Edgar Pacheco's Atlas, yes, Atlas leads the MFL... for now
As if we needed more proof that wild and wooly Liga Mexicana is living up to its reputation, I present as exhibit A, the first two weeks of the Mexican Clausura.
The defending champion, and favorite to win it all again, Monterrey, has looked anything like a championship team. Losses against San Luis and away to Estudiantes have left the defending champs pointless, much like their between season training regimen. The way some players have performed, it looks like it was more wine, women, and song, than sit-ups and Indian sprints during the break. The spoils of victory.
This week offers another slate of distractions, as they head to Chilangolandia to receive recognition for the tremendous season they just had as well as visit with the Prez. Victor Manuel Vucetich has done a terrific job in transforming a perennially underachieving team into a champion. Now he faces a much tougher challenge in dealing with complacency.
Cruz Azul looked like they started the season hellbent on getting the trophy that has eluded them of late as they pasted the same Estudiantes 4-1 at the Azul last week. Whatever momentum they generated, though, came to a dead stop in Cancun as Atlante struck 3 times in the second half to shock the cementeros. Atlante now heads to Monterrey with the same intentions. It would be hard to imagine a defending champ dropping the first three, but that's Mexican Futbol for you.
The two most popular teams in the league have yet to post the full three points so far this year.
Club America will be tasked with playing two tournaments as they also have Libertadores duty. The way they have started, early exits in both tournaments are not out of the question. The man in charge, Michel Bauer, was convinced that his team lost to Pachuca in matchday 1 because the refs show the Tuzos preferential treatment and publicly voiced his displeasure accordingly.
In truth, the refs did give America the high hard one, but the excuses just keep coming from a man who has absolutely nothing to show for his tenure as the top man in charge. It was the field. It was the refs. The goalie had a hang-nail. The sun was their eyes.
America has a huge budget, and two “feeder teams” from which to field which one would think would be a very competitive side. The end product, however, has been anything but formidable, and they lack that superstar player that has traditionally carried the team in the past. Even their own fans have recognized the mediocrity by sarcastically cheering “Ole” at the end of their game vs. Pachuca.
Luckily for America, the league format is set up to protect teams from slow starts like this. The same can't be said for the Libertadores, though. America has made it past the group stage in its previous 6 appearances in the South American Tournament. Will it be lucky number 7?
Chivas has not fared much better with two draws in two games. The Guadalajara squad has seen its best players make the move to Europe over the past few years. And the front office has relied more on filling the gaps from the youth ranks, not via expensive signings.
The results have been predictably erratic, but if that young nucleus can find a way to take over games, they can definitely be a threat… as long as the owner doesn’t keep selling off the talent. Last I checked, Guadalajara was in the business to win championships, not transfer players. They don’t want to become Atlas, do they?
Speaking of the rojinegros…. When was the last time they ever led the league at any point during a season? With two wins, Atlas sits atop the league, a much needed break from their more accustomed position of fighting off relegation. Benjamin Galindo was brought in to stabilize a team that performed woefully, even for them, last season and save them from the drop. The team has responded by scoring 7 goals in two games.
The club's youth academy has a long history of producing great players. So it is good to see their latest jewel, Edgar Pacheco, back at full strength again after a year strife with sickness and injury. The midfielder has one score and set up two others so far. It is only a matter of time before he moves on.
Up next for Atlas, a very winnable game at current drop zone victims, Necaxa. Could they be undefeated as they head into their showdown with America the following week? A win there, and there fans would be partying like it was 1951, the last time Atlas won the title.