Liga MX Femenil makes its historic debut, Pachuca clash with America
1. Liga MX Femenil kicks off
By far the most important thing going on this weekend in Liga MX is the start of the women's league.
The fact Puebla and Lobos BUAP will not be fielding teams, the situation with Mexican-American players not being allowed to participate and the reports this week -- flatly denied by Liga MX -- about the conditions the players are having to deal with have all added to a tense discussion surrounding the start of the competition. The lack of TV rights and the way some clubs appear to have taken this much less seriously than others is another negative, although Liga MX has pointed out that it is a work in progress, following the shock announcement late last year.
But make no mistake about it, the first weekend of play in Liga MX Femenil is historic and a statement of intent from the league. When Pachuca vs. Pumas kicks off the 2017 Apertura Liga MX Femenil on Friday, the message is that young girls have a route to playing for Mexico's top teams. For a long time, people didn't think that would be possible, and if this league is still going in 10 years, it should help foster competition for places and therefore the overall quality of the national team, not to mention the cultural impact it could have.
It is also positive to see that Morelia and Pachuca will both be hosting games in their stadiums, while the Clasico Tapatio between Chivas and Atlas will instantly garner attention.
While the league must keep improving and there is much work to do, the Mexican federation, Liga MX and the majority of clubs must be applauded for making this league a reality
And in the men's league, Saturday's clashes between Cruz Azul and Chivas and Pachuca and America, and Sunday's match between Santos Laguna and Tigres are all ones not to miss.
2. Pachuca look to extend long home unbeaten streak
Perhaps Pachuca didn't start off the season as manager Diego Alonso had hoped for. Losing 1-0 to Pumas and showcasing poor finishing at Ciudad Universitaria might have left more doubts than answers. A day before Pachuca's loss, America also lost 1-0, showing similar symptoms to those shown by Los Tuzos. Both teams are still in rebuilding mode, but it's Pachuca who possess more balance and stability as it continues its restructuring, especially in the attack.
On Thursday, Miguel "Piojo" Herrera made sure to highlight how complicated it will be for Las Aguilas to get a win at Estadio Hidalgo. The challenge looks insurmountable considering that Pachuca hasn't lost a Liga MX home game since Nov. 14, 2015.
When Herrera was Tijuana manager in the 2016 Apertura, they drew 2-2 in their visit to Pachuca. It was a game that demanded a lot of concentration from Xolos, and the midfielders played deep to help out the back line. It remains to be seen if Herrera will repeat the same instruction with America.
America's defenders will have to be alert at all times, and their passing has to be accurate. It won't be easy because Pachuca will high press in the first 15 minutes of the match, causing America to have a hard time holding on to possession. It's unlikely to see Pachuca's grand signing Keisuke Honda get minutes on Saturday, but he has stated on Twitter that he feels in great shape. Getting his first Liga MX minutes against America would generate attention and would help Alonso big-time on starting to build his possible XI to confront the rest of the season.
Whoever comes out the victor from this clash will win a lot of confidence as they continue their restructuring phase.
3. Cruz Azul set for test vs. champions Chivas
After winning their 12th league championship last May, league discussion about Chivas has strangely centered on the negative.
The Guadalajara team sent several of its players to the Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup, both tournaments ending in disappointment for the Mexican national team. To make matters worse, star striker Alan Pulido was injured and perhaps lost for the entirety of the Apertura 2017 season.
Chivas made no signings to bolster its bid to defend both the league and the Copa MX title, and contenders like Tigres, Monterrey and even Cruz Azul have made strides in the summer signing period to make a jump on the defending champs. This is precisely why the Week 2 game between Cruz Azul and Guadalajara is so interesting.
The Mexico City club started the season right with a win away at Tijuana last weekend, and have finally incorporated their new players now that they have become acclimated to the Mexican game. Coach Paco Jemez has said repeatedly that he'll limit his off-the-pitch communication with reporters and bear down on building a team capable of ending a near two-decade drought. This weekend, at home, they'll have their first big chance to prove that's indeed the case. Another win for Cruz Azul, even this early in the season, will push many in their camp to believe that this can be the season where those demons are finally put to rest.
A win for Chivas, away from home and against a worthy opponent, will also make a statement. Despite the summer fatigue, the injuries and the lack of new faces, taking the title away from the Guadalajara side will be much more difficult than anticipated.