Here are your five conclusions from the first week of play in the 2019 Liga MX Clausura.
Atlas start the season with surprising win
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Atlas have given their fans something to look forward to early in the season after they opened the Clausura with a 2-1 win over Querétaro. It was only the Rojinegro’s first away win an 18 Liga MX matches, which if you make the math is the equivalent of a whole Liga MX regular season.
Even when winning, it’s hard to trust Atlas, who have a history of disappointments in recent tournaments. They take on Club América next week, and logically, the only way should be down.
That said, it will be interesting to see how effective sporting president and former Mexico National Team captain Rafael Marquez will be with his boyhood club in only his second season in charge of the Rojinegros.
Monterrey thump Pachuca 5-0
Monterrey grabbed an early statement win on Saturday as they demolished Pachuca 5-0 at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer. Following a busy offseason that saw both teams add a number of key acquisitions to their roster, it was Rayados who looked the most prepared to start the new season. In particular, Carlos Gonzalez, 22, has been constant for Diego Alonso in Monterrey and he delivered a big performance against Los Tuzos, notching two assists.
Though they came extremely close to eliminating Cruz Azul in the Semifinals, last season injuries were a key factor in Monterrey’s downfall. This season, Monterrey’s outlook looks brighter than ever, and with a confident and assured performance like Saturday’s, the rest of Liga MX should beware.
Chivas shine in their Clausura debut
Atlas weren’t the only team from Guadalajara that showed promise this weekend. Chivas took care of business in their first game of the Clausura, giving Oscar Pareja’s Xolos de Tijuana a 2-0 defeat.
After a horrific Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, Chivas showed no lack of focus this time around, putting an unconventional clinical performance versus a Xolos team that lacked the same.
It was only the Rebaño Sagrado’s second win in 18 Liga MX home matches and it was completely deserved too. Collectively, Chivas have faced their limitations, but at least individually, they seem to have an interesting group of players, most notably an actual defensive midfielder now in Jesus Molina and Hiram Mier to replace the aging Carlos Salcido. Ultimately, it was the type of performance Chivas fan can warm up to and one that gives them hope ahead of a season in which the objective for coach Jose Saturnino Cardozo is to return to the Liguilla.
Tigres and León settle for 2-2 stalemate
After Club América, Tigres are no doubt the biggest favorites to lift the 2019 Clausura title, but on Saturday, Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s men were only able to earn a 2-2 draw from their visit to León.
In retrospect, Tigres have never been the kind of side who is into first impressions, but the Felinos have underwhelmed for two seasons in a row now and it is starting to get worrying. Against León, they were fortunate they were gifted a late penalty from a silly foul by Andres Mosquera, or otherwise we would be speaking a different story.
Tigres were fairly quiet during the offseason, and for an aging squad like their’s, it is becoming more and more a question if they have the requisite tools to make another run at the title. Obviously, it is only Week 1, and it would be futile to make exaggerated conclusions after one game, but you’d always like to see more from a team considered a serious contender to start the season, especially after two lackluster exits in the Quarterfinals.
Slow start for Mexico City sides
Not including the champions Club América, who were granted an extra week off by the league, Mexico City sides were a step slow to start the season. On the one hand, Cruz Azul were only able to get a draw from their visit to Puebla, while Pumas UNAM were involved in a dreadful scoreless stalemate with Veracruz.
In a way, both teams come into this season trying to prove that their success from the 2018 Apertura wasn’t a mirage. Cruz Azul have the tougher task after losing in the final to América, but where La Máquina had success over Pumas was in the offseason. Pumas UNAM’s transfer policy has brought out the complaints from the Universitarios faithful and the team arrives virtually unchanged from the one that got destroyed by América in the Semifinals. Time will tell what’s in store for both of these Mexico City sides, and like with Tigres, it may be a tad bit too premature to come up with any real major conclusions after just one week.