Chivas sink to last as archrival Club America soars under Miguel Herrera
Five storylines from Week 5 of matches in Liga MX's 2017 Apertura:
Contrasting fortunes for Mexico's Big Two
Just 84 days after Chivas lifted the 2017 Clausura title in Estadio Chivas, the Guadalajara club lost 1-0 to Puebla and dropped to last place in Liga MX. To make matters worse, archrival America defeated Lobos BUAP 3-2 on Saturday to extend its winning run to four league matches.
Chivas are yet to win in the Apertura and are going through a bit of a crisis. Refereeing decisions certainly didn't help the champions Saturday night -- just days after coach Matias Almeyda said "some people" didn't like seeing Chivas do the league and cup double last season. Jair Pereira's early red card was controversial and changed the face of the game. It has also opened up a debate about a video assistant referee and a possible future use in Liga MX, which was highlighted by Chivas also being denied a late penalty.
But putting the decisions to one side, this Chivas team looks to be lacking confidence, is badly missing injured striker Alan Pulido and needs to get itself together quickly for Wednesday's midweek trip to Santos Laguna, another struggling team.
Over in Mexico City at Club America, it's the opposite. The disappointment of last season has been turned into positivity, and Las Aguilas are resurgent.
"We'll go out and look to entertain people," America coach Miguel Herrera said ahead of Saturday's game. "I want to generate fun in the stands, because more than a sport, [football] is also a spectacle, and the team should [entertain]."
America carried out their manager's mantra perfectly against a plucky Lobos BUAP side. Moving forward, its fans have every reason to be confident about the club's chances of going deep this Apertura, and title number 13 shouldn't be discounted. Wednesday's home game against Tigres promises much.
Peralta still the leading Mexican striker in Liga MX
These are tough times for Mexican strikers.
On the positive side, Oribe Peralta was superb for Club America and the difference-maker in the team's win. The Mexico international assisted two goals and headed in the winner in a game that wasn't televised because of Lobos BUAP's ongoing negotiations with TV providers.
The 33-year-old reminded that he is still the best Mexican striker in Liga MX, although he doesn't exactly have much competition. In fact, in terms of starters in Mexico's first division this past weekend, the only other Mexican centre-forward to start was the out-of-form Angel Zaldivar at Chivas.
Aside from Peralta, the top 17 players in the Liga MX scoring chart this season are all foreign-born.
Statistics like that should send a shockwave through Mexican football when it comes to considering the future of the national team.
Entertaining Cruz Azul on a roll
Cruz Azul's 2-1 win over Atlas was anything but dull. La Maquina was up 2-0 after 15 minutes, went down to 10 men after half an hour and ended up hanging on to victory in the torrential Mexico City rain, even though Atlas had also been playing with 10 from the 40th minute when Jaine Barreiro was sent off.
Paco Jemez's antics have overshadowed much of his work on the pitch, but Cruz Azul is beginning to look like a team on the rise. Indeed, it's now gone 12 matches without defeat. Fans inside Estadio Azul seem excited for the first time in a while; there is an entrenched "us against the world" mentality developing, and Cruz Azul games are becoming must-see.
League table taking shape
The creme de la creme of Liga MX is rising to the top of the table after five rounds of matches. Monterrey leads on 13 points after overcoming Leon 2-1 on Saturday, and America is in second on 12 points, with Cruz Azul third, Toluca fourth and Tigres fifth.
Those clubs were all predicted to have good seasons and have significant budgets to spend on wages and transfers. It would be a safe bet to suggest, even this early in the season, that one of those teams will win the title, with Monterrey, Tigres and Club America the favorites so far.
Of those underperforming, Chivas were expected to struggle early this Apertura, but not to the extent they have, while Santos Laguna -- in 17th place -- has also failed to live up to expectations. On Friday, Pachuca's win over Morelia and Club Tijuana's victory over Santos pointed to upticks for two teams that should be higher up at this point.
Only Monterrey and Cruz Azul remain undefeated so far.
Atlas in relegation trouble
Atlas has already gone through a roller-coaster ride this Apertura. After winning their first two games, talk surrounding Los Rojinegros revolved around challenging in the liguilla. Not now.
Atlas has gone through a horrible last few weeks. Rafa Marquez appeared on a U.S. government list of people linked to drug trafficking organizations, key midfielder Clifford Aboagye picked up a long-term injury, Leiton Jimenez is also on the sidelines and now Jaine Barreiro (suspension) and Milton Caraglio are set to miss at least Tuesday's game against Lobos BUAP.
Coach Jose Guadalupe Cruz is being criticized, but Atlas' absentees have exposed a lack of depth in the squad.
Now, because of Veracruz's surprisingly good start to the season, Atlas is just one point above Veracruz in the relegation table. If Queretaro hadn't netted a late goal to tie 1-1 with Los Tiburones Rojos on Saturday, the team from Guadalajara would be bottom.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.