Club America fights back to defeat plucky Chivas in Clasico Nacional
The Clasico Nacional between Club America and Chivas dominated the midweek Liga MX matches, which had been postponed from last month due to the Sept. 19 earthquake in Mexico. Here are five takes from the games:
1. America takes the Clasico Nacional
Ultra-competitive Miguel Herrera has once again molded a team with his fighting spirit. This Clasico Nacional against Chivas looked lost for Club America. Chivas were on top in almost every department and America seemed to be losing patience before goals in the 71st minute from Oribe Peralta, then Renato Ibarra two minutes later, earned them a 2-1 win.
When Carlos Cisneros struck in the 55th minute for a Chivas team already practically out of the playoff race, America were under pressure to respond. But rather than really mounting a truly inspiring comeback, America simply took advantage of some woeful defending from a Chivas side that crumbled once veteran center-back Carlos Salcido had exited the field, literally seconds before Las Aguilas leveled.
But Herrera's teams don't give in and America should be praised for their fight, even if Chivas' positive performance was the story of the night for the first 71 minutes.
The victory means America improves to 26 points from 13 games and are now virtually guaranteed a playoff spot.
2. Chivas fall to last place in Liga MX table
A casual Liga MX fan looking at the 2017 Apertura league table after 13 rounds of matches would immediately be struck by Chivas sitting down in last position.
The reigning Liga MX champions have plummeted from the highs of the Clausura. It's been a historic failure, and the worst title defense since 1970-71.
But it'd also be a little harsh to criticize too much over recent weeks. If you look at Chivas' last three games, a controversial late penalty that saw them lose against Tigres, a Salcido own goal in second-half injury time condemned Guadalajara to defeat against Morelia and then this loss against America.
For example, against Las Aguilas, Chivas had 65 percent of possession and nine corners to America's zero, as well as more shots than the opposition in Estadio Azteca. If there was a fault with the side, it was not making the most of opportunities created.
But one victory in 13 games this season can't be ignored, either. Chivas need more strength in depth throughout the squad and at least a couple of incoming starters. The Guadalajara club rested on their laurels in not signing anyone over the summer and won't want to do the same in the next transfer window.
3. Canadian Cavallini ends Monterrey's undefeated run
With Puebla's home game against Monterrey on at the same time as the Clasico Nacional, you can't imagine many watched, but it turned out to be one of the shock results of the season.
Canadian striker Lucas Cavallini netted a goal in each half to seal Puebla's victory to lift them off the bottom of the table, as well as giving Monterrey their first defeat of the season. In the process, the 24-year-old from Toronto took his tally to four goals from six games since he joined La Franja.
Monterrey will likely see this as a blip, but the win provided a huge boost for Puebla veteran coach Enrique Meza, who only took over the club in early October and has a tie and victory from his first two games.
4. Victor Guzman advances national team claim
The Mexican national team's midfield is not set in stone ahead of Russia 2018 and Pachuca's Victor Guzman furthered his cause with his seventh goal of the 2017 Apertura in Tuzos' 2-2 draw against Toluca on Wednesday.
Guzman found space between the opponent's left-back and center-back and latched onto Jonathan Urretaviscaya's well-timed through ball to finish. It was the latest display to suggest the goal-scoring central midfielder could have a national team future, especially since El Tri's trio of central midfielders -- Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado and Jonathan dos Santos -- are not known for their goals.
As for the match itself, the draw was another blow for Pachuca. Tuzos had come from behind to take a 2-1 lead and Rodrigo Salinas' 75th-minute equalizer left their playoff hopes hanging by a thread.
5. Playoffs look increasingly set
There might be four rounds of the regular season left, but it'd take a brave person to bet against any of the current top seven to not make the postseason. Cruz Azul sits seventh on 21 points, with Leon (22), Morelia (22), Tigres (22), Toluca (23), America (26) and Monterrey (27) above them. The magic number to make the playoffs is usually 25 points.
Necaxa are in eighth position on 18 points and look to be in danger after their 3-2 loss to Santos Laguna on Wednesday, with potentially Santos Laguna (12 points plus a game in hand), Veracruz (14), Lobos BUAP (14) and Pachuca (14) in the chase. Atlas (16 with a game extra) and Club Tijuana (18) are within striking distance.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.