Liga MX Tres Puntos: America no longer perfect, Alustiza nets hat trick

Monday August 25th, 2014

More than a third of the Liga MX Apertura season has passed after Week 6 wrapped up over the weekend. Entering the weekend, Club America and Atlas were running away from the rest of the teams at the top of the league table, while Liga MX newcomers Leones Negros were falling far behind. After Week 6, things have tightened up. 

Club America dropped points for the first time in the Apertura, following a scoreless draw on Saturday against Chiapas. Las Aguilas and Jaguares were deadlocked throughout the match with possession split right down the middle. Down the stretch intensity picked up with six players booked in the final 20 minutes. 

Despite failing to secure a sixth straight win, Club America sits three points above the rest of the league at the top of the table, though Las Aguilas fell just short of tying their best start since the 2002 AperturaAtlas failed to capitalize, though putting up a stinker in Week 6, falling to Pachuca 3-1. 

Argentine striker Matias Alustiza led Pachuca on Saturday with a hat trick to stun Atlas. It wasn't until the 78th minute that Atlas got on the board thanks to an Arturo Gonzalez goal, and it was too little too late, with the club suffering its first loss.

On the opposite side of the table, Leones Negros went a man up on defending Apertura and Clausura champions Leon after a red card to Edwin Hernandez in the 21st minute. Playing most of the match with the advantage provided a great opportunity for the Liga MX newcomers to break through for their first win of the season, and they did just that with this 70th-minute goal from Fidel Martinez: 

Martinez's goal gave the club its first win since returning to Liga MX, which caused the relegation battle to heat up. 

Other teams to score big wins over the weekend were Tigres, Monterrey, Cruz Azul and Santos Laguna. 

Cruz Azul's 2-1 over Queretaro was only their second win of the Apertura, but it gave the club a crucial three points in the playoff hunt. Tigres jumped to sixth place with a 5-1 win over Morelia, Santos Laguna moved up to fourth with a 3-0 win over Toluca and Monterrey drew even with Atlas for the No. 2 spot following a 1-0 win over Puebla.

As the race for the playoff places heats up, here are Tres Puntos from the weekend action in Mexico: 

Santos Laguna comes out firing

After a three-week dry spell following a 1-0 win over Veracruz in the Apertura opener, Santos Laguna has bounced back with back-to-back wins that have the team in fourth place. 

Santos Laguna was hot out of the gate with two goals in the first minutes, as Yair Renteria and Javier Orozco found the back of the net. The first goal from Renteria came just 12 seconds into the match: 

In the 77th minute, Carlos Quintero capped off an impressive performance with the third goal of the match for Los Guerreros, who are now finding their stride at the right time. The win also kept Santos Laguna perfect against Toluca at Estadio Corona, with a winning streak that dates back to 2004. 

Santos Laguna will need to keep the momentum going strong into Week 7 and a vital road match against Atlas. 

Pumas, Leon fading fast

Pumas UNAM has not won since the opening week of the Apertura and finds itself in a tie with Leones Negros for next-to-last place in the league table with just four points. Despite Guillermo Vazquez taking over for Jose Luis Trejo, who was removed as the club's manager last week, the side unable to overcome Tijuana in a 1-1 draw. With 60 percent of the possession and 12 scoring opportunities, Pumas did enough to come away with the win. 

The struggling side was unable to find the net aside from a score by Eduardo Herrera who bagged a goal with the ball bouncing around deep in the box. Just four minutes later, Pumas conceded the equalizer to Xolos after Dario Benedetto made a beautiful run down the left side of the pitch and sent the ball into the box for Richard Ruiz to finish. 

Pumas will have an opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum heading into Week 7 by facing Merida on Wednesday in Copa MX play, before heading to Estadio Azteca for a meeting with first-place Club America.

For Leon, the expectations were high as the club entered the tournament boasting the two most-recent trophies, but La Fiera have alternated wins and losses since the opening week of the Apertura. No loss hurt more than Sunday's loss to Leones Negros, which followed a 6-0 loss earlier in the week to La Liga's Barcelona for the Joan Gamper Trophy at Camp Nou.

During the match, Mexican legend Rafael Marquez had his final appearance with the club before making the move to Serie A's Hellas Verona and he received a standing ovation as he left the pitch. 

Leon will have to dig deep and attempt to bounce back in Week 7 against Pachuca at home if it wants to make a late playoff push. The club currently sits just two points back of the coveted No. 8 spot in the league table but in vying for that berth it will have to deal with a midweek CONCACAF Champions League match on Wednesday against Costa Rican side Herediano. 

Chivas' scoreless woes continue

Chivas Guadalajara failed to secure a win for the fourth straight week, following another scoreless draw. This time around, Chivas failed to earn three points against Veracruz at Estadio Luis "Pirata" Fuente. Guadalajara managed just one shot on goal in four tries, despite controlling 57 percent of the possession throughout the match. 

With another scoreless performance, Chivas has still not scored in a league game since a July 27 win over Pumas. That leaves Chivas in a 274-minute scoring drought, and the club has yet to score a goal in open play. Chivas has scored just two goals in the Apertura, with both scores coming from the foot of Fernando Arce on set pieces. 

With its back already up against the wall facing what would be a drastic relegation, Chivas faces another tough contest next week, welcoming fellow Big Four member Cruz Azul to Estadio Omnilife

Player of the Week: Matias Alustiza, Pachuca

It was going to take a big effort from Los Tuzos to get by an impressive Atlas side over the weekend, and they got just that from the 30-year-old Alustiza on Saturday, who delivered a hat trick in front of their home fans at Estadio Hidalgo.

The scoring got underway just before the half, when Daniel Arreola found Alustiza on the right side of the six-yard box for the finish in the 43rd minute. 

Just four minutes into the second half, Alustiza broke free in the box again and put a pass from Hirving Lozano into the bottom left corner of the goal to beat Atlas goalkeeper Federico Vilar which put Tuzos up 2-0. 

Before Atlas could make things interesting, Enrique Perez conceded a penalty after fouling Walter Ayovi in the box. Alustiza converted the penalty to complete his hat trick and give Pachuca an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

Alustiza becomes the third player to net a hat trick in the 2014 Apertura, along with Club-America-turned-Atletico-Madrid striker Raul Jimenez and Monterrey's Dorlan Pabon.

Americans Abroad

Paul Arriola (Tijuana) - Arriola was an unused sub for Tijuana vs. Pumas in a 1-1 Week 6 draw.

Edgar Castillo (Atlas) - Castillo got the start and played all 90 minutes for Atlas in the 3-1 loss to Pachuca. It was a disappointing performance for Los Rojinegros as they conceded the most goals in a single game during the 2014 Apertura campaign. Castillo drew a yellow card in the 52nd minute.

​Joe Corona (Tijuana) - Corona started and played the full 90 minutes. Corona was more involved in the attack, as the 24-year-old midfielder set up two scoring chances, had a shot on goal and won a free kick late in the game.

​Greg Garza (Tijuana) - Garza got the start and played the full 90 minutes. After being an unused substitute last week, Garza made his impact felt by drawing two fouls, and the defender held strong as Xolos limited Pumas to just one goal.

Hérculez Gómez (Tigres UANL) - Gomez was an unused sub for Tigres in a 5-1 win over Morelia.

Michael Orozco (Puebla) - Orozco started and received an 82-minute yellow card in a 1-0 loss to Monterrey.

José Francisco Torres (Tigres UANL) - Torres missed Friday's 1-0 loss to Monterrey with a bruised right leg.

Mexico Odds and Ends

A number of members from the Mexico national team got involved in the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Among those who participated were manager Miguel Herrera (above), Chicharito and Oribe Peralta ... 41 year old Cuauhtemoc Blano netted a penalty for Puebla during Copa MX play in the team's 1-0 win ... Chicharito did not play for Manchester United during their Week 2 match up against Sunderland in the English Premier League in the midst of news that Tottenham Hotspur is prepared to make a bid ... Puebla sacked manager Ruben Omar Romano ... El Tri has named the abroad-based players called in for next month's friendlies against Chile and Bolivia ... International keeper Guillermo Ochoa did not play in the La Liga opener for Malaga and he is in for a fight if he wants to take starting duties away from Carlos Kameni.

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