Chivas earn impressive win over Pachuca to reclaim their swagger
After week 8 of the Liga MX Apertura, Tom Marshall checks in with five of the biggest storylines.
1. Champion Chivas breathe again
The first seven matches of Chivas' title defense came without a win, but that all ended on Saturday with an impressive 3-1 victory over Pachuca in Estadio Hidalgo. It was as if Chivas coach Matias Almeyda flicked a switch to turn on the Liga MX champion's swagger, or like the team's hard drive had gone missing early in the Apertura, only to be reinstalled during the international break.
Dropping veteran Carlos Salcido to the bench seemed to release the hand-brake on the Chivas side, with the presence of Michael Perez and Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez in central midfield handing the Guadalajara side a more dynamic feel.
But the real difference for Chivas was belief. The international break came at a good time for Almeyda to help his team recover mentally as much as anything. Chivas played the ball around with authority and intent from the first whistle against Pachuca, and after Perez netted his first-ever professional goal in the 16th minute to hand Chivas the lead, the side's confidence soared and we saw the same fast-paced, exciting football that took the side to the Clausura title last time around.
This was Tuzos' second loss in their last 39 games at the stadium, while the win was Chivas' first of the Apertura in arguably their most-difficult game.
Pachuca coach Diego Alonso will be worried. His side was second best in each sector of the field, with the defensive lapses leading to Chivas' goals particularly worrisome for CONCACAF's Club World Cup representative.
As for Chivas, it is by no means too late for the side to make a playoff run. This may have only been the Guadalajara team's first win of the season, but Chivas have proven quality and sit only four points off the playoff positions. Two crucial games against Pumas (home) and Club America (away) await over the next couple of weeks.
Monterrey, America cruising to the playoffs
Monterrey overcame a battling Necaxa 1-0 at home in Estadio BBVA Bancomer to remain top of the Liga MX table on 20 points from eight matches. As Liga MX goes, what Rayados are doing at present is a rarity and with 27 points still to play for, the northern team could conceivably break the regular-season record of 40 points (or 43 if you include seasons in which Mexico's top division had 20 teams).
Club America enjoyed a similarly comfortable 2-0 win over Veracruz, with both goals coming via Silvio Romero. The three points moved Las Aguilas up to second on 16 points.
Both Monterrey and Club America are making easy work of the Apertura regular season.
Paco Jemez making headlines, again
Cruz Azul's Spanish coach Paco Jemez can't stay out the headlines. Even after a dull 0-0 road trip to Puebla on Friday, Jemez generates copy for Mexican sports outlets.
Asked if his Cruz Azul team -- sitting in the playoff spots and unbeaten in 16 games in all competitions -- had a problem with scoring, the former Rayo Vallecano coach stated: "I don't think that it is a problem because we are generating a lot (of opportunities]. Would I like to score three or four goals every game? I've already said it is very improbable. Whoever wants to to see [four, five or six goals should go to watch [Real] Madrid, Barcelona and there you'll see all the goals you want."
The fractious relationship between Jemez and the Mexican press is now legendary and the Spaniard suggesting that fans should watch the big teams from his home country if they want to see goals didn't fit well with some.
The upside is that his team is playing reasonably well and the mentality right now -- which Jemez has arguably forged -- is one of a club entrenched, with everyone taking pot shots at it from outside.
It might just be what La Maquina needs.
Screen postponement an embarrassment
Friday night's game between Atlas and Tigres was postponed due to the Guadalajara club's new screen in the center of the field hovering low above the playing area. It turned out that the machinery to lift the screen had broken and no replacement could be found to do the job. Fans were already inside Estadio Jalisco when the game was called off.
The postponement represents an embarrassment for Atlas and Liga MX. The game will apparently be made up in November's international date, but with Tigres' boasting up to 10 internationals, relegation-threatened Atlas look set to be handed a significant advantage.
Atlas' relegation rivals Veracruz, Lobos BUAP, Queretaro and Puebla can't be happy and Lobos coach Rafa Puente called on the "honor" of the league to be upheld. Surely if Atlas failed to provide a safe stadium to play in, the points should've gone to Tigres, as it was a logistical error from Atlas' end that caused the suspension of the match.
This has been a strange season for Atlas. In just a few weeks, there has been optimism, real relegation problems, long-term injuries to key players, Stiven Barreiro sent off twice only for the red cards to be rescinded, Rafa Marquez accused of having links to a drug trafficking organization, Ravel Morrison joining on loan and now a game has been suspended because of an unthinkable mishap.
Lobos BUAP in freefall
The small university team from Puebla was the fairy-tale story of the first three weeks of the 2017 Apertura. Lobos BUAP even topped Liga MX for a time, despite having a limited budget and a hastily put together squad.
But since then the wheels have fallen off and Lobos BUAP are now in last place in the relegation table, following their 3-1 loss against Morelia on Saturday at home. The defeat made it just one point from Lobos BUAP's last five Liga MX games.
The club has yet to seal a TV deal and showed the game free via its social networks on Saturday. It has also started a campaign to encourage fans to donate money to the club for new signings. They could do so on the BUAP (university) campus or even in local pharmacies.
The signs aren't good for Lobos BUAP and the fact the club is already in relegation trouble would seem to make it less likely that a TV company will invest heavily in the rights. It appears the minnows are on a downward spiral.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.