Here your five conclusions from the opening week in the Liga MX Clausura.
Winning start for Jemez
From the very first second it was clear that Cruz Azul were entering the new Liga MX season with a different sense of urgency. Even if, ultimately, the game ended in a tame 1-0 win to La Maquina, Cruz Azul supporters can take heart from the fact that the players look to be absorbing Paco Jemez’s tactics just fine.
Inevitably, there is reason to be enthusiastic about this Cruz Azul team. There was a period in the game where Cruz Azul completed a sequence of 10+ passes, bringing the crowd to “oles”. Individually, Gabriel Peñalba led the charge, and Angel Mena was a familiar presence on the attack. Both new signings for the Clausura.
Jemez, though, would prefer to have played a different team on Saturday. Necaxa finished without a shot on target in 90 minutes, and played as if a defeat wasn’t a bad result.
Next, things get significantly tougher, with the Cementeros visiting crosstown rivals Pumas UNAM. For now, there is cause of optimism in La Noria.
Dayro-less Xolos lose in Morelia
The big news before kickoff was the exclusion of Dayro Moreno from Xolos de Tijuana’s starting lineup in their opening match against Monarcas Morelia. Dayro’s keen eye for goal was missed and will be missed. Tijuana confirmed on Sunday night that the club’s all-time leading scorer will be leaving the club to join South American champions Atletico Nacional. This, of course, is a big blow to coach Miguel Herrera, who will be losing arguably his best player.
Tijuana went on to lose their match 2-0, but the biggest question for Tijuana now has to be how the club deals with the the departure of their main forward. Tijuana fans can feel rightly aggrieved that in a span of few weeks the club lost Gabriel Hauche, Dayro Moreno, and came close to selling Aviles Hurtado to Club America.
Tijuana are best when Milton Caraglio is afforded space to play on his wide players. Here, Tijuana lost, undoubtedly, their two best wide players, and with no immediate quality signings on their way, things aren’t exactly looking up in Tijuas.
Hirving “Hat-trick” Lozano
Hirving “Chucky” Lozano continues to look in his best form of his young career. The Mexican international kept the relentless goalscoring form that helped Pachuca finish second during the 2016 Apertura and recorded a hat-trick in their 4-2 win over Leon on Saturday. By this point, many are wondering how this guy is not playing in Europe. Ajax is the latest team rumored to be keeping an eye on the 21-year-old, but after Rodolfo Pizarro’s 14 million dollar move to Chivas, it is going to take something special to get Chucky out of Hidalgo. For now, Liga MX fans can enjoy the magnificence of what is Chucky Lozano.
Champions debut with a goalless draw against Santos
Though not entirely a surprise, newly crowned champions Tigres decided to kick off the Clausura with a majority reserve side in their opening game against Santos Laguna. Across the 90 minutes, both sides buzzed dangerously around each other’s final third, but after a series of efforts that hit the post, the teams eventually settled for a point each.
In retrospect, if there was one reason why Tigres won the Apertura title last season it was because of their immense squad depth. This season, Tigres coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti can once again feel assured that he has an adequate replacement in almost every position. Yes, it wasn’t a superb performance by any means, but Tigres’ majority second-string side refused to be cowed by the occasion, coming close to snatching the win.
Truth be told, however, Santos Laguna came closest to winning the match. You can say what you want about Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, but he has an interesting project going on at Santos Laguna. The Guerreros look well-equipped to improve from their disastrous campaign last season, and perhaps most admirably of all, they are doing it with several “canteranos”. Gerardo Arteaga and Jorge Sanchez looked promising in the fullback positions, and Ulises Rivas and Walter Gael Sandoval keep showing good things as starters.
Chivas vs. Pumas was well worth the ticket
Attacking fútbol is well and truly alive in Mexico. On Saturday, Chivas and Pumas played to an entertaining match, with the Rebaño Sagrado edging a 2-1 victory over the Universitarios.
From the start it was an intense battle and Francisco Palencia’s men came close to taking the lead before the famous “Chofis” grabbed a vital breakthrough for Chivas. Pumas just couldn’t live with the pace of Chivas’ breakaways, and before you know it, the score was 2-0 in favor of the hosts.
Like with Tigres in the Liguilla, every time Pumas let Chivas go forward they found themselves with so much space to expose. A more clinical team would have ripped Pumas to shreds, but instead, the Universitarios found a away back into the game through an Alan Mendoza strike.
The visitors went on to produce a series of efforts that smashed against the woodwork, as the match approached the final moments of the match.
At the end, though, it wasn’t meant to be for the Universitarios, and in a match ideal for neutrals, Chivas ran away with the three points, extending their home dominance over Pumas to 35 years. The match left plenty to savor and many hoping for more matches like these in the near Clausura future.