Liga MX Tres Puntos: Rafa's void, Atlas' credentials, Villalva's stunner
The 2014 Liga MX Apertura tournament has reached the quarter mark after Week 4 wrapped up this past weekend, and Club America is running away with first place in the division. Las Aguilas have won all four of their matches in the opening month of the tournament, which puts them in the top spot with 12 points and a plus-eight goal differential. Club America also has the top goal scorer in Raul Jimenez.
Atlas is the only other team that has not yet suffered defeat, with a 3-0-1 record, staying unbeaten after a 1-0 win at Pumas.
At the opposite end of the league table sit Tijuana, Morelia and Leones Negros. The three teams do not have a win between them and appear destined to finish the tournament on the bottom half of the table without a major uptick in quality.
In Week 4, defending champions Leon came crashing back down to Earth after picking up their first win of the season a week ago, while Chivas Guadalajara also took major steps in the wrong direction in their 3-0 loss to Pachuca. Meanwhile, Cruz Azul and Veracruz picked up their first wins of the season.
Here are Tres Puntos from the weekend action in Mexico:
Rafa's Departure Leaves Defensive Gaps
It was just a week ago that back-to-back Liga MX champions Leon seemed poised to begin their turnaround after two disappointing losses to start the Apertura tournament, but the loss of Mexico captain Rafael Marquez to Serie A's Hellas Verona was a big factor in Week 4.
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead over Chiapas with goals from Carlos Pena and Mauro Boselli, Los Panzas Verdes watched the Jaguares offense pick them apart, as they went on to lose for the third time this season, this one a 3-2 result.
Bruno Pereira Pires, Daniel Armenteros and Franco Arizala secured the goals for Chiapas to complete the comeback against a side needing to fill the void left behind by its captain.
Backward Step for Chivas
Last week, Chivas Guadalajara had their game against Leones Negros postponed as they traveled back from the United States following a friendly against Bayern Munich. Before their break, Chivas seemed to be gaining some momentum with wins in the Apertura tournament and Copa MX, but they struggled greatly against Pachuca on Saturday night.
Chivas' lack of firepower on the attack was glaring, and the club was unable to hang on to the ball.
Pachuca dominated the game with 59 percent of the possession, which included two goals from Ariel Nahuelpán and a goal in the final stoppage time from Hirving Lozano that came after Guadalajara's Alberto Garcia was sent off with a red card.
Entering the Apertura, Chivas was in danger of being relegated, and the club will need to find a way to breathe some life into the attack and play with more consistency if it wants to remain in Mexico's top flight.
Atlas Is For Real
While Club America has undoubtedly been the cream of the crop in Liga MX this season, Atlas has shown that it is a real contender for the Apertura crown.
Atlas sits in second-place after the first month of the season with 10 points. The club's performance in the first four weeks of the tournament matches its best start since the 2007 Clausura. The latest game-winner for Atlas came from Arturo González González in the 55th minute against host Pumas.
Next weekend, Atlas will be facing off against last-place Leones Negros at Estadio Jalisco in a match that the second-place team will be heavily favored to win. If Atlas can keep up the momentum and Club America finally stumbles, the ascent to the top of the table would be complete.
Player of the Week: Daniel Villalva, Veracruz
In a week that was relatively low-scoring, Player of the Week honors go to 22-year-old Veracruz forward Daniel Alberto Villalva thanks to a beautiful strike in the 86th minute against Monterrey. "Keko" scored the best goal of the weekend to put Tiburones Rojos ahead 2-1 for their first win of the 2014 Apertura.
Villalva added three shots and three assisted opportunities in the match.
The Argentine player has plenty of promise and this weekend's goal may be what he needs to gain some extra confidence and begin leading Veracruz out of the bottom of the Liga MX table.
Paul Arriola (Tijuana) - Arriola was an unused sub for Tijuana in Week 4.
Edgar Castillo (Atlas) - Castillo drew the start and played all 90 minutes. It was a low-scoring affair that saw Atlas give up a majority of the possession, but Castillo helped to lead the Atlas defense to a shutout effort and the 1-0 win.
Joe Corona (Tijuana) - Corona was subbed on in the 85th minute of Tijuana's scoreless draw with Morelia.
Greg Garza (Tijuana) - Garza got the start and played all 90 minutes. The 22-year-old left back drew four fouls and committed two.
Hérculez Gómez (Tigres UANL) - Gomez was an unused sub for Tigres in their 2-0 loss to Club America.
Michael Orozco (Puebla) - Orozco got the start, but put in a disaster of a performance. In the 31st minute, Orozco scored an own goal to put Cruz Azul up 1-0 and that was all Los Cementeros needed to walk away with the win. To make matters worse for Orozco, he was sent off with a red card in the 58th minute. It was a performance he will need to forget.
José Francisco Torres (Tigres UANL) - Torres got the start and played all 90 minutes. Torres was a big threat on offense for the second straight week, with two shots of his own and setting up four scoring opportunities. Unfortunately for Tigres, those opportunities never translated to points.
Mexico Odds and Ends
Atletico Madrid has made an offer to Club America for star forward Raul Jimenez. Jimenez is currently the leading scorer in the Apertura tournament ... Club America's Miguel Layun will be out for a "couple of weeks" after undergoing surgery on his jaw .. Rafa Marquez's move to Hellas Verona was not motivated by money. In fact, the four-time El Tri World Cup captain took a pay cut to play in Serie A.