With the Guard1anes Round 9 matches played over the past two days, we’re now just a smidge over the halfway mark of the regular season. While there have been a few interesting matches, the overlying headline is just how mediocre most teams in Liga MX are, unfortunately. The vast majority of the teams have had an up-and-down season and not even all four of the “Big 4” have proven championship-worthy as of yet.
While many may blame it on COVID, I blame it on the horrible non-relegation rule change for this year. With franchises aware of said rule, their investment level and decisions have changed mightily, as no team got notably better over the offseason. If anything, some teams got worse. Anyhow, here are the headlines through the first half of Guard1anes 2020:
PUMAS TIED AS LEAGUE-LEADERS
This is for sure an eye-opener for me. No way did anyone see this coming. Nobody could’ve expected Andrés Lillini to take charge of this team just a couple days before the season opener and have them undefeated through the first nine games. What’s more is they really haven’t played all that well. Especially through the first month of play, they shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with childish mistakes, got lucky on a stoppage time goal to defeat Atlas, and even played one of the worst games of the season vs. Mazatlán, but somehow managed to evade defeat. All of this combined with their current three-game win streak, they now find themselves atop the table with 19 points (5 wins, 4 draws) thanks to yesterday’s amazing pair of long-distance goals to get the win on the road vs. Santos. I absolutely saw them around mid-table at best at this point after what we saw in the preseason Copa por México tournament, as well as the first month of the season.
LEÓN’S LACK OF FIREPOWER
Probbably the most surprising statline for me, personally. You’re talking about a team who scored 41 goals in Clausura 2019, 38 in Apertura 2019, and had tallied 23 goals in the Clausura 2020’s 10 games before the COVID outbreak, meaning they were on pace to score 39. In other words, a squad averaging just over 39 goals per season for the last three seasons (2.3 goals per game)! INCREDIBLE. And pretty much unheard of in Mexico as well. Ambriz has done a spectacular job with this team. For some reason though, their aim has been way off this season. The wins and the points are still there, but not the goalscoring. La Fiera have managed to garner only 9 goals through the 9 games thus far, meaning their average is down by more than half compared to their previous three seasons. The playmaking is there as León have dominated most of their rivals, but simply seem to be lacking that final touch inside the box. However, it is worth noting that Ambriz and company have countered the lack of offense by owning the league’s best defense, having allowed a staggering 5 goals thus far with as many clean sheets.
TIGRES FORGETTING LEO FERNÁNDEZ
Even with the loss of striker Enner Valencia prior to the start of the season, there was no worry whatsoever in the Tigres camp. The reason for this was the arrival of boy wonder and last season’s breakout star Leo Fernández. There was so much hype and anticipation surrounding him, and justifiably so, as he went absolutely bonkers on a very modest Toluca roster last season, scoring 8 goals in 10 matches. Fans and critics were sure this was the move to help catapult Tigres’ back to title favorites. But then, “Tuca” Ferretti happened. First, the excuse was that the Uruguayan wasn’t physically fit. But as the weeks have gone by, his usage hasn’t been proportional. Through the first nine games, he has only appeared in six (two as a starter), and only accounts for 183 minutes played. That’s barely two complete matches. Now, if Tigres were winning games, we wouldn’t hear a peep from anyone. But as things stand, Tigres are only in playoff positioning thanks to the new 12-team playoff format, as they sit 10th overall, with only two wins, five draws, and two losses. Considering Vargas’ ineffectiveness, there’s absolutely no reason why Fernández hasn’t been used more.
NECAXA AND ATLETICO SAN LUIS (LAST PLACE IN LEAGUE TABLE) ONLY 2 POINTS OUT OF PLAYOFF POSITIONING
Last, but not least. We already knew this would come up at some point, and it’s solely on the league officials who authorized the terrible 12-team playoff format. Thanks to that, bottom-dwellers Necaxa and Atlético San Luis (both with 8 points), are only 2 points back from 12th placed and final playoff seed FC Juárez. That’s right, TWO! Again, INCREDIBLE. It’s the kind of thing you only see in Mexican Football. The fact that a team who has won two games, drawn two, and lost five, with a -8 goal difference, having obtained only 8 points out of a possible 27, is still that much alive in the playoff race halfway through the season is flat-out hilarious. League officials couldn’t be sending out a worse message of mediocrity to their league and fans as well. It truly sounds like a joke. The sad part is, of course, that the joke is on the fans. But that’s what Liga MX signed up for; a joke-worthy league with unheard of rules, while on the way burning and deeming mostly everything done on the pitch as insignificant, with 2⁄3 of the league making the playoffs anyway.