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Pumas UNAM Vs. Toluca, Apertura 2011: Preview

After five weeks of hibernation, the Pumas attack awoke suddenly and spectacularly during Wednesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League match against Toronto. The numbers didn't look good for Pumas prior to facing Toronto: Five straight matches without a win, three straight losses, and just three total goals scored over their last five games. The struggles were quickly forgotten, though, as Pumas needed just 45 minutes against Toronto to surpass their scoring total from the previous five weeks. Wednesday’s 4-0 win has the potential to chart a brand new course for Pumas over the second half of the Apertura season. If UNAM can prove the result against Toronto wasn't a fluke, they can use their newfound positive momentum to move back into championship contention.

No one had a better outing on Wednesday than Martin Bravo. The Pumas striker netted three goals and helped set up a fourth, in what was one of his best performances in years. Pumas certainly needs Bravo to regain his scoring touch. The attacking front for Pumas has been thin this season due to injury, and Bravo hasn't done enough to fill the void. Through the first eight weeks of the season Pumas have been one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. Eight goals in eight games are not going to cut it in this league, but if Bravo can finish like he did against Toronto it adds a completely new scoring dimension.

The Apertura season also hasn't been a great one for Toluca up to this point. With just one loss, the Red Devils certainly can’t be considered a failure. But with only two wins in eight games they also haven't met expectations. As usual the Toluca defense has been the team's strength. While the backline has been strong, the Toluca offense has struggled at times. Their nine goals scored may be one better than Pumas have managed, but it still leaves them as one of the bottom five scoring teams in the league. The key on Sunday against Pumas will be Nestor Calderon attacking down the left side and getting the ball to striker Ivan Alsono. Alonso has scored the only goal for Toluca in each of their last two matches (both 1-1 draws), and needs to be given more opportunities to finish in front of the net.

On the other side, the Pumas backline will have to play significantly better than last weekend. Obviously hurt by the loss of Marco Palacios to injury, Pumas looked disorganized in the back while conceding an astonishing four goals to Queretaro. It will be up to Dario Veron to ensure things improve this weekend against Toluca. The Paraguayan defender will be playing in his 300th game for Pumas, and will not want to disappoint in front of the hone fans.

Sunday’s match is obviously huge for both teams. Toluca currently sits in eighth place, just on the edge of a postseason position. Pumas are tied on points with the Red Devils, but are ninth in the standings due to goal differential. Both Pumas and Toluca have the talent to be challenging for a top four spot if they can turn things around. There’s no doubt that a win this weekend would go a long way for both sides. On Sunday at Estadio Olimpico Universitario we'll see which team is finally ready to take the first step back into championship contention.