Dominguez, Castillo add spice to America vs. Pumas rivalry in Week 11
MEXICO CITY -- After a weekend without Liga MX action due to the referees' strike, Mexico's top flight came back strong, with Club America and Pumas giving an exciting Clasico Capitalino that finished 3-2 in Las Aguilas favor.
Here are five stories from a thrilling Week 11:
1. America, Pumas intensify rivalry
In a stadium where only Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's Tigres had been able to get wins since Francisco "Paco" Palencia took over the Pumas' coaching post, America showed grit, the exact same amount that allowed it to eliminate Chivas in the 2016 Apertura Liguilla.
The fact that Ricardo La Volpe has had to improvise his defense for much of the new year hasn't prevented him from molding his team into something he can take pride in. The apparition of Diego Lainez, 16, has certainly contributed to America's current state of joy, but so has Paraguay striker Cecilio Dominguez, whose enthusiasm is contagious and reaches the rest of his teammates. His goal to give America a last-minute 3-2 win over Los Universitarios will mark a before and after for the player, who is featuring in his first games as Las Aguilas' No. 10.
For Pumas, Nicolas Castillo's brace wasn't enough to escape the afternoon with a vital win over the hated rival. Nevertheless, Castillo's Liga MX presentation couldn't be going better, with eights goals in nine starts.
On Sunday afternoon, Castillo and Dominguez added more spice to a rivalry that intensifies with each passing edition.
2. Pulido on fire as Chivas stay top
It was as if Alan Pulido felt slighted by not being included in Juan Carlos Osorio's squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Within 25 seconds of Chivas' 2-0 victory over Veracruz, the striker had already set up a good chance for Angel Zaldivar. From there, the 26-year-old went on to put in a man-of-the-match performance in a comfortable win for Chivas.
The game and Pulido's defining moment came in the 57th minute. The former Tigres striker dropped deep into his own half, picked up the ball from goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota, turned and charged. He breezed past Kristian Alvarez, made his way to the edge of Veracruz's penalty area and fired the ball into the goal to give Chivas the lead.
It was a reminder that Pulido is regaining his confidence and finding his pre-2014 World Cup form. He's also playing for a team that ends Week 11 of in first position in the 2017 Clausura after both Pachuca and Club Tijuana slipped up.
We already know that Chivas are title contenders, but the Guadalajara club's chances of ending a 10-year Liga MX title drought are significantly improved with Pulido in this type of form.
3. Monterrey can boast Liga MX's best attack
When Monterrey takes the field at Estadio BBVA Bancomer, it's almost impossible for the visiting side to get a win. After Los Rayados' 2-0 win over Atlas, they extended their undefeated streak at home to 16 Liga MX games.
What makes Monterrey a special side to watch at home is their attack, predominantly led by Carlos Sanchez, Edwin Cardona, Rogelio Funes Mori and Dorlan Pabon. Cardona and Funes Mori have used cup matches to reach their best form, and the numbers prove it -- Cardona has scored two goals in Copa MX and two in the league, while Funes Mori has scored four goals in Liga MX and three in Copa MX.
The fact that Monterrey is fighting for the league and cup trophies has helped its attack retain the form it displayed in the 2016 Clausura, when it featured in the final against Pachuca. Funes Mori's goal against Atlas was a great example of a typical Monterrey goal -- direct, quick and clinical.
4. Cruz Azul is already showing a Jemez blueprint
Tigres and Cruz Azul gave a fierce contest last Saturday at Estadio Azul and although the final was a scoreless draw, Paco Jemez's La Maquina made the visitors suffer for most of the match. Tigres' best chances came off a counter, but Cruz Azul excelled in creating its plays and being smart with the ball. Taking the ball away from Tigres is not an easy task, nor a common sight, but Jemez's team achieved it.
With Jemez, Cruz Azul is showing heart, and it's building on a style. In past seasons, the team lacked both of these fundamental details, but with Jemez running the show, there's hope for better times. However, Cruz Azul and Jemez still need patience in order to showcase their best football in Liga MX.
5. "Jimmy" Lozano's Queretaro continues impressive climb
Queretaro will enter crunch time immersed in the Liguilla race. Jaime Lozano's first objective is complete, so now he's ready to take on the next one: reaching the playoffs.
Since Lozano took over, Queretaro has scored 15 goals and is now among the top five offenses in the league. And what's worth pointing out is that with Lozano leading the team, Los Gallos have a 4-3 win over Pumas and, most recently, a 3-0 victory over Pachuca. Pumas and Pachuca are two teams who will be part of the Liguilla talk in the next weeks, so Queretaro has proven with wins that its able to compete against Mexico's best.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.