Five storylines from round seven of matches in the Liga MX 2017 Apertura ahead of the international break:
1. Atlas in relegation trouble
There’s not much positive news for Guadalajara teams Atlas and Chivas at present.
Atlas were defeated 2-1 by Necaxa on Saturday, a result which, combined with Veracruz’s 1-0 victory over Pumas on Sunday, meant Los Rojinegros dropped into last place in the relegation table — worked out in Liga MX over average points per game in the last six seasons.
Atlas now in last place in the #ligamxeng relegation table. Lobos sliding though pic.twitter.com/gpGiYN02Wa
– Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) August 28, 2017
It is a situation that has caused the club’s best known barra brava to react with an open letter demanding that the players wear the shirt with pride and give their all in what is now a very real battle against the drop.
The statement described “11 shirts floating around without idea or feeling.” That may be a little harsh given the injuries to Leiton Jimenez and Clifford Aboagy as well as the exclusion of Rafa Marquez — due to U.S. government sanctions against him due to his alleged ties to a drug trafficking organization. But Atlas are one of Mexico’s most historic clubs and are sliding rapidly, picking up just one point from a possible 15 over their last five games.
The bells are starting to chime into a crescendo with one side set to be relegated next May and Jose Guadalupe Cruz’s once-promising project — involving a solid group of young Mexican players — now on the rocks.
2. Chivas only team without a victory
Across town at Chivas, the potential for relegation may no longer be an issue but the ability to win a game is.
The reigning Liga MX champion drew 0-0 against Queretaro in Estadio Chivas Saturday to move into 17th place in the table. Chivas are the only side now without a victory, with Santos Laguna winning its first game against Leon on Saturday.
Chivas coach Matias Almeyda said he was happy that the team performed better against Queretaro, but goals are proving problematic. Chivas have scored zero goals from open play in their last 440 minutes of play — the two they have scored in that span came on a penalty and a free kick.
Almeyda doesn’t have a deep bench like northern teams Monterrey and Tigres, or America, meaning he will have to use the international break to turn around what is, so far, an embarrassing title defense.
3. Coudet’s Xolos on the march
The real winner from these three matches over the last week was Club Tijuana, who defeated Pachuca 2-1 on Friday in Estadio Caliente. Xolos were the only side to pick up nine out of nine possible points, moving them from the bottom places in Liga MX to the playoff spots.
Pressure was rising on incoming Argentine coach Eduardo Coudet, but the club’s outlook has brightened significantly over recent days. The points are naturally a boost, but so was the signing of Juan Manuel Iturbe from Roma, as well as striker Gustavo Bou showing why he was so heralded when he signed in the summer.
The switch to three central defenders has provided much better balance in the team and, as Coudet pointed out, Xolos are playing with a lot of heart, even if Friday’s victory wasn’t their best performance.
4. Cruz Azul hold up in Monterrey test
Could Cruz Azul match Monterrey in what was billed as the game of the weekend? The evidence from the 1-1 draw suggests that La Maquina is the real deal, although Rayados also gave a demonstration of just why they are favorites for the Liga MX title.
A golazo from Adrian Aldrete handed Cruz Azul the lead in the 52nd, after Dorlan Pabon had seen his penalty saved by Jesus Corona. But Cruz Azul couldn’t hold on, with perhaps the best player of the 2017 Apertura so far, Aviles Hurtado, stealing in and grabbing the equalizer in the 83rd.
#NoTeLoPierdasG⚽⚽⚽LAAAAAZZO de Adrian Aldrete@Cruz_Azul_FC 1-0 @Rayados #J7AP2017 #LIGABancomerMX⚽ #SienteTuLiga ⚽#PorLaEducacion pic.twitter.com/cajyCcFq84
– LIGA Bancomer MX (@LIGABancomerMX) August 26, 2017
A draw was a fair result, but Cruz Azul gave Monterrey perhaps its toughest test of the season to date and extended its undefeated run to 14 games in all competitions.
Paco Jemez’s team should be taken seriously.
5. Torrente leaves Leon
The second managerial casualty of the Apertura was announced Saturday, with Javier Torrente getting fired from Leon following the 2-1 home defeat to Santos Laguna. Paco Palencia left Pumas earlier in the week.
It was a roller-coaster ride for Torrente at Leon, with the Argentine leading La Fiera to the semifinal of the last year’s Apertura while playing well and reaching the playoffs despite the odds.
But just two wins in the first seven matches of the season spelled the end for Torrente, even if the team had only lost two of its last five matches in Liga MX.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.