Liga MX hit the fast forward button last Tuesday, with a "jornada doble." In order for the Apertura to get ahead of schedule before the October FIFA break, every team played two matches (Week 11 and Week 12) within the last six days.
In that time, plenty has changed.
Cruz Azul showed that they are for real, Club America proved to have some flaws, Leones Negros started to find their groove and the Chivas Guadalajara free fall continued.
A scoreless draw with Tijuana and huge 4-0 win over Club America gave Cruz Azul four of six possible points. The win over America cam at a perfect time, with La Maquina putting together an impressive three-week run that has landed them in the top eight of the league table.
Club America, on the other hand, got a humbling experience that could help them leading up to the final five matchdays of the Apertura 2014 campaign. They remain in first-place, but Las Aguilas watched their lead shrink.
Chivas failed to earn a point - or score a goal - in their two losses to Toluca and Atlas. The once-proud Guadalajara side continues to plummet down the league table and has to have real concerns that they could be relegated if there is not a quick turnaround. The "lesser" Guadalajara side, Leones Negros, actually fared well in the jornada doble, earning four points.
Leones Negros picked up its second win of the tournament thanks to the head of Fidel Martinez.
Unfortunately for Leones Negros, they remain at the bottom of the relegation table.
Atlas also benefited from the past week as it picked up all six points to rise to second place in the league table. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Santos Laguna managed just one point in two games. The lone point came from a draw with last-place Monarcas Morelia, and it could have been three if not for Santos Laguna's late collapse.
With five weeks remaining, there are still no clear-cut favorites to bring home the Apertura 2014 crown. A handful of teams - Queretaro, Pumas, Chiapas and Tijuana - are all within striking distance of the top eight which could shake up the playoff picture significantly down the final stretch of the tournament.
|11||Jaguares de Chiapas||3||6||3||16||17||-1||15|
|16||Chivas de Guadalajara||2||4||5||7||13||-6||10|
Liga MX will now take off for the next two weeks, while players report for international club duties. Week 13 will begin on Oct. 17.
Here are Tres Puntos from the latest league action in Mexico:
Cruz Azul peaking at the right time
As mentioned one week ago, La Maquina is finally starting to find their rhythm. If the playoffs were to begin today, Cruz Azul would be in the mix to win the Liga MX title.
Part of the success for La Maquina stems from their stout defense which has allowed only ten goals through twelve weeks. The biggest feather in their cap came on Saturday, when they shut out the top club in the tournament, Club America.
With seven points in the last three matches, Cruz Azul is peaking at the right time and have become one of the hottest clubs in Liga MX. The club will just need to build off of their win in Week 12 when they return to action on Oct. 18 against Tigres.
It is hard to believe this is a club that was in 14th place just a couple of weeks ago. Now, they are considered one of the favorites to be champions.
Leones Negros sit at the bottom of the relegation table
While there are still five matchdays remaining, Liga MX newcomers Leones Negros sit at the bottom of the relegation table and are the team in the most immediate danger of being sent down to Ascenso MX at the end of the season.
In Liga MX relegation is determined via a point average system based on games played and points earned. Teams are graded out over a three-year period, outside of the club who is recently promoted to Mexico's top-tier league.
Following the conclusion of the Apertura and Clausura tournaments, the club at the bottom of the relegation table is sent down to Ascenso MX and replaced with the winner of the Ascenso MX playoff - the winner of the Apertura vs. winner of the Clausura.
Currently, Leones Negros is in the most trouble. Leones Negros only has one season to get their point average up enough to avoid being sent back down and they have struggled throughout the Apertura 2014 campaign.
That has to be good news for Chivas, who have won just once in nine weeks, but there is still plenty of time for the storied Guadalajara side to continue plummeting down the table. Chivas will have to get their act together if they want to avoid the epic letdown, because Leones Negros is slowly, but surely starting to find a rhythm.
Where is Santos Laguna?
In the past three weeks, Santos Laguna have been plummeting in the wrong direction. Los Guerreros have not recorded a win since Week 8, with their defense failing to help the team pick up valuable points.
Santos Laguna has a pair of 4-1 losses to Tijuana and Club America, along with a 1-1 draw against Tigres and, most troubling, a recent 2-2 draw against last-place side Monarcas Morelia.
Morelia, who has just twelve goals in twelve matches, exposed the Guerreros back line when they pushed the pace after falling behind 2-0. As soon as the pressure was picked up by Morelia, Santos Laguna began losing their composure and committed careless fouls that led directly to goals.
Ribair Rodriguez fouled Martin Alaniz outside of the box and Carlos Morales drove a beautiful free kick home to keep Morelia in the game.
Javier Abella then committed a foul inside of the box with less than ten minutes to go - a foul again drawn by Alaniz - to set up the equalizer.
It was an avoidable collapse for Santos Laguna, but their lack of discipline proved to be their Achilles heel on defense. Blowing a two-goal lead at home to the worst team in the tournament is something that a club could have trouble recovering from.
For now, Santos Laguna remains in the No. 7 spot in the league table, but they are headed in the wrong direction and there are clubs like Cruz Azul, Queretaro and Tijuana who are waiting for someone to slip up in order to earn their spot in Liguilla.
Player of the Week: Mariano Pavone, Cruz Azul
Pavone was a key part of Cruz Azul's stunning upset of top-ranked Club America in Week 12 of the Apertura 2014 campaign. Pavone, who also scored the game-winner for Cruz Azul back in Week 10, was able to find the back of the net in the 15th minute with a beautiful strike, following a pass from Mauro Formica on the fast-break to set the tone for Cruz Azul in Clasico Joven.
The goal put momentum in La Maquina's corner as the team went on to put the Liga MX leaders away, 4-0.
Pavone's golazo proved to be the game-winner in the upset, before Cruz Azul hammered home the victory in the closing minutes of the match with three goals in the final five minutes as Cruz Azul collapsed.
Cruz Azul now finds themselves in great position to reach the playoffs and have extended their unbeaten streak to three games, while Las Aguilas tasted defeat for only the second time this season.
Paul Arriola (Tijuana) - Arriola was an unused substitute for Tijuana in the team's Week 11 scoreless draw against Cruz Azul and Week 12 draw with Monterrey.
Edgar Castillo (Atlas) -Castillo once again took the field in the starting XI for Week 11. Castillo and his Atlas teammates were able to upend Queretaro, 2-1. Castillo was very active on the left side of the pitch, with some quality defense and some creativity on the offensive half with a near-goal and a handful of passes to set up scoring chances. Castillo remained in the starting lineup for Atlas in Week 12. The New Mexico native was once again very active on the left side side of the pitch, but was unable to break through with a goal. Castillo and Atlas defeated Chivas Guadalajara, 1-0, in El Clasico Tapatio.
Joe Corona (Tijuana) - Corona played all 90 minutes of Tijuana's scoreless draw with Cruz Azul. Corona was pushing forward in Week 1, with two assist opportunities and two shots of his own. Corona played the full 90 minutes for Tijuana against Monterrey in Week 12. In the 70th minute, Corona fouled Dorlan Pabon and was shown the yellow card.
Greg Garza (Tijuana) - Garza put together a solid 90 minute performance for Xolos as the club picked up a point in Week 11. Garza stayed on for the full 90 in a Week 12 draw with Monterrey. Garza had another solid performance in his defensive role, but a late breakdown from the Xolos defense led to Monterrey scoring the equalizer just before the final whistle as Tijuana missed out on earning the full three points.
Hérculez Gómez (Tigres UANL) - Gomez earned himself another look in the starting lineup for Tigres, in the club's 1-1 draw with Santos Laguna. Gomez was subbed out at the half. Gomez saw his most significant action in Week 12. Gomez drew the start for the third week and played for 79 minutes in Tigres' 1-0 win over Veracruz. In the 25th minute, Gomez appeared to have scored the lone goal of the match, but the official ruling was an own goal after replay showed the ball deflecting off of Veracruz defender Leiton Jimenez before crossing the goal line.
Michael Orozco (Puebla) - Orozco was serving his second red card suspension of the Apertura 2014 tournament in Week 11. Orozco returned to the starting XI in Week 12 and went the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw for La Franja.
José Francisco Torres (Tigres UANL) - Torres played all 90 minutes and was a key piece in the midfield - which dominated 69 percent of the possession - in Tigres' 1-1 draw with Santos Laguna. Torres capped off the busy week with another 90 minute performance for Tigres in their 1-0 win over Veracruz in Week 12.
Mexico Odds and Ends
"Chicharito" Hernandez earned Goal of the Month honors in La Liga for his September goal that marked his first score for Real Madrid ... Since his hot start with Real Madrid, Chicharito has put together some lackluster performances after being given a shot in the starting XI ... Ronaldinho admitted that Rafa Marquez was influential in his decision to join Liga MX ... Raul Jimenez finally scored in La Liga for Atletico Madrid, with a diving header against Sevilla ... 22-year-old Arturo “Ponchito” Gonzalez got the call up to the national team for October's friendlies on Mexican soil. Ponchito was a part of the Mexico squad that won the 2011 U-17 World Cup ... El Tri hosts Honduras on Oct. 9 and welcomes Panama to Mexico on Oct. 12.