Pachuca ends Cruz Azul's winning streak, Escoto stunner vs. Chivas
In a week in which Cruz Azul ended their winning streak, Amaury Escoto made a play for the Puskas Award, and there were tributes held for the earthquake victims in Liga MX, here's what we learned.
Guzman, Pachuca end Cruz Azul's undefeated run in style
Cruz Azul had gone 16 games in all competitions without tasting defeat, until Pachuca steamrolled La Maquina 4-0 on Wednesday in Estadio Hidalgo.
Pachuca coach Diego Alonso shrewdly set his team up to absorb Cruz Azul's attack and hit them on the transitions. It worked perfectly. All four Tuzos goals came from counters, with Cruz Azul's players stranded up field and La Maquina's high defensive line leaving ample space behind the defense.
Cruz Azul started slowly and without its usual intensity, but did have chances to get back in the game in the second half, when it took risks and piled forward.
For Pachuca, this felt like the kind of result that could jump-start what has been a poor season so far for the CONCACAF Champions League holders. Chile international Edson Puch showed why he was brought in to replace to PSV's Hirving Lozano on Wednesday, really for the first time since his move from Necaxa.
But the real star was Mexican Victor Guzman, who netted twice and may now be starting to push for consideration with the national team.
Japan international Keisuke Honda scored the fourth after his late introduction off the bench, but the way Pachuca played with such pace up front begs the question of exactly where he'll fit into Alonso's plans moving forward.
The reaction of both sides this weekend will be fascinating. Pachuca hosts Necaxa, while Cruz Azul will face Mexico City rival Pumas in Queretaro.
"Puskas" Escoto stunner downs champions Chivas
Mexican forward Amaury Escoto, 24, had to go Guatemala's Deportivo Suchitepequez to resurrect his career before joining Lobos BUAP in 2016. On Tuesday, he became a household name and scored a goal that could be an early contender for the 2018 Puskas Award.
"Breathtaking" is used too often to describe moves or goals in football, but Escoto's overhead kick from the end of the penalty box in the 85th minute was exactly that. Lobos manager Rafa Puente has already nicknamed him "Puskas" Escoto.
It wasn't just the athletic acrobatics, timing or trajectory involved in the goal. The added dimension was that it won the game late for Lobos BUAP, the smallest institution Liga MX has seen in years, against Chivas -- one of Mexico's "big two" -- in Estadio Chivas. And Chivas were pushing for a winner.
The victory was crucial for Lobos BUAP in the relegation scrap, with Atlas defeating Puebla 2-1 and Veracruz winning 2-1 against Morelia in midweek matches. Special mention must be made of Peruvian midfielder Pedro Aquino, who was outstanding for Lobos.
For Chivas, the defeat all buts ends the club's chances of retaining its title, unless the Guadalajara club can win five of its last seven games as a minimum. Coach Matias Almeyda said it would be "unrealistic" to think of silverware at this point. And the Argentine is right.
Chivas were abysmal in the first half, shorn of confidence and even effort and went into half-time lucky only to be down 1-0. Excuses are running out for the champions now the injury crisis is clearing up.
For Lobos BUAP, the attacking football, difficulties off the field, the fact the club is in the playoff race (and has a manager who was once a soap opera actor) has made it perhaps the story of the Apertura so far.
Mexico contender Hernandez fuels Club Leon comeback
Club America came within a couple of minutes of winning in Estadio Leon, but ended up losing 2-1, with Elias Hernandez setting up late goals for Mauro Boselli and Hernan Dario Burbano in a hectic end-to-end climax on Wednesday.
Hernandez reminded fans of his crossing ability on the eve of Juan Carlos Osorio's Mexico squad announcement. With Tigres winger Jurgen Damm out, "Patrullero" may well get an opportunity in games against Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras.
Leon's recent trend of starting seasons poorly and then gradually finding its groove is playing out again this Apertura. La Fiera is the form team right now in Liga MX, with three consecutive wins. And there is no reason to think Gustavo Diaz -- who only took over at the end of August -- can't steer the team to a playoff run.
Las Aguilas lost William da Silva to what looked like a hamstring injury early in the first half. Coach Miguel Herrera stormed onto the field at the end of the match to search for the referee, complaining that there were two balls on the field of play when Burbano sealed the win.
But overall America played well and will feel aggrieved to not have come away with at least a draw.
Fifth head coach loses job as Garcia exits Puebla
After 10 rounds of matches in the 2017 Apertura, five clubs have already sacked their managers.
The latest to get the axe was Puebla's Rafael "Chiquis" Garcia on Tuesday night after the loss to Atlas. Ricardo La Volpe's former assistant, and son-in-law, leaves the team in last place in the table, with just one win all season.
It's easy to point to those statistics and think Puebla's poor season has mainly been Garcia's fault. He's made mistakes, but La Franja is being run in such a haphazard way that any head coach would struggle. The turnover of managers, low investment in the playing staff, and lack of a clear identity mean Puebla is unlikely to suddenly be mixing it with clubs like Monterrey, Tigres and Club America now that Garcia is gone.
From the collection points outside stadiums, to the minute of silence ahead of midweek games, to Club America players walking out with the name "Alexis Vargas" -- a youth team player who died in last week's earthquake -- on their back, Liga MX has responded with a lot of dignity to the tragic Sept. 19 disaster in central Mexico.
Watching players and clubs pitch in to help out has brought a goodwill factor towards the Mexican game and eroded the divide many fans feel exists.
If there is one criticism, it would be that the league and clubs didn't promote "United For Each Other," which saw media networks in the United States simulcast five Liga MX games to support those affected by natural disasters in recent weeks.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.