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MEXICO: Top teams fit for ties

9/28/2011

No change in the Mexico's Primera Division standings this week after all the big showdowns ended in draws.

Four of nine games in the 10th “jornada” in the fall Apertura finished at 1-1, including meetings between first-place Jaguares and fourth-place UANL Tigres and between Cruz Azul and Guadalajara, who sit in second and third.

Surprising Jaguares (5-2-3) rallied after conceding a late goal to Lucas Lobos, pulling even with Tigres (4-1-5) on Jorge Rodriguez's 89th-minute strike. Omar Arellano tallied in the first half for Guadalajara (5-2-3) and Edixon Perea in the second for Cruz Azul (5-2-3).

Fifth-place Pumas UNAM (5-3-2), the spring Clausura winner, won at Estudiantes Tecos to pull more or less even with the teams above it. The top three have 18 points, Tigres and Pumas 17, and Atlante sits just two points further behind after its fourth successive one-goal victory.

Another four teams have 14, and three more have 13. Sixteen of 18 clubs are firmly in the battle for eight playoff berths.

It's the makings for an incendiary finish.

  • THE TOP 3

1. TUMBLING RAYADOS

Monterrey has won the last two Apertura titles and last spring captured its first CONCACAF Champions League crown. The Rayados aren't playing like champions now.

They're 1-4-1 in league play since early August, and a 2-1 loss Saturday to Gallos Blancos in Queretaro dropped them from sixth to 11th in the table. The Champions League campaign also has been a trudge, with shutout losses at home against the Seattle Sounders and at Comunicaciones in Guatemala threatening to keep them from next year's quarterfinals and beyond.

“It's hard to say exactly what's happening, but we're trying to reverse this,” goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco told Mexican sports daily ESTO this week. “Maybe we're not doing the things we previously did. We need the attitude of before. We must work hard.”

Monterrey (4-5-1) has won where others draw, and that kept it near the leaders. Three of the defeats are to Pumas, Cruz Azul and Guadalajara -- powerful teams that appear, at least at the moment, to have eclipsed the Rayados.

Star Chilean striker Humberto Suazo's struggles with injury and form, which have limited him to four goals, two of them on penalty kicks, isn't helping, but there's enough talent even without the Primera Division's premier player.

“With the championships, with good results, vanity comes and you believe everything is resolved ...,” Orozco explained. “Other teams prepare more than you know, and they went after us. We can't think everything will just be fine. The better you are, the more they want to knock you down.”

2. CHAMPIONS LEAGUE LIFE

No need to worry about Mexico's Champions League possibilities. After some early stumbles, all four entrants -- Morelia, Santos Laguna, Pumas and Monterrey -- are on target to advance to next year's knockout stage.

There was concern as the tournament began, with Morelia and Pumas losing their group openers, Santos falling at Isidro Metapan in the second week, and Monterrey dropping successive games to lesser clubs.

The Mexicans have won eight of 10 games in September, following Tuesday's fifth-round clashes, outscoring foes, 25-5. Santos is atop Group B after a 6-0 romp in its rematch with Metapan, and Pumas leads Group C after an 0-1-1 start.

This is what was expected. Mexico has thoroughly dominated the competition since the switch to a 24-team, league-format championship in 2008. All three titles have been won by Primera Division clubs (Atlante, then Pachuca, then Monterrey), and all six berths in the title series might have gone to Mexicans had all four Primera quarterfinalists not been assigned to the same bracket last year.

Mexico's all-time record in group play is 56-18-16. That includes an 11-5-2 mark in the current tournament. The record in all phases against non-Mexican clubs is 78-22-21. No Mexican club has lost a home-and-home knockout series against a team from any other country.

3. STARTING WITH A DRAW

America's and Tijuana's new starts began on even terms, and the Xolos are ruing another blown opportunity.

Alfredo Tena returned as the Aguilas' boss and Antonio Mohamed began his tenure with Tijuana in a 1-1 draw Sunday at Estadio Azteca.

America, Mexico's richest and most-followed club, is 16th in the 18-team Primera Division with expectations to compete for the title.

“There are problems I cannot [talk about],” Tena told "Zona Aguila," a radio program devoted to America. “We are looking forward, we have a clean slate, and we are trying to get points to get ahead.“

Javier Yacuzzi provided TJ (1-5-4) a lead right at the start, but the Xoloitzcuintles couldn't hold -- Christian Benitez scored in the 85th minute for America (2-4-4).

Tijuana is 0-2-2 when it scores first; the Xolos surrendered leads at Monterrey and Cruz Azul, too, and it has contributed mightily to their 17th-place standing and position atop the relegation list. They need victories and badly.

Mohamed told media afterward that he was “satisfied” but that his team “failed to kill off the game, and we're saddened by the outcome. We have a great squad, but there are still things to correct.”

  • QUICK KICKS

The Santos-Morelia match, halted by gunfire outside the stadium in Torreon 5½ weeks ago, will resume Nov. 1. The game will pick up in the 40th minute with no score. ... U.S. national team midfielder Jose Francisco Torres, a regular in Pachuca's midfield, will be sidelined for at least two months with a broken foot. ... Former Galaxy star Herculez Gomez netted his fourth goal for Estudiantes Tecos in its loss to Pumas. Former Chivas USA forward Francisco Palencia netted the winner for the Cats. ... Sacramento-born, San Ysidro-mentored Miguel Angel Ponce was red-carded in his return from concussion. The Guadalajara left back picked up yellow cards three minutes apart early in the second half. ... Ivan Alonso tallied twice to lift Toluca past Morelia, 2-1, the Monarcas' first loss in any competition since mid-August. ...

The Xolos are home Sunday afternoon against Tigres, and Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti is already complaining about the harsh artificial surface at Estadio Caliente -- and Guadalajara's turf, too. “It's a pity,” the Brazilian coach said this week. “Football on natural grass is always better. If I could one ask for something from Tijuana and Chivas in the future, it would be the possibility of switching to natural grass.” ...

La Piedad (6-2-0) extended its lead in the second-tier Liga de Ascenso to three points after rallying from a two-goal deficit to beat winless Merida, 3-2. Cesar Saldivar scored the tying goal in the 85th, and Kevin Favela got the winner three minutes later. ... Second-place Toros Neza (4-1-3) let a two-goal lead escape in a 2-2 draw with Lobos BUAP. Juan Manuel Sara, a new arrival from Correcaminos, scored both for the Wolves. ... The Leon-Irapuato showdown had the week's best finish: Jose Cruz Gutierrez nets a would-be winner for the fifth-place Strawberry Lashers (4-3-1), and Nelson Maz rescues a draw for sixth-place Leon (3-1-4) in stoppage.

  • THE NUMBERS

>PRIMERA DIVISION

Last week's results (home teams listed first)

Jornada 10

Saturday

Cruz Azul 1 (E. Perea 62), Guadalajara 1 (O. Arellano 34)

Gallos Blancos de Queretaro 2 (D. Mena 34, C. Bueno 59), Monterrey 1 (Suazo pen. 74)

UANL Tigres 1 (L. Lobos 79), Jaguares de Chiapas 1 (J. Rodriguez 89)

Pachuca 1 (E. Esqueda 44), San Luis 1 (M. Arroyo 37)

Estudiantes Tecos 1 (H. Gomez 28), Pumas UNAM 2 (J. Cortes 12, Palencia 62)

Atlas 2 (H. Rodriguez 13, R. Bocanegra 50), Atlante 3 (G. Maldonado 24, O. Martinez pen. 31, F. Fonseca 79)

Sunday

Puebla 1 (Riascos pen. 58), Santos Laguna 2 (C. Quintero 45, O. Peralta 48)

Toluca 2 (I. Alonso 37, 79), Morelia 1 (L. Sandoval 49)

America 1 (C. Benitez 85), Club Tijuana 1 (C. Yacuzzi 85)

Standings: 1. Jaguares 18 points; 2. Cruz Azul 18; 3. Guadalajara 18; 4. UANL Tigres 17; 5. Pumas UNAM 17; 6. Atlante 15; 7. Santos Laguna 14; 8. Gallos Blancos 14; 9. Pachuca 14; 10. Toluca 14; 11. Monterrey 13; 12. Morelia 13; 13. Puebla 13; 14. Estudiantes Tecos 12; 15. San Luis 12; 16. America 10; 17. Tijuana 7; 18. Atlas 5

Relegation percentage: 1. Tijuana (10 games/7 points) 0.7000; 2. Atlas and Estudiantes Tecos (78/83) 1.0641; 4. Gallos Blancos (78/88) 1.1282; 5. San Luis (78/94) 1.2051; 6. Jaguares and Puebla (78/95) 1.2179; 8. Atlante (78/97) 1.2436. Atop the list: 1. Cruz Azul (78/141) 1.8077; 2. Monterrey (78/137) 1.7564; 3. Morelia (77/123) 1.5974; 4. Santos (77/122) 1.5844; 5. Toluca and Pumas UNAM (78/122) 1.5641

This week's games (all times Pacific)

Jornada 11

Friday

Atlas at Jaguares, 6:10 p.m.

Saturday

America at Pumas UNAM, 2 p.m.

Toluca at Monterrey, 3 p.m.

Estudiantes Tecos at Morelia, 3 p.m.

Cruz Azul at Santos, 5 p.m.

Gallos Blancos at Guadalajara, 5 p.m.

Puebla at San Luis, 6:45 p.m.

Pachuca at Atlante, 7 p.m.

Sunday

UANL Tigres at Club Tijuana, noon

Schedule subject to change

Goals leaders

1. Carlos Bueno (Gallos Blancos) 8

2. Ivan Alonso (Toluca) 7

Christian Benitez (America) 7

4. Hector Mancilla (UANL Tigres) 6

Luis Gabriel Rey (Jaguares) 6

6. Dayro Moreno (Tijuana) 5

Oribe Peralta (Santos) 5

Luis Perez (Monterrey) 5

9. Michael Arroyo (San Luis) 4

Franco Arizala (Jaguares) 4

Enrique Esqueda (Pachuca) 4

Herculez Gomez (Estudiantes Tecos) 4

Giancarlo Maldonado (Atlante) 4

Miguel Sabah (Morelia) 4

Humberto Suazo (Monterrey) 4

LIGA DE ASCENSO

Last week's results (home teams listed first)

Jornada 8

Friday

Altamira 0, Celaya 1 (Clemens 86)

Necaxa 1 (Quatrocchi 71), Pumas Morelos 0

Saturday

Merida 2 (E. Guzman 15, D. Jimenez 54), La Piedad 3 (E. Gil 71, C. Saldivar 85, K. Favela 88)

Dorados de Sinaloa 1 (P. Torres 80), Veracruz 2 (O. Dominguez 37, D. Guzman 51)

Indios de Ciudad Juarez 0, Leones Negros 1 (M. Zepeda pen. 63)

Leon 1 (Maz 92+), Irapuato 1 (J. Cruz Gutierrez 86)

Sunday

Toros Neza 2 (E. Gonzalez 26, J. Pereira 58), Lobos BUAP 2 (J. Sara 67, 76)

Cruz Azul Hidalgo 2 (Luciano Emilio 25, 28), Correcaminos 2 (J. Zarate 9, J. Garcia 74)

Standings: 1. La Piedad 18; 2. Toros Neza 15; 3. Pumas Morelos 14; 4. Necaxa 14; 5. Irapuato 13; 6. Leon 13; 7. Correcaminos 12; 8. Veracruz 11; 9. Leones Negros 10; 10. Altamira 10; 11. Dorados de Sinaloa 9; 12. Celaya 9; 13. Indios de Ciudad Juarez 7; 14. Cruz Azul Hidalgo 7; 15. Lobos BUAP 7; 16. Merida 3

This week's games (all times Pacific)

Jornada 8

Friday

Lobos BUAP at Correcaminos, 6:30 p.m.

Toros Neza at Leones Negros, 6:45 p.m.

Saturday

Indios at Pumas Morelos, 2 p.m.

Necaxa at Irapuato, 5 p.m.

Merida at Veracruz, 5 p.m.

Dorados at Celaya, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday

Leon at La Piedad, 10 a.m.

Altamira at Cruz Azul Hidalgo, 10 a.m.

Schedule subject to change

Goals leaders

1. Roberto Saucedo (Correcaminos) 7

Pablo Torres (Dorados) 7

3. Jose Cruz Gutierrez (Irapuato) 6

Luciano Emilio (Toros Neza/Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 6

Roberto Nurse (La Piedad) 6

6. Eder Pacheco (Leon) 5

Ismael Valadez (Altamira) 5

8. Guillermo Clemens (Celaya) 4

Ever Guzman (Merida) 4

Victor Mañon (Indios) 4

Nelson Maz (Leon) 4

Diego Olsina (Correcaminos) 4

Juan Manuel Sara (Correcaminos/Lobos BUAP) 4

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Last week's results (home team listed first)

Group Stage, Round 4

Tuesday

D: Monterrey 3 (S. Santana 32, L. Perez 68, Suazo 86), Comunicaciones (Guatemala) 1 (C. Mejia 83)

Wednesday

C: FC Dallas 0, Pumas UNAM 2 (E. Herrera 84, Izazola 91+)

Thursday

B: Santos Laguna 6 (J. Cardenas 21, C. Quintero 28, 55, O. Peralta 38, 86, C. Ochoa 79), Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) 0

A: Motagua (Honduras) 0, Morelia 2 (Y. Corona 55, Manso 58)

This week's games (all times Pacific)

Group Stage, Round 5

Tuesday

C: Toronto FC 1 (Marosevic 35), Pumas UNAM 1 (Palacios 51)

D: Herediano (Costa Rica) 0, Monterrey 1 (de Nigris 30)

Wednesday

B: Santos Laguna at Real España (Honduras), 5 p.m.

A: Morelia at Galaxy, 7 p.m.

Standings

A: 1. Alajuelense (Costa Rica) 9 points; 2. Morelia 9; 3. Galaxy 6; 4. Motagua (Honduras) 0

B: 1. Santos 9; 2. Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) 6; 3. Real España (Honduras) 4; 4. Colorado Rapids 4

C: 1. Pumas UNAM 8; 2. FC Dallas 7; 3. Toronto FC 7; 4. Tauro (Panama) 2

D: 1. Seattle Sounders 10; 2. Monterrey 9; 3. Comunicaciones (Guatemala) 7; 4. Herediano (Costa Rica) 3