile week
After nine matches, Ruidiaz has scored seven goals. At Veracruz, the Peruvian forward got a brace that helped Morelia secure a 3-1 victory.
Ruidiaz's upcoming performances will be crucial for Morelia, who will host back-to-back league games in the next few days against Pachuca and Puebla. Ruidiaz is only one goal away from tying the league's leading goalscorer, Dayro Moreno, who has eight strikes to his name.
Morelia is in third place on the table, and much of that is due to Ruidiaz's performances. He's turning into the best signing of the 2016 Apertura.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.