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Liga MX Clausura Week 9: Tijuana on the rise, Club América need late-game heroics

America v Lobos BUAP - Torneo Clausura 2019 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Here are your five conclusions from the ninth week of play in the 2019 Liga MX Clausura.

Xolos de Tijuana are trending up

Life after Miguel Herrera hasn’t been easy. Initially, Oscar Pareja’s appointment received praise from every corner of the league, but a string of negative results to start the season threatened to derail his tenure before it was even established.

The team, however, has gradually improved in recent weeks, and following their 3-1 win over Atlas, they suddenly find themselves fourth in the league table with 16 points. In total, the Fronterizos are now unbeaten in their last five Liga MX matches, winning four, and they’ve also bucked the trend of underperforming at the Estadio Caliente, where they have won three straight.

There’s still a long way to go in the season, but with more results like these, Pareja might be laying down the roots for something real intriguing in Tijuana.

Club América late-game heroics avoid defeat to Morelia

Monarcas Morelia’s answer to a tumultuous week that saw their coach, Roberto Hernandez, fired, was a positive one. Despite the way the match ended, the Michoacan outfit put up a fight in a 2-2 draw with defending champions Club América.

Things could have ended ugly for Las Águilas, who went down a man after a Bruno Valdez red card, but a stunning free-kick from Nico Castillo ensured that the Azulcremas were able to come back from two goals down to earn a point.

Monarcas Morelia fans could be justified in feeling frustrated, but with their season practically over, it was at least encouraging they came so close to beating Las Águilas. On the other hand, from an América perspective, Nico Castillo has clearly added some impetus, and his golazo typified exactly why Las Águilas paid so much money for the Chilean striker.

Cruz Azul relieve pressure with win over Necaxa

After all the criticism that blighted Cruz Azul in the mont of February, La Máquina snapped their six game winless streak with a 2-1 win over Necaxa to move within just one point of eighth place Club América. Cruz Azul’s vulnerabilities have been laid bare all season and they have Necaxa’s defensive problems to thank for this one, but make no mistake about it, this was a huge victory for coach Pedro Caixinha. The Portuguese manager has recently been at pains to get his team out of this negative streak, and as any regular Liga MX watcher will recognize, Cruz Azul does have the tendency of falling off fast. La Máquina, though, showed just enough to change the narrative here and give themselves some breathing room ahead of the second half of the 2019 Clausura season.

Angel Mena’s exceptional season continues

Is this León or Olympique Lyonnais? Behind two goals from Angel Mena, Club León dominated a hapless Santos Laguna to side on their way to a 3-0 win at the Nou Camp.

Los Guerreros must have not got the message. León are the hottest team in Mexico right now. They have won their last six Liga MX matches and in Angel Mena have the the league’s leading goalscorer with nine goals. This León side has many key components, but none are more important than Mena. Mena has scored a goal in each of León’s last six wins and has really developed into one of the feel-good stories of the Clausura.

To think, just last season Mena was having trouble even getting on the pitch for Cruz Azul...

Tigres and Rayados lead the way ahead of Clásico Regio

It is looking increasingly like this Liga MX season will be decided between the two teams from Nuevo León. Both Tigres and Rayados kept their foot on the pedal over the weekend, with wins over Pachuca and Chivas respectively.

For any lingering doubters, both teams continue to show the type of consistency associated with championship-winning teams, and this only amplifies things ahead of next Saturday’s Clasico Regiomontano. Tigres and Rayados will arrive to to this match occupying the top two positions in the legue table and in the middle of undefeated runs. In the case of Rayados, they are the only undefeated team left in the Clausura. Expect the Clásico Regio to be the main topic of discussion heading into Week 10.