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MEXICO: Isaac Acuña strikes again for fading Queretaro

Look who's becoming a star. Calexico's Isaac Acuña, who had played all of four minutes of Mexican Primera Division futbol before Feb. 12, scored for the second successive week as Gallos Blancos de Queretaro battled to hold off Necaxa in the relegation fight.

Acuña, 21, took his time this week, not tallying until the seventh minute in a 1-1 draw Saturday with mighty Cruz Azul. He scored just three minutes into Gallos Blancos' 2-0 victory at Santos a week earlier. He debuted for the club, and made just his second top-flight appearance, the week before that.

Queretaro overcame two red cards to snare a point in a testy battle. There were four yellow cards in the first five minutes, and Raul Ferro was dismissed before a dozen minutes were up, which led to Acuña's departure in the 31st minute for tactical reasons.

The relegation battle appeared done when Gallos Blancos beat Necaxa on Jan. 29, but it has reignited as the streaking Rayos have posted three successive wins -- 1-0 over Santos Laguna last week -- and gone unbeaten in four games since Sergio Bueno took over after the loss to Queretaro.

“We must be aware of the situation, that we are still at the bottom of the percentage table and we need points ...,” Necaxa midfielder Paulo Cesar Chavez told reporters this week. “The reality is we're the last in the percentage table, and it is urgent. We need to get out of there.”

Gallos Blancos lost twice after beating Necaxa, and Acuña's productivity has helped keep the club from the bottom spot in the relegation table, a points-per-game standings over three full (fall/spring) seasons.

How close is it? If Necaxa wins at Cruz Azul and Gallos Blancos loses at Monterrey on Saturday, the Rayos will no longer be in the basement. The lowest team at the end of the season heads to Liga de Ascenso.

GAME OF THE WEEK: America beat Toluca, 4-3, in a dynamite encounter that featured four goals in the first eight minutes of the second half -- two apiece, the last a gorgeous strike by America's Daniel Montenegro for a 3-2 advantage.

PLAYOFF REALITIES: Pumas UNAM (5-0-3) and UANL Tigres (5-1-2) put some distance on the field with lopsided home victories, and, barring collapse, are headed to the postseason.

So is Cruz Azul (4-2-2) and, increasingly it seems, Morelia (4-1-3). Everyone else? We'll see.

It has more to do with the Primera Division's format than anything else. The 18 clubs are drawn into three groups, they play each of the other teams once (in both the Apertura and Clausura), and the top two teams in each group and next two best teams overall battle for the trophy.

Tigres (17 points), whose 3-0 rout of Puebla included a superb Damian Alvarez goal (and who won for the first time with Los Alamitos' Jonathan Bornstein on the bench), is running away in Group 1, with a seven-point edge on four clubs. Pumas (18), which destroyed Estudiantes Tecos, 5-1, is in charge in Group 3, with Morelia (15) and Cruz Azul (14) also in good shape. One would have to take a wild-card berth.

Anything goes in Group 2. Toluca (3-2-3, 12 points), which was on top in the group (and fourth overall) a week ago, fell to fourth after falling to America in that sizzler. America (4-4-1, 13 points) jumped from fourth to first in the group, and San Luis (3-2-4, 13 points) and Atlas (4-3-1, 13 points) are right there. Just behind: Atlante (3-4-1, 10 points) and Pachuca (2-3-3, 9 points).

COPA TIME: Cruz Azul booked its spot in the CONCACAF Champions League with two victories over Santos Laguna, and Monterrey took a big step toward a semifinal showdown with the Cementeros after winning at Toluca. Christian Gimenez scored in both legs for Cruz Azul, which won on 5-1 aggregate. Osvaldo Martinez's 82nd-minute tally lifted Monterrey, which will look to clinch at home Wednesday.

Mexico's Copa Libertadores entrants went 0 for South America, all falling in their first group-stage road trips. Most unfortunate was San Luis, which held Peru's Universidad San Martin scoreless until the 85th minute in a 2-0 defeat. America led Argentinos Juniors after Montenegro's 27th-minute goal, but Santiago Salcedo's two strikes fueled the Argentines' comeback to a 3-1 win. Brazil's Internacional, the defending champ, routed Jaguares, 4-0, a non-unexpected scoreline.

ETC.: There were seven goals in five games Saturday, three of them by Tigres. On Sunday, one game had six goals (Pumas' 5-1 romp) and another had seven (America's win over Toluca). … Morelia climbed to third overall after rallying to beat Atlante, 2-1, on goals by Joel Huiqui in the 75th minute and Miguel Sabah in the 81st, both from Jaime Lozano feeds. The Monarcas have won three in a row. … Atlas stopped a four-game winless skid, beating Monterrey, 1-0, on Gerardo Espinoza's penalty kick just before halftime. Monterrey is 3-4-1 and hasn't scored in 188 minutes. … Guadalajara's two losses are to Jaguares (2-5-1), which jumped from last to 16th with a 1-0 triumph Saturday, and Estudiantes Tecos (2-6-0), which is in last place. … Estudiantes Tecos has lost four in a row and five of six and have surrendered three or more goals four times in eight games and four or more three times. … Puebla has take four shutout losses in its last five games.

AMERICANS ABROAD: Jose Francisco Torres was in central midfield for all of Pachuca's scoreless draw with San Luis, but Herculez Gomez was off the field after three successive starts. … Sonny Guadarrama was a second-half sub for Atlante. … Marco Vidal lasted just nine minutes in Leon's Liga de Ascenso draw at Dorados, getting the quick hook after picking up an early yellow card. … Club Tijuana's Joe Corona was out on a red-card suspension.

LIGA DE ASCENSO: For all the sudden defensive liabilities, Club Tijuana finds itself in the playoff zone after just its second Clausura victory, a 2-1 decision at Lobos BUAP snared on Luis Orozco's 81st-minute strike. The Xoloitzcuintles (2-1-5) are seventh with a seven-game unbeaten streak, and they can catch first-place Correcaminos (5-2-2) -- not really, but follow along -- with a victory in Sunday's showdown at Estadio Caliente. That would leave Tijuana three points back with a game in hand. ...

The real leader is second-place Leon (4-0-4), the lone unbeaten team in the second-tier Liga, with rallied to tie Dorados, 1-1, on Blas Perez's seventh goal of the Clausura. The Esmeraldas, too, have a game in hand over the leaders. ...

Cuauhtemoc Blanco was back from his red-card suspension, but it made no difference for Irapuato (4-2-3), which was knocked out of first place (and into fourth) in a 1-0 loss to Veracruz, Blanco's previous side. Mauricio Romero scored the goal in the fourth minute. …

Merida (1-2-4) is the last club to win a game, knocking off Altamira, 2-0, the first time the Estudiantes have been shut out since Sept. 11, a Liga-best 16-game streak. In those games, they went 7-6-3. Leon now is the standard-bearer, with 13 straight games with a goal.

  • PRIMERA DIVISION

Last week's games (home teams listed first)

Friday

Necaxa 1 (Iñiquez 75), Santos Laguna 0

Saturday

Jaguares 1 (J. Frias 8), Guadalajara 0

Gallos Blancos 1 (Acuña 7), Cruz Azul 1 (I. Romo 32)

UANL Tigres 3 (H. Mancilla 24, D. Alvarez 42, C. Ochoa 87), Puebla 0

Pachuca 0, San Luis 0

Atlas 1 (G. Espinoza pen. 45), Monterrey 0

Sunday

Pumas UNAM 5 (I. Castro 7, D. Veron 16, J. Cortes 74, D. Lopez 83, C. Orrantia 92+), Estudiantes Tecos 1 (I. Lopez 69)

Morelia 2 (Huiqui 75, Sabah 81), Atlas 1 (C. Bermudez 49)

America 4 (A. Reyna 43, Mosquera 50, Montenegro 53, V. Sanchez 68), Toluca 3 (O. Gonzalez 46, Novaretti 52, 91+)

Standings

Group 1: UANL Tigres 17 points, Guadalajara 10, Monterrey 10, Necaxa 10, Santos Laguna 10, Estudiantes Tecos 6

Group 2: Atlas 13, America 13, San Luis 13, Toluca 12, Atlante 10, Pachuca 9

Group 3: Pumas UNAM 18, Morelia 15, Cruz Azul 14, Gallos Blancos de Queretaro 8, Jaguares de Chiapas 7, Puebla 7

Overall (top 8): 1. Pumas UNAM 18 points (+9 goal difference), 2. UANL Tigres 17 points (+8), 3. Morelia 15 (+3), 4. Cruz Azul 14 (+5), 5. Atlas 13 (+4); 6. America 13 (+3); 7. San Luis 13 (+2), 8. Toluca 12 (+6). Playoffs: If season ended now, Guadalajara (10, +3) would qualify in place in Toluca

Relegation percentage: 1. Necaxa (25 games/26 points) 1.0400; 2. Gallos Blancos (59/66) 1.1186; 3. Jaguares and Atlante (93/109) 1.1720, 5. Estudiantes Tecos (93/110) 1.1828

This week's games (all times Pacific)

Friday

Pachuca at Estudiantes Tecos, 6:10 p.m.

Saturday

Gallos Blancos at Monterrey, 3 p.m.

Necaxa at Cruz Azul, 3 p.m.

UANL Tigres at Guadalajara, 5 p.m.

America at Santos Laguna, 5 p.m.

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

Pumas UNAM at Atlante, 7 p.m.

Sunday

Atlas at Puebla, 10 a.m.

Morelia at Toluca, 10 a.m.

Schedule subject to change

Leading scorers

1. Wilmer Aguirre (San Luis) 5

Juan Carlos Cacho (Pumas UNAM) 5

Hector Mancilla (UANL Tigres) 5

Humberto Suazo (Monterrey) 5

Matias Vuoso (America) 5

6. Christian Bermudez (Atlante) 4

Carlos Bueno (Gallos Blancos) 4

Mauro Cejas (Estudiantes Tecos) 4

Emanuel Villa (Cruz Azul) 4

10. Jaime Ayovi (Toluca) 3

Edgar Benitez (Pachuca) 3

Felix Borja (Puebla) 3

Nestor Calderon (Toluca) 3

Javier Cortes (Pumas UNAM) 3

Gerardo Espinoza (Atlas) 3

Rafael Marquez Lugo (Morelia) 3

Angel Reyna (America) 3

Miguel Sabah (Morelia) 3

OTHER GAMES

Last week's games (home teams listed first)

Tuesday

Copa Libertadores: Universidad San Martin (Peru) 2 (Labarthe 85, Marinelli 90), San Luis 0

CONCACAF Champions League: Cruz Azul 2 (J. Orozco 58, C. Gimenez 68), Santos Laguna 0

Wednesday

Copa Libertadores: Internacional (Brazil) 4 (Bolatti 19, 44, Leandro Damiao 66, Oscar 90), Jaguares 0

CONCACAF Champions League: Toluca 0, Monterrey 1 (O. Martinez 82)

Thursday

Copa Libertadores: Argentinos Juniors (Argentina) 3 (S. Salcedo pen. 45, 73, Sanchez Prette 93+), America 1 (Montenegro 27)

This week's games (all times Pacific)

Tuesday

CONCACAF Champions League: Santos Laguna 1 (C. Benitez 71), Cruz Azul 3 (E. Villa 37, 53, C. Gimenez 50); Cruz Azul advances on aggregate, 5-1

Wednesday

Copa Libertadores: Fluminense (Brazil) at America, 4:50 p.m.

CONCACAF Champions League: Toluca at Monterrey, 5 p.m.

Thursday

Copa Libertadores: Once Caldas (Colombia) at San Luis, 7:15 p.m.

  • LIGA DE ASCENSO

Last week's games (home teams listed first)

Friday

UAT Correcaminos 4 (F. Silva 57, A. Gonzalez 64, J. Silva 75, A. Velazquez 81), Indios de Ciudad Juarez 0

Saturday

Pumas Morelos 0, Atlante Neza 2 (og Pinzon 21, B. Sainz 71)

Albinegros de Orizaba 2 (E. Dos Santos 27, 51), Leones Negros 2 (J. Otero 25, J. Pina 70)

Irapuato 0, Veracruz 1 (M. Romero 4)

Merida FC 2 (Landin 7, P. Torres 50), Altamira 0

Dorados de Sinaloa 1 (R. Prieto 39), Leon 1 (B. Perez 77)

Sunday

Cruz Azul Hidalgo 1 (J. Garcia 84), La Piedad 1 (M. Castillo 82)

Lobos BUAP 1 (E. Alvarez 41), Club Tijuana 2 (R. Ruiz 45, L. Orozco 81)

Idle: Alacranes de Durango

Standings: 1. UAT Correcaminos 17 points; 2. Leon 16; 3. Atlante Neza 16; 4. Irapuato 15; 5. Cruz Azul Hidalgo 13; 6. Albinegros de Orizaba 13; 7. Club Tijuana 11; 8. Veracruz 11; 9. Dorados de Sinaloa 10; 10. Altamira 10; 11. Pumas Morelos 9; 12. La Piedad 9; 13. Indios de Ciudad Juarez 9; 14. U de G Leones Negros 8; 15. Merida 7; 16. Alacranes de Durango 7; 17. Lobos BUAP 4

This week's games (all times Pacific)

Friday

Alacranes at Altamira, 5 p.m.

Lobos BUAP at Leones Negros, 6:45 p.m.

Saturday

Dorados at Veracruz, 5 p.m.

Cruz Azul Hidalgo at Indios, 5 p.m.

Merida at Leon, 6 p.m.

Sunday

Irapuato at Atlante Neza, 10 a.m.

Correcaminos at Club Tijuana, 1 p.m.

Pumas Morelos at La Piedad, 2 p.m.

Idle: Albinegros de Orizaba

Schedule subject to change

Leading scorers

1. Ariel Gonzalez (Irapuato) 9

2. Blas Perez (Leon) 7

3. Jair Garcia (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 6

Roberto Saucedo (Correcaminos) 6

5. Juan Manuel Sara (Lobos BUAP) 5

6. Eduardo Herrera (Pumas Morelos) 4

7. Pablo Bonells (Leon) 3

Eder Pacheco (Veracruz) 3

Raul Enriquez (Club Tijuana) 3

Edgar Garcia (Alacranes) 3

Antonio Gonzalez (Correcaminos) 3

Jose Luis Lopez (Irapuato) 3

Luis Nieves (Leon) 3

Roberto Nurse (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 3

Mario Padilla (Dorados) 3

Mauricio Romero (Veracruz) 3

Pablo Torres (Merida) 3

OTHER GAMES

Wednesday

Friendly: Club Tijuana vs. L.A. Galaxy at Torero Stadium, University of San Diego, 7 p.m.