Minnows Lobos BUAP stay hot; Tigres helping stamp out offensive chant
Tom Marshall takes a look at five important storylines following the week 3 matches in the Liga MX 2017 Apertura.
1. Lobos BUAP no flash in the pan
It seems a bit of a shame that Lobos BUAP haven't yet secured a TV deal to show their home games. Instead, the team has played its first two games following promotion in front of a total -- including both matches -- of just 14,579 inside Estadio Olympic.
And those fans showing up are being entertained, with Lobos BUAP the most exciting team in Liga MX this 2017 Apertura so far. Many expected the minnows to really struggle, but they've ended week three of the season in first place, unbeaten and with nine goals scored.
Reigning CONCACAF Champions League holder Pachuca was dismissed 3-2 on Saturday, with Lobos BUAP 3-0 up after an hour and once again displaying its swashbuckling and bold attacking style. Can the Puebla-based club led by young manager Rafa Puente keep it up? It's unlikely, but even if they can't, they look like they'll entertain and Puente is on course for a bigger job at this rate.
On the other side, Pachuca's slow start is worrisome. The sale of Hirving Lozano has left a gap, with Edson Puch and Raul Lopez struggling to fill it. The upcoming debut of Keisuke Honda can't come soon enough. It should give the Tuzos -- who will represent CONCACAF at the Club World Cup in December -- a much-needed lift.
2. Dominguez magic seals clasico win for America
Cecilio Dominguez is on the fast track to becoming the bona fide star Club America fans have yearned for in recent years. And moments like Saturday's penalty against Mexico City rival Pumas are why. "I like to have fun, to play football, it's my passion," said the 22-year-old Paraguayan ahead of America's 2-1 victory.
Dominguez took the playful side of his game to new extremes in Estadio Azteca. Las Aguilas had been handed a soft penalty right before half-time with the score at 1-1. Striker Silvio Romero stepped up and shot Panenka-style, with Pumas keeper Alfredo Saldivar scrambling back and clawing it out. Pumas fans went wild, basking in the perceived arrogant move failing to find its mark.
So when Dominguez was ready to take a penalty 10 minutes from the end, it seemed out of the realm of possibilities that he'd try a Panenka kick himself.
But not for Dominguez. That's exactly what he did, producing perhaps the most memorable moment of the 2017 Apertura so far. It wasn't just the penalty, it was the way he nonchalantly lofted it down the middle as Saldivar sprawled right. And it was in the heat of battle in one of the fiercest rivalries in Mexican football.
America fans may just have a new hero.
3. Positive signs for Apertura tournament
These are early days in the Apertura, but the league table is shaping up nicely. The favorites are the same as at the start of the season: Tigres, Monterrey, Club America and Chivas. But with Lobos BUAP topping the table after three games, Necaxa -- who came back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2 against reigning champion Chivas on Saturday -- also on seven points and then Toluca joining the leaders after Sunday's 3-2 comeback win over Atlas, there are other teams that look set to mount a challenge.
Add the chasing bunch of Cruz Azul, Atlas, Pachuca (if it can improve) and Santos Laguna into the mix and this campaign looks to be as promising as it is unpredictable.
4. Monterrey looking like a Mohamed side
When Argentine coach Antonio Mohamed won the league with Club Tijuana and Club America, there were similarities in both team's playing style: mainly counter-attacking teams that sought to do damage through through transitions.
Since Mohamed took over at Monterrey ahead of the 2016 Clausura, he's struggled to mold a side into his image. There have been moments, but it's ultimately been a disappointing reign.
On Friday evening against Tijuana, there were positive signs that Rayados are being shaped into a Mohamed team. The key figure was Aviles Hurtado. The Colombian netted twice against his old club and was warmly applauded off the field. His second goal -- basically a tap in from close range -- in the 52nd minute summed it up. Rogelio Funes Mori, Dorlan Pabon and Carlos Sanchez were all involved in a swift counter, leaving the Xolos defense stretched.
It really could've been 5-0 with better finishing, with Monterrey much more effective with its 39 percent possession than Xolos.
The key change to the squad during the offseason was Hurtado coming in to replace outgoing Colombian Edwin Cardona. It has given Mohamed perhaps Liga MX's best counter-attacking player, capable of both exploiting and making space, instead of a sluggish, creative one probably better-suited to a possession-based game.
Part of the result could be seen on Friday, although it should be said that Tijuana -- without a point in its first three games under Eduardo Coudet -- played into Rayados' hands with their high line and slack defending.
5. Tigres lead way in ending goalkeeper chant
Tigres 1-1 draw with Queretaro won't live long in the memory in terms of what happened on the field, but it may become known as the game in which Tigres fans came together to change the tide in the fight against the goalkeeper chant. A video -- supported by the club -- had done the rounds ahead of Saturday's match encouraging fans to shout "Tigres" at goal kicks, instead of the usual word which FIFA has deemed as anti-gay and has earned the Mexican federation fines on eight occasions at national team level. The club announced that it would renovate one school for each game "Tigres" replaces the old chant.
This was an innovative and smart idea to stamp out the chant. And it worked. Tigres fans backed the initiative and a school will be renovated.
As for the game itself, Tigres controlled the ball -- as expected -- but Queretaro was compact and took a half-time lead through a long ball pumped forward. Coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's loose 3-4-1-2 didn't work in the first 45, with a change to a more traditional back four improving the side after the break and helping Tigres to take a point.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.