Even in a league as wildly unpredictable as Liga MX, only the staunchest members of Barra 51 could have foreseen this. Atlas, one of the oldest, least decorated, and woefully mismanaged clubs was supposed to be involved in an epic relegation duel with Queretaro, whose own record of mismanagement rivals the the Guadalajara club. Which team was going to shoot themselves into the drop?
While Queretaro has played their part perfectly by firing their coach after a not so terrible start, Atlas has gone rogue by winning 5 of the first 7 games of the Clausura. They are currently in third place, but more importantly, 9 points clear of Queretaro.
To what do we owe this bizarre anomaly in the time-space continuum? In a week where there was Papal resignation and a meteor strike, it only made sense for Atlas to climb to third. This is Atlas, after all, the team that has not won a league title since 1951. The team whose board is so fractured, the only thing it can be counted on to do is fire coaches and fail to meet the payroll. So who is responsible for this weirdness?
Tomás Boy, for one. The Atlas coach should be considered one of the greatest Mexican players of all-time. As the Tigres captain, he was the fiercest of competitors, a forceful leader, a visionary offensive conductor, a prolific goal scorer, and a championship winner. But his contentious relationships with the kingmakers have minimized his legacy. It probably didn't help that he is a strong type-A. There is reason they call him "el Jefe." As a coach, he has not been anywhere near as successful, so much to everyone's amazement, Boy was kept on after a dismal end to the '12 Apertura.
Someone was going to have to be scapegoated in case the bottom fell out.
It appears, though, that some of el jefe's competitive fire may have rubbed off on this current batch of Atlas players. During their current 5 game winning streak, they have come from behind twice: the first against the resurgent Club América and then this past weekend against a fading Monterrey. They have also been scoring some high-quality golazos, like this gem from Edson Rivera.
And last week's game winner from Omar Bravo. Remember him?
After bouncing around 4 clubs in 3 countries, the former Chivas product looks to have found joy in the game again, and he owes it all to his skipper. "I have a great coach who has filled me with confidence. I am learning so much from him not just as a tactician, but as a person." Bravo has been great on the field and even better in the locker room. He is tied for 4th in the scoring table with 4 goals so far this season, but despite Atlas' success, he knows there is still no room for error. "We have to save the club from relegation as quickly as possible before even dreaming about any other scenarios."
The rojinegros can take a huge stepo in that direction this weekend at Queretaro. A win would give them a 12 point cushion with only 9 games left. It should be enough, but with Atlas, even with all their good fortune so far this year, any cushion is never big enough.
So we might get our fight to the bottom after all. But it sure would be fun to see if Barra 51 would have to change their name.