Liga MX Tres Puntos: America stays on top, Ronaldinho's still got it
We have reached the midway point of the Liga MX Apertura 2014, and Club America sits atop the table with 20 points. However, there is good news for the teams who rank below Las Aguillas -- just seven points separates the clubs sitting in the eight postseason Liguilla spots, and teams from No. 9 through No. 16 are all within five points of the final Liguilla place.
But on a busy Saturday, Club America remained on its perch with a wild 2-1 win over Pachuca. America had led 1-0 for most of the match thanks to an own goal, but Ariel Nahuelpan scored an equalizer for Tuzos in the 78th minute. Just one minute later, Mexican international Miguel Layun put the finishing touches on a run from America for the game-winner.
Pumas UNAM got Week 9 underway by jumping out to an early three-goal lead over last-place Monarcas Morelia, but Morelia would not go down without a fight. Erick Aguirre fired off a shot from outside of the box to begin the potential second half comeback in the 65th minute. Carlos Alberto Guzman added another for Morelia in the 90th minute, but it was too little, too late. Ultimately, a 23rd minute own goal from Jose Antonio Olivera was the difference maker which gave Pumas the 3-2 win.
Tijuana capped off the opening day of the weekend with one of the biggest upsets as they defeated Santos Laguna, 4-1. Two goals from Alfredo Moreno gave Xolos the early lead, before Dario Benedetto added another in the second half. Dayro Moreno iced the game in stoppage time. The lone goal for Santos came on a 36th-minute penalty kick from Juan Pablo Rodriguez. The win moved Tijuana to tenth in the league table.
Also on Saturday, Puebla drew Chiapas, 1-1, while Leones Negros had another rough outing in their 1-0 loss to Tigres.
Leon scored a big 3-1 win over Veracruz led by a two-goal performance from Mauro Boselli, and Atlas held a firm grasp on their No. 2 spot in the standings by defeating Cruz Azul, 2-1, on an 80th minute game-winner from Rodrigo Millar.
On the final match day of Week 9, a Lucas Lobos goal gave Toluca a 1-0 win over Monterrey in a meeting between two of the top five teams in Apertura 2014.
To wrap up Week 9, we had a high-profile fixture between Chivas Guadalajara and Queretaro which featured the official Mexican debut of Brazilian star Ronaldinho. Queretaro stormed by Chivas, 4-1, with a few special moments from Liga MX's new star.
That brings us to Tres Puntos from the latest league action in Mexico:
'Dinho Still Has It
After a lackluster showing during his Queretaro debut in Copa MX last week which included a brutal missed penalty attempt, many were left wondering just how much Ronaldinho would be able to bring to his new club on the pitch. The Brazilian answered a number of those questions on Sunday.
The 34-year-old legend was able to redeem himself early against Chivas Guadalajara by scoring his first goal for Los Gallos Blancos in the fifth minute of the match.
Ronaldinho successfully converted a penalty this time around, following a foul from Chivas inside of the penalty area and a red card to Carlos Salcido.
While the goal gave Ronaldinho a notable moment in his official Mexican debut, it was a beautiful pass in the 70th minute that proved he still has the skill to contribute at a high level.
The former Barcelona star gashed the Chivas defense with a perfect through ball to Camilo Sanvezzo, who tapped the ball into the back of the net for the finish.
The win for Queretaro moved Los Gallos Blancos to No. 6 in the league table. Queretaro has a tough test next week when the club hosts Toluca, who currently sits in third place.
Leon Has the Firepower to Be a Legit Threat
After a 3-1 win over Veracruz on Saturday, Leon has moved to No. 13 in the league table with nine points. While nine points through nine weeks leaves plenty to be desired, La Fiera does have one thing going for them that makes the club a dangerous out for anyone in the league: offense.
In a league in which many clubs have struggled to find the back of the net recently, Leon has 15 goals through the first nine weeks of the Apertura 2014 - equal with Club America for most in Liga MX.
The big issue for Leon is their defense, which lacks veteran leadership since Rafa Marquez's departure for Hellas Verona in Italy.
If the defense can get it together and begin doing their job while the offense continues to score, Leon could be primed to be a legitimate threat to make a run up the table before the playoffs begin.
Leon's next opportunity to pick up points will come on Saturday, when they travel to Estadio Azul for a fixture with Cruz Azul.
Pumas Finding Their Stride
If recent weeks are any indication, Pumas is one of the teams to watch in the final half of the season as they fight for one of eight Liguilla spots.The win over Morelia may not have been the most beautiful performance for the club, but they earned the necessary three points and moved to No. 11 in the Apertura table. Pumas is even with Tijuana on points, but Tijuana holds the No. 10 spot thanks to goal differential.
It wasn't long ago that Pumas appeared to be a floundering side struggling to find their way, but there has been a resurgence under Guillermo Vazquez, who took over for Jose Luis Trejo four weeks into the season. Since taking over, Vazquez has led his club to an unbeaten record.
With momentum in the club's favor, Pumas appears poised for a strong second half of the season.
Player of the Week: Mauro Boselli, Leon
With his two-goal performance, Boselli becomes the third-leading goal scorer in Liga MX and leads one of the most high-powered offenses with five goals. The win for Leon also moved the club No. 13 in the league table and proved that they have the ability to make a run in the second half of the season to land in the top eight.
Boselli's first goal came just 12 minutes into the match, when midfielder Derley sent a beautiful cross into the box and Boselli was there to finish with his head.
The second goal secured the Leon win in the 85th minute. Boselli was deep in the box when he dribbled by the goalkeeper and forced a Veracruz defender to mistime his slide before putting the a left footed shot into the back of the net.
Leon will return to action on Wednesday against Herediano in the CONCACAF Champions League, before their next Liga MX fixture against Cruz Azul on Saturday.
Edgar Castillo (Atlas) - Castillo played the full 90 minutes of Atlas' 2-1 win over Cruz Azul.While his impact did not show in the box score, Castillo was moving well around the field and found himself in position to thwart the attack from Los Cementeros.
Joe Corona (Tijuana) - Corona has been one of the most impressive and consistent Americans in Liga MX, as he played the full 90 minutes for Xolos for the fifth straight game. Corona was moving the ball well through the midfield and set up a number of scoring opportunities during Tijuana's 4-1 win over Santos Laguna.
Greg Garza (Tijuana) - Garza also started and played the full 90 minutes along with Corona, but he did concede the penalty that led to the only goal for Santos Laguna on Friday night. Garza tackled Darwin Quintero inside of the box, and Juan Pablo Rodríguez put the penalty away to draw even at one goal a piece. Tijuana went on to score three unanswered.
Hérculez Gómez (Tigres UANL) - Gomez came on as a substitute in the 79th minute of Tigres' 1-0 win over Leones Negros. The striker did put a shot on net and win a free kick, but it was a quiet outing.
Michael Orozco (Puebla) - Orozco had a solid showing this weekend in Puebla's 1-1 draw with Chiapas. The defender started and went all 90 minutes for La Franja, picking up a yellow card in the 86th minute.
José Francisco Torres (Tigres UANL) - Torres has been playing very little in Liga MX lately, but he got the start in Week 9 and went the full 90 minutes for Tigres in their 1-0 win over Leones Negros. It was Torres' first start in Liga MX in over a month and his presence paid off. Tigres was with just ten men for a majority of the match and Torres did a solid job holding down his side of the midfield.
Mexico Odds and Ends
Chicharito scored two goals in Real Madrid's 8-2 shellacking of Deportivo La Coruna, including the beautiful strike above ... Raul Jimenez has continued to struggle in La Liga since joining Atletico Madrid as the leading goal scorer in Liga MX, but his boss has come to his defense ... American Hercules Gomez scored a goal in Copa MX to lift Tigres over Queretaro. It was the same match which featured Ronaldinho's awful penalty attempt ... The Mexico women's national team fell to the United States, 4-0, in the USWNT's final World Cup qualifying tuneup match.