If one thing is for certain in the Liga MX, surprises are a given. This year, two teams fit that description after just four weeks into the Apertura 2012. Toluca, who lost last year's league leader in goals Ivan Alonso to an unexpected retirement, and newly promoted Leon continue to impress and look like the real deal.
With a 17 week tournament, four weeks definitely does not determine who will lead the table throughout the year, nor ensure a playoff birth. But these two teams have put themselves in a nice position as nearly a quarter of the Apertura is complete.
Leon continued to show they’re not interested in going back down to the second division with an impressive 3-0 home win over the reigning champions, Santos Laguna. Through four games, Leon has won three, scoring 10 goals while giving up only two. Cruz Azul and Morelia are up next, both providing good tests to see if Leon is the real deal.
Shortly before the season began, Toluca forward and last season’s leading goal scorer Ivan Alonso announced his retirement from professional soccer due to health concerns. Most people wrote off Toluca with that news, having no one to fill his void. Lucas Silva and Juan Carlos Cacho have combined for five of their nine goals, leading Toluca to wins in all four games. On Sunday, Toluca got a 2-1 win over Pumas in Mexico City. Pumas now have two losses on the year and continue to struggle after bringing in several veterans to turn around their recent season.
Four teams faced off Saturday and all four games ended in draws. Atlas and Club America tied 1-1; both clubs now sit in the last two playoff positions in the league table. Tigres have yet to be defeated on the young season, but could only get a draw against bottom dweller Queretaro. Pachuca and Club Tijuana finished knotted 2-2, with Nery Castillo making his Liga MX debut and scoring in the 88’. Monterrey and San Luis drew 1-1 as Humberto Suazo got his first goal of the season.
Fortunately while Cruz Azul are struggling to find goals, their defense is one of the toughest in the league. La Maquina escaped Puebla with a 1-0 win, and have only conceded one goal on the year.
Chivas hosted Morelia in the final game of the weekend, but couldn’t break out of their winless streak. Chivas haven't won a league game in nine tries, dating back to March in the Clausura 2012. In February, owner Jorge Vergara brought in Dutch legend Johan Cruyff as an advisor to help get the team back on a winning track. A few months later in April, fellow countryman John van’t Schip was announced as a head coach for Chivas. So far, the "Dutch experiement" as some call it hasn’t gotten the results that were expected.
It should be noted, Chivas is missing three key players that recently won gold in the London Olympics. Marco Fabian, Miguel Ponce, and Chaton Enriquez will be retuning to Guadalajara and should surely give the team a boost. After two losses to start the Apertura 2012, Chivas have had two consecutive draws against Cruz Azul and Morelia. If the gold medalists can integrate quickly back in the squad, the team could make a quick turn around.
Next week, we’ll see a number of great matches you’ll want to keep an eye on. Here’s three to watch and why.
Tigres at Club Tijuana, Friday, 7:30 pm
Tigres haven’t lost a game so far, and Tijuana is undefeated in the confines of their own home. These two northern teams should put on a good show.
Chivas at San Luis, Saturday, 9:00 pm
While the matchup doesn't shout out "game of the week" on paper, Chivas needs to take advantage of a San Luis team that winless and has already given up eight goals. Look for the team to finally get in the win column.
Pachuca at Toluca, Sunday, 12:00 pm
Hugo Sanchez finally has a healthy Nery Castillo and Sunday’s matchup against the league’s best Toluca will provide Los Tuzos a good test.
In case you missed it, this past Saturday saw the Mexican U-23 National Team win the 2012 London Olympic Gold Medal. It was an incredible moment for the players and the entire country as they beat a very good Brazil team that nearly tied the game in the final moments.
If you were at all captivated by El Tri’s run through the Olympics, start to watch a few Liga MX games each week if you don’t already. Don’t worry about whether you speak Spanish or not, all of us speak the universal language of futbol.
Of the 18 members of the Mexico squad, 17 play in Liga MX. The league is able to retain some of the brightest young stars and that benefits Liga MX, Copa MX, and ultimately gives the fans a chance to see these stars play every week.