Leon picking up form under Gustavo Diaz as Chivas once again stumble
As Liga MX comes to a brief halt for the international matches, here are five takes from round 12 of matches of the 2017 Apertura:
Diaz's Leon Liga MX's form team
It's now four out of four wins for Leon since Uruguayan Gustavo Diaz took over as head coach in late August. On Saturday, Lobos BUAP were swatted away 3-0.
Leon has been wildly inconsistent for a few seasons but the combination of right winger Elias Hernandez and striker Mauro Boselli is proving too much for the opposition to handle at present. Of the past 14 goals Leon has scored in Liga MX play, either Hernandez or Boselli has scored or assisted on all of them.
Boselli is atop the 2017 Apertura scoring chart with nine goals, while Hernandez joins up with the Mexico national team as one of El Tri's form players. As long as the partnership continues to give results for La Fiera, Leon is a match for any team in Liga MX. With Club Tijuana slipping this weekend -- losing 3-0 to Morelia -- Pachuca choking against Necaxa (0-0), Chivas losing to Tigres (1-0) and Leon having defeated Club America earlier this week, Diaz's team is the league's form team and has playoff pedigree.
Tigres and Monterrey may be the favorites to this point this Apertura, but Leon is very much in the chasing pack.
Chivas improve, but this time luck on Tigres' side
It was the 93rd minute of the second leg of the 2017 Clausura final when Tigres thought they had a stonewall penalty. The score stood at 4-3 over the two legs, but an offside was called instead of the penalty and Chivas lifted the title. The incident has gone down in Liga MX folklore, especially for fans of clubs that tend to dislike Chivas.
So when an extremely soft penalty was handed to Tigres in the 93rd minute of Saturday's match in Estadio Universitario, the dose of irony handed down by the footballing gods couldn't be lost on anyone watching. Juninho converted and Tigres won 1-0. There also were some choice words between Tigres striker Eduardo Vargas and Chivas coach Matias Almeyda after the game.
Overall, Tigres shaded the match but this was the old Chivas, not the one that limped to defeated about Lobos BUAP midweek. Alan Pulido and Carlos Cisneros returned to the starting XI and the Guadalajara team gave Tigres a tough examination.
Chivas will need to win at least five of their six remaining games -- including clasicos against America and Atlas -- in the Apertura regular season to retain any hope of making the offseason. It's not going to happen. This was a big week for the defending champions and they've come out of it with zero points. To make matters worse, Pulido suffered a nasty leg injury, while young midfielder Orbelin Pineda is continuing to miss out on the starting XI after his patchy early form this season.
As for Tigres, it's easy to look at the league table and see a team in third place with one loss from its 10 games. But you still get the feeling that there is a vulnerability about them. The chemistry and positioning upfront between Vargas, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Enner Valencia and Javier Aquino still is not quite as it could be. There is an extra gear for "Tuca" Ferretti's team to shift up to -- if the manager can find it.
Club America hold on in intense battle against Toluca
The match between two likely playoff teams was a scrappy affair that at times had elements of a lucha libre bout about it, with players exaggerating fouls and attempting to get each other sent off. In total, there were 11 yellow cards and a red for Guido Rodriguez in the 25th minute.
But by the time Club America had gone down to 10 players, Las Aguilas were already 2-0 up. Silvio Romero netted the first, but it was Colombia international Mateus Uribe who provided the moment of the night -- and perhaps the weekend -- in the 19th. Darwin Quintero pinged a cross into Romero, who cushioned the ball on for Uribe, who smashed the ball in.
Overall, this was a very good win for Club America, even if the team was wobbling at the end, and Toluca will feel somewhat frustrated not to come away with a point after having 75 percent of the possession.
Sorry Pumas sunk by Cruz Azul
Pumas' team bus was held up by angry fans after the team lost 4-1 to Cruz Azul in Queretaro -- where this Mexico City derby was held due to the ongoing clean-up operation from the Sept. 19 earthquake. The university club has only one point from the last 21 possible. In a league as even as Liga MX, that is a run of the poorest quality and not apt for one of Mexico's "big four."
Pumas actually took the lead against Cruz Azul, but the way stand-in coach Sergio Egea's team crumbled in the second half was shocking. The alarm bells are ringing. Paco Valencia was fired earlier this season, but all signs point to Pumas' problems running much deeper. To rub salt into the wound, striker Nico Castillo was injured and taken off after half an hour.
Chile international Marcelo Diaz, who signed on Aug. 17, must be wondering if he made the right decision to join ahead of the past transfer deadline.
For Cruz Azul, this was an important victory. It followed on from a 4-0 thrashing Wednesday from Pachuca, and the fact Martin Rodriguez and Felipe Mora netted two goals each bodes well for a side that has struggled to convert chances.
Queretaro dragged into relegation battle
Queretaro rescued a late 2-2 draw against leader Monterrey on Saturday, but it is sinking quickly into relegation trouble.
Los Gallos Blancos now sit in 17th in the relegation table, only three points ahead of last-place Veracruz. Queretaro coach Jaime Lozano is a young and serious manager with potential and is giving youth team graduates a chance to shine. The problem is that with the amount of money top teams such as America, Tigres and Monterrey are pumping into their squads, it is a massive challenge for Queretaro to compete at the right end of the table. Atlas moved to 16th in the Liga MX table with their 2-0 win over Veracruz on Friday, while Puebla is in 15th and Santos Laguna also are in the relegation scrap.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.