The Fall and Winter have always been a tough time for me to keep up with footie due to my football commitments. It proved especially true this year, as I moved to a position behind the microphone, and also moved out to Lakeway, Texas. So I did not get to keep up with Liga MX or any other Ligas, for that matter.
This past weekend was the first weekend I got to sit down and watch Liga MX for the first time in months. The old gang was all there, although some were in roles they were not accustomed to playing.
The coastal teams, who are normally nothing more than schedule filler and perpetual drop zone inhabitants, have looked great. Veracruz and Chiapas have been playing a very viewer-friendly brand of soccer. The Red Sharks’ coach, legendary Chilean Carlos Reynoso, promised a bushel of points, and he delivered. They need to. Despite the hot start, Veracruz is still a multi-game losing streak from falling into the last slot of the percentage table.
Chiapas, on the other hand, has always been a mystery One would think that their geographical location would afford them a unique home-field advantage. Despite playing in a sauna, they have never really been a threat in either regular or post-season play. That might change this season, though. They have already won twice at home, seem to have found stability in the manager position, and are finally getting solid production from Colombian Aviles Hurtado, who is tied for the league lead with 4 goals.
Jaguares drew 1-1 away to Leon, who look nothing like the team that repeated as champions in the A13 and C14 seasons. Rafa Marquez’ departure to Italy, coupled with the void left by Luis Montes’ gruesome pre-World Cup fracture have renedered la fiera punchless. The green bellies were awful in the Group stage of the Concachampions, and frankly, haven’t looked that much better this season. The coach that took them from promotion to 2-time Champions, Gustavo Matosas, has moved on to America. Montes could be back as soon as this weekend, which might be the best news the emerald ones have had all year.
It happens occasionally, a coach and team part ways after winning a championship, but that is exactly what happened at Club America. Fresh off overtaking Chivas with their 12th championship, the Mexico City side and their coach Antonio “el Turco” Mohamed, who also won a title at Xolos, had a conscious uncoupling. The newly kings of Mexican soccer opted for Matosas, a disciple of the fluid, attacking, entertaining style of play that goes so well with the coveted 3G philosophy that permeates most Mexican clubs. You know, ganar, golear, y gustar. Naturally, the team responded by scoring only once in their last 3 games. No surprise, really. New coach, new players, new system. These things take time. It is not Xbox. The results aren’t instant. America is still stacked, and they will have a lot to say about who wins the championship in May.
A team that has made a habit of losing championships, Cruz Azul, is back near the top of the league. Again. They made a sexy choice in bringing in Paraguayan star Roque Santa Cruz, but then soon found out why his name is prefaced with “the often injured.” It only took one game before he came up gimpy. Rest assured, though, that Cruz Azul will make another spirited run toward the title. It should be noted, however, that a new verb exists to describe the action of coming up short in the biggest of moments in the most painful of ways: cruzazulear.
Painful may be too polite a way to describe what Chivas fans have been feeling as they have watched the proud Guadalajara club descend into the dregs of the relegation race to the bottom. Musical coaches, musical players, musical suits, no moves, too many moves, not enough moves. There are a lot of reasons why Chivas is where they are. But none is more important than the fact that the lead string-puller, Jorge Vergara, has pulled all the wrong ones. His last move will certainly be the decisive one: bringing back Chepo, the disgraced National Team coach (who, coincidentally was the man in charge when Chivas last hoisted a trophy), and his brother, Nestor. Chivas brought made some good moves and may well have a good team at some point, but right now, the mission is survival.
Get the three points by any means necessary. If that means starting veterans over players with more spark but less experience, or making the most of any touch in the box, or hunkering down to preserve a 1-0 lead. It is not going to be pretty. Wins are tantamount. the other Gs can wait.
Chivas will survive, but after eroding the club to the brink of collapse, Vergara is listening to offers. So who does drop? Leones Negros, the most recently promoted side, needs to collect 20 points, 3 more than they acquired last season to survive. Puebla could stay up provided they don’t need to rely on a 40-something Cuauhtémoc to provide miracles. Veracruz has started hot, but can they sustain it?
Safe picks - America wins, Puebla drops.
After one shot of Absinth - Chiapas wins, Queretaro drops
After two shots of Absinth, three tacos al pastor, and a tequila milkshake - Pumas wins, Chivas drops