Here are your five conclusions from the third week of play in the 2018 Liga MX Apertura.
Pumas UNAM look like the real deal
Perhaps no team has surprised more after three weeks than Pumas UNAM. The Universitarios earned their third win of the season to stay top of the league table with a 3-1 win over lowly Atlas, in the process exorcising their demons at the Estadio Jalisco. Before Friday, Pumas’s last victory at the Jalisco came 14 years ago, which all adds to the shine of what has been a brilliant start to the season for the Universitarios. Of course, despite the departure of star striker Nico Castillo, the Universitarios are not short on quality this season, but fans have not forgotten how their team started last season similarly only to self-destruct midway through the campaign.
Diego Lainez shines in win over Pachuca
August 4, 2018 will be a day Diego Lainez will never forget. The 18-year-old had the first real breakout game of his career, scoring twice in Club América’s 3-1 win over Pachuca. Lainez played a catalytic role for las Águilas as he wreaked havoc all night for Miguel Herrera’s men.
Both of Lainez’s goals were similar in that he did not hesitate to find space to turn and shoot, ironically emulating all this against the former team of the last Mexican player to show this same level of craftiness at such a young age, Hirving Lozano. Lainez possesses a driving enthusiasm rarely seen in Mexican football, let alone world football, and it is refreshing to see the 18-year-old have so much confidence in himself so early in his career. He is a real gem, and with his decision-making getting better and better, it will be fun to watch him evolve even more for years to come.
Spirited Cruz Azul remain perfect
After a promising start that saw Cruz Azul win their first two league games of the season, their first real test was always going to to be Tigres. Now, following a 1-0 win over the Felinos, Cruz Azul find themselves in dreamland and with a perfect record of three wins.
Sure, despite coming into this game with six points, Tigres have hardly been stellar and they were missing their star striker Andre-Pierre Gignac. But this win meant a lot for the Cementeros and their fans. This was a statement game of sorts, and against a team some may argue has more quality, the Cementeros were never caught playing grindingly or with any lack of confidence. In the contrary, this was another superb tactical performance from coach Pedro Caixinha, who is giving Cruz Azul fans every reason to be optimistic in this 2018 Apertura.
Chivas earn their first point in entertaining affair with Toluca
Chivas showed signs of life as they played out to a 2-2 draw with Toluca on Sunday. Say what you want about the Rebaño. They haven't been the brightest team in Mexico, but they are arguably one of the most entertaining. It wasn’t the eight-goal thriller of last week between Pumas and Necaxa, but Chivas has us used to back and forth affairs with plenty to talk about.
And it’s not like Chivas don’t possess the weaponry to at least make the Liguilla. The man of the match for the Rebaño was Angel Zaldivar, who scored twice, and although his lack of goals is always a point of criticism, Alan Pulido has been playing at a high level for some time now. Sprinkle in the fact that the manager is none other than Toluca legend Jose Saturnino Cardozo, one of the greatest goalscorer Mexican fútbol has ever seen, and you get a side that is capable of engineering more games like this one.
That said, a point away to Toluca is no piece of cake. The season is still young and after Sunday’s performance, it would be even more foolish now to count out the Goats from having any meaningful impact this season.
Santos Laguna look back in business
It was by all means a bad offseason for the defending champions. They lost several key players, including Djaniny Tavares, Nestor Araujo, and Carlos Izquierdoz. In that regard, it doesn’t take a genius to know it is going to be incredibly difficult to emulate what they accomplished last season, but on Sunday, they gave their home fans something to cheer about with a 2-0 win over Puebla.
Santos are arguably the defending champions with the least buzz of the last few seasons, but if you think about it, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Santos are a team that like to work under the radar, and you have to think they still have enough pieces to at least challenge for a top eight finish. At the end, a win at home over Puebla is nice way to start moving towards the right direct.