The past week was a busy one in the world of Mexican futbol. After a set of midweek fixtures, Round 4 this weekend brought with it the third match in seven days for many of the teams in the Mexican Primera. Despite the increased amount of games over the past week, things still remain far from settled in the standings. Pumas and Monterrey have landed at the top, but below them every team is still within striking distance. In fact, every single team in the league now has a win, with teams from eighth to eighteenth in the standings all separated by just one point. With much more to be decided in the coming weeks, let's take a look back at some of the top stories from Round 4 in the Mexican Primera.
The matchup of the week -- between undefeated Chivas Guadalajara and undefeated Pumas UNAM -- ended up transforming into a bitter defensive battle. The scoreless draw at Estadio Omnilife didn’t produce a winner, but the match did show the strengths of both teams. At their best, there’s little doubt that Chivas and Pumas are the top two defensive units in the league. On Saturday night, they showed why.
For Chivas, Hector Reynoso returned for his first league match of the season, taking a spot in central defense beside Jonny Magallon. Both played very well, but it was the unit at the other end that proved to be even more impressive. Pumas central defenders Dario Veron and Marco Palacios, along with defensive midfielder David Cabrera, completely contained the Chivas attack. On offense, Chivas were the better team on the night, with Marco Fabian helping create several great scoring chances. But in the end, the Pumas defense was too much to overcome. Helped out by several great saves from goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios, Pumas preserved the clean sheet. The draw kept the Pumas road winless streak against Chivas alive (29 years and counting), but gave UNAM an important point on the road. Most importantly, the result also keeps Pumas atop the Primera standings with ten points in four matches.
Two teams with seemingly divergent fortunes met up on Saturday night at Estadio Corona in Torreon. Santos Laguna looked like the class of the league over the first two weeks, winning their first two matches by a combined 7-1 margin. Tijuana, on the other hand, had yet to earn a win, and was coming off a second-half shellacking from Monterrey last weekend. On the road against the explosive Santos offense, few gave the Xolos a chance at a result. To their credit, Tijuana came out and attacked, rather than just dropping back into a defensive shell to contain Oribe Peralta and Carlos Darwin Quintero. Their aggressiveness paid off.
Both teams traded punches early, until a collision at the top of the box between Quintero and Tijuana defender Richard Ruiz resulted in a penalty. It was a terrible call, and while Santos would take the lead momentarily, Xolos would hold out for revenge. In the 43rd minute a Santos turnover led to an open look for Fernando Arce. The Xolos midfielder buried the shot against his former team and brought the scoreline back level. Then in the second half, Tijuana would take control. In the 54th minute, striker Jose Sand just beat Santos defender Santiago Hoyos to a ball in the box and chipped a shot over Oswaldo Sanchez. Ten minutes later Sand found his way into the box again, and as he stumbled to the ground somehow found a way to pass the ball to an open Dayro Moreno. The Colombian striker finished for the 3-1 lead, and Tijuana held on for their first ever victory in the Primera Division. The Xolos return home to Tijuana next weekend, where they have a solid shot at grabbing a second victory against Puebla.
Rayados Back on Track
On the road at Estadio Tecnologico, Morelia was determined to make things difficult for the home side. Coming out in a defensive-oriented alignment, the Monarcas were successful in thwarting the Monterrey attack until late in the match. The Rayados dominated possession, and kept the ball in the Morelia half for the majority of the match, but had trouble finding the winning goal. Things picked up a bit for Monterrey in the second half when Dario Carreno came on as a sub and joined Humberto Suazo up top. Eventually, the immensely talented Suazo broke through, beating Frederico Vilar in the 85th minute for the 1-0 lead. In stoppage time, Carreno iced things with a perfect finish to leave the final margin at 2-0. Winning late was a great way for Monterrey to get past the pain of their midweek loss to Pumas, when a stoppage time goal from Eduardo Herrera sent the Rayados packing. Saturday night’s win over Morelia leaves Monterrey just one point behind Pumas at the top of the league table.
Puebla is suddenly reeling. After a season-opening win over Atlas, Puebla gave up two late goals for a draw with Pachuca, and then completely fell apart in a midweek loss to Atlante. Looking to reverse course back at home on Sunday afternoon, it was instead the visiting Jaguares who ended up turning things around. Puebla got an early gift when DaMarcus Beasley drew a penalty just a few minutes into the match. After going down a goal, Jaguares would respond courtesy of one of their talented Colombian strikers. A great finish by Franco Arizala on the break brought things back level in the 31st minute. After red cards were shown to a player on each team -- Rodrigo Salinas for Puebla, and Miguel Martinez for Jaguares -- thing settled down a bit in the second half. But again it was a Colombian striker coming through for Jaguares, this time Jackson Martinez, who broke through for the game-winner in the 73rd minute. Martinez's goal was made possible by a perfect pass from young midfielder Armando Zamorano. The 18-year-old came on as a late sub and made all the difference, springing Martinez on the run for the game winner. Three Colombians -- Martinez, Arizala, and Luis Gabriel Rey -- have accounted for every Jaguares goal this season. Now with their first win behind then, Jaguares return to Chiapas next weekend for a difficult match against Cruz Azul.
Goal of the Week
Tijuana midfielder Fernando Arce spent the last seven seasons playing for Santos Laguna. On Saturday he turned the tables on his former team, scoring to help lead the Xolos to a surprise 2-1 win. A nice series of short passes led to the ball at Arce's foot, and his finish from the left side was expertly placed into the far corner. See Arce's goal at 0:17 into the clip below.
Round 4 Scoreboard
Cruz Azul 2-1 Atlante
Queretaro 2 - 1 Pachuca
Chivas 0 - 0 Pumas
Santos 1 - 3 Tijuana
Monterrey 2 - 0 Morelia
Puebla 1 - 2 Jaguares
Toluca 0 - 0 Atlas
Estudiantes 0 - 1 Tigres