If there is any indication that the Wild and Wooly Liga Mexicana is living up to its reputation, one only needs to see who is at the top of the league – and who is near the bottom.
For those of you who had Jaguares de Chiapas in your pool, congratulations. All three of you can enjoy your brandy and cigars while you regale us with you stories of how you did it. We will even accept “pull name out of a hat” as a criterium because when it comes to handicapping the Liga Mexican, that method is as good as any other.
The coaching centrifuge is spinning as fast as ever this season. So far, 6 coaches have been replaced, including 3 this weekend alone. There are more to follow to be sure. Estudiantes Tecos, Queretaro, and Santos all seem to have done better since they made their switch. I am sure that fans of Atlas, America and Xolos are hoping their recent changes will do the same for them. Good Luck. Meeting Expectations –
Chivas. They are in a three way tie atop the league on points, but third on goal differential. The young Chivas are as dynamic as any team in the league and it is no surprise they are among the league leaders. For the first time in a while, they are a real threat to add another title to their trophy case. Most Chivas fans will tell you, though, that they have not come close to playing their best futbol yet. That was evident in what was supposed to be a triumphant return to their old stadium (the Omnilife will be used for the upcoming PanAm Games). The game turned into a pesadilla poblana as Puebla won 4-1 over the weekend. Will it be an inconsequential stumble or a telling sign of things to come?
Cruz Azul. They may not have the trophies to show for it, but there they are again, like they always are… in the hunt. They overcame a litany of suspensions stemming from their brawl with Morelia last season, and are in good position to make a deep run… again. Is this finally the year the cementeros get the hardware that has eluded them so many times in the past?
Tigres. They were the last remaining unbeaten team before falling to Atlante Saturday night. They have the talent, the purse, and the coach to take them very, very far. Question marks pop up, though, when we take into account their heart. Their fans have it – the players? Who knows.
Jaguares de Chiapas were supposed to be embroiled in a relegation fight, not leading the league. And they started the season as such, with two straight losses. But they have not lost since, thanks to the patience and confidence the front office has given their coach, Guadalupe Cruz, to do his job. It doesn’t hurt that they have a collection of Colombians that have been lights out. Playing in the humid jungle gives Jaguares a unique home field advantage and are a legitimate threat to take the title because of it.
Xolos were supposed to be a team that would laugh in the face of any relegation struggles. They had the wampum to buy their way out of any drop zone tussle. It’s hard to compete in any league if you don’t win at home, which is what the Aztec Dogs have done so far this year. Their last home defeat to Estudiantes cost their coach, Joaquin Del Olmo, his job. 6 points at the break is not the way to stay in the top flight.
Club America is supposed to be better than this. They have so many built-in advantages that to see them near the bottom of the table is an insult to el americanismo. Before he was coach, Carlos Reinoso, told his predecessor that if he had the reins with the talent at his disposal, he would make them champions. He didn’t. He’s gone. Their sales guy turned team president is clueless. The team has done nothing but replace coaches under his watch. No one has a clue why he still has a job. The next coach to walk the plank is another who has been there before. Alfredo “capitan furia” Tena is another Club America legend who doesn’t have enough fingers to plug all the holes in the dyke. They have no direction, are stuck in the past, with no hope for the future.
Atlas. How do you say disaster in Spanish? Atlas. Their front office is a mess, coaching hires are atrocious, and player acquisition is a joke. The one thing they can lean on, their youth academy, is in complete disarray. They have become nothing more than Tigres’ farm team. Atlas fans are used to suffering, but this might be more than even they can take. They are dead last in the league, with little hope of escaping.
Here is Atlas in a nutshell. They did not re-sign one of their youth players, Edson Rivera, to a contract prior to the U20 World Cup. He did quite well for himself in Colombia, and when he came back, Atlas did not budge from the peanuts contract they offered him prior to the tournament. Thinking they had him over a barrel because of Mexico’s pacto de caballeros, he would have no choice but come crawling back because no other team in Mexico would touch him. Instead, the kid signed a much more lucrative contract with Portugal’s Braga. Furious, the Atlas front office demanded that the FMF ban him from any future call-ups. Amazingly, the FMF said no. They were left without a decent player who could help them in the relegation battle and a possible transfer fee.
Serves 'em right!
The second half of the season, as always, should be another roller coaster ride for the teams. When 6 points separate the 1st place team from the 15th place team, there is plenty of room for a lot of unpredictable craziness. Here is one not so bold prediction: the final will be between whoever ends up 2nd and 3rd in the table.