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Monday, January 24, 2011
MEXICO: Tigres' fast start just a beginning

By Scott French

UANL Tigres has teased before with poor returns, so nobody is proclaiming the club from suburban Monterrey as some new-found power, least of all manager Ricardo Ferretti.


“I think it's premature -- we are on day three, and things have gone well, but I think it's premature to talk of this is our tournament …,” Ferretti told the Medio Tiempo Web site after Tigres' last-minute 2-1 victory Sunday over Club America at Estadio Azteca. “This dream is based on a lot of hard work, dedication, dedication, commitment.”

Ferretti is in his third stint as Tigres boss -- the took them to the 2001 Invierno final and 2003 Clausura semifinals -- and knows well the their spotty history. They haven't won a playoff game since 2005, a span of 10 seasons, and haven't qualified for the postseason the last four seasons, falling just short in the fall Apertura.

With Los Alamitos' Jonathan Bornstein (Los Alamitos HS/UCLA) already contributing, Tigres is atop Group 1 and third in the overall standings with a 2-0-1 mark. The former Chivas USA captain has started the last two games, playing in midfield, and nearly scored Sunday.

Tigres toppled America (0-2-1) when Hector Mancilla finished a great burst by Damian Alvarez in stoppage time. They rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie Gallos Blancos, 2-2, in the Clausura opener and topped Necaxa, 1-0, on a PK in their second game.

HOT FOOT: Pumas UNAM tops Group 3 with a 1-0-2 record behind Juan Carlos Cacho, the deadliest striker in the Primera Division. Cacho scored two more superb goals -- volleying home Martin Bravo's feed and with a smash to the upper-left corner -- as Pumas UNAM rallied from a two-goal deficit but couldn't hold on in a 3-3 draw with Cruz Azul.

Cacho finished a deflected cross to give Pumas a 1-1 draw at Toluca in the Clausura opener and scored the first goal in a 2-0 win over Santos in week two.

NOT BEATEN: Guadalajara's unbeaten streak, which reached 10 games with Saturday's 1-1 draw with San Luis, hasn't been so impressive. Chivas has won just two of those games, and neither were enough to get them into a Apertura playoffs.

The club has tied all three of its games in the Clausura, all of them 1-1, but ties aren't enough. Only Cruz Azul lost fewer games than did Guadalajara, with three defeats, in the fall campaign. Two teams with six losses and another with seven made it to the playoffs ahead of the Goats.

Guadalajara went ahead in the 66th minute on Erick Torres' header from Xavier Baez's free kick, and Anibal Matellan's header 10 minutes later pulled second-place San Luis even.

BATTLE FOR LAST: This week's most important showdown won't play much impact on the race for playoff berths. Necaxa, winless and goal-less through the first three weeks, on Saturday will visit Gallos Blancos de Queretaro, the only team that claim it's better than Necaxa.

These are the clubs likeliest to feature in the relegation battle. In Mexico, the last team in the “index” -- points per game over three full years -- drops to the second-tier Liga de Ascenso, replaced by the winner of the Liga's champions playoff.

Necaxa is at the bottom, with just 16 points in 20 games since returning to the top division last spring; Gallos Blancos, with 59 points in 54 games over the past year and a half, is the Rayos' target.

ETC.: Chilean World Cup forward Humberto Suazo's quick finish lifted Apertura champ Monterrey to its first Clausura win, 1-0 over Atlante, after Potros forward Mario Ortiz hit the crossbar on a penalty kick that never should have been awarded -- with two Monterrey players clearly encroaching. … The best game of the weekend was Santos Laguna's 1-1 draw with Pachuca, a rapid-fire contest filled with incidence and scoring chances. Santos' Daniel Ludueña and Pachuca's Edgar Benitez scored a minute apart just before halftime. ...

Atlas is 3-0-0 after beating Necaxa, 1-0, on Alfredo Moreno's second-half goal. … Morelia put behind it that 5-0 loss to Atlas two weeks ago. The Monarcas rolled to their first win, routing Gallos Blancos, 3-0, pulling away on Jaime Lozano's 80th-minute penalty kick and Elias Hernandez's finale in stoppage. … Nestor Calderon (terrific blast, upper-right corner) and Jaime Ayovi scored a minute apart to lead Toluca to its first win, 2-0 over Jaguares. … Felix Borja slipped between the backline and the onrushing keeper to score on a 20-yard header as Puebla topped Estudiantes Tecos, 2-0. …

Jaguares opens its first Copa Libertadores campaign with a first-stage, first-leg game Wednesday at Peru's Alianza Lima. … New York Red Bulls midfielder Rafa Marquez is training for a week with Atlas, his first club. … Aaron Padilla, the head of the referees association, was fined nearly $10K for calling as “nonsense” America president Michel Bauer's suggestions that poor officiating cost the Aguilas a victory. ... Longtime America director Francisco “Panchito” Hernandez, 83, who is celebrated for bringing top South American talent to the club, and Monterrey managing director Jose Galafox, 51, died  Monday.

AMERICANS ABROAD: Sacramento's Miguel Angel Ponce (Guadalajara) and San Diego's Joe Corona (Club Tijuana) went the full 90, and Texas' Sonny Guadarrama was a late substitute for Atlante.

LIGA DE ASCENSO: Club Tijuana opened its campaign in the second-tier Liga with a 1-0 loss at Altamira. The Xolos lost defender Miguel Almazan to a 22nd-minute red card, and Edgar Gonzalez scored in the 39th for Altamira, then was ejected three minutes later. … Correcaminos are perfect after three games. Roberto Saucedo's fourth goal of the Clausura carried the Roadrunners past Veracruz, who have been shut out in their last four games and five of their last six, including the Apertura title-series defeats to Tijuana. … Jair Garcia's hat trick led Cruz Azul Hidalgo (2-0) in a 4-2 romp over Lobos BUAP. Former Chivas USA forward Roberto Nurse also tallied, his 10th goal of the season. … Arturo Alvarado, Ariel Gonzalez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco scored goals in a five-minute span at the start of the second half to lead Irapuato past Alacranes de Durango, 3-2.

OTHER NEWS: Argentine-born Mexican striker Guillermo Franco signed with Argentina's Velez Sarsfield.

Last week's games (home teams listed first)
Friday

Necaxa 0, Atlas 1 (A. Moreno 72)
Saturday
Monterrey 1 (Suazo 2), Atlante 0
Gallos Blancos 0, Morelia 3 (Marquez Lugo 57, J. Lozano pen. 80, E. Hernandez 91+)
Cruz Azul 3 (E. Villa 25, H. Cervantes 37, Droguett 83), Pumas UNAM 3 (Cacho 61, 80, D. Veron 73)
Guadalajara 1 (E. Torres 66), San Luis 1 (Matellan 76)
Santos Laguna 1 (Ludueña 44), Pachuca 1 (E. Benitez 45)
Sunday
Puebla 2 (E. Lugo 57, F. Borja 92+), Estudiantes Tecos 0
Toluca 2 (N. Calderon 61, Ayovi 62), Jaguares 0
America 1 (Montenegro 51), UANL Tigres (Lobos 36, H. Mancilla 92+)

Standings
Group 1:
UANL Tigres 7 points, Santos Laguna 4, Guadalajara 3, Monterrey 3, Estudiantes Tecos 3, Necaxa 0
Group 2: Atlas 9, San Luis 7, Pachuca and Toluca 5, Atlante 3, America 1
Group 3: Pumas UNAM 5, Cruz Azul 4, Jaguares de Chiapas and Puebla 4, Morelia 4, Gallos Blancos de Queretaro 1
Overall (top 8): 1. Atlas 9 points (+7 goal difference), 2. San Luis 7 (+5), 3. UANL Tigres 7 (+2), 4. Pumas UNAM 5 (+2), 5. Pachuca and Toluca 5 (+2), 7. Cruz Azul 4 (-); 8. Santos Laguna 4 (-1). Playoffs: If season ended now, the top eight would qualify.
Relegation percentage: 1. Necaxa (20 games/16 points) 0.800; 2. Gallos Blancos (54/59) 1.0926; 3. Atlante (88/102) 1.1591; 4. Jaguares (88/106) 1.1067, 5. Atlas and Estudiantes Tecos (88/107) 1.2159

This week's games (all times Pacific)
Friday
Guadalajara at Estudiantes Tecos, 6:10 p.m.
Saturday
Santos Laguna at Jaguares, 3 p.m.
Necaxa at Gallos Blancos, 3 p.m.
Toluca at UANL Tigres, 5 p.m.
Cruz Azul at Pachuca, 5 p.m.
America at Atlas, 6:45 p.m.
Puebla at Atlante, 7 p.m.
Sunday
Monterrey at Pumas UNAM, 10 a.m.
San Luis at Morelia, 10 a.m.
Schedule subject to change

OTHER GAMES
This week's games (all times Pacific)
Wednesday
Copa Libertadores:
Jaguares at Alianza Lima (Peru), 6:15 p.m.

Last week's games (home teams listed first)
Friday

Altamira 1 (E. Gonzalez 39), Club Tijuana 0
Correcaminos 1 (R. Saucedo 70), Veracruz 0
Saturday
Lobos BUAP 2 (Sara 36, 80), Cruz Azul Hidalgo 4 (J. Garcia 30, 42, 71, Nurse 88)
Albinegros de Orizaba 2 (D. Gonzalez 39, E. Gonzalez 53), Pumas Morelos 0
Alacranes de Durango 2 (E. Garcia 1, Duarte 73), Irapuato 3 (A. Alvarado 47, A. Gonzalez 49, C. Blanco 51)
Merida FC 0, Atlante Neza 0
Leon 1 (L. Nieves 77), Indios de Ciudad Juarez 0
Dorados de Sinaloa 2 (M. Padilla 17, J. Castro 83), La Piedad 0
Idle: Leones Negros

Standings: 1. UAT Correcaminos 9 points; 2. Irapuato 7; 3. Cruz Azul Hidalgo 7; 4. Leon 7; 5. Altamira 6; 6. Albinegros de Orizaba 4; 7. Dorados de Sinaloa 4; 8. Pumas Morelos 3; 9. Indios de Ciudad Juarez and Atlante Neza 3; 11. Merida 2; 12. U de G Leones Negros 1; 13. Veracruz 1; 14. Club Tijuana 0; 15. Alacranes de Durango 0; 16. Lobos BUAP 0; 17. La Piedad 0.

This week's games (all times Pacific)
Tuesday
Club Tijuana at Leones Negros, 6:45 p.m.
Friday
Altamira at Leones Negros, 6:45 p.m.
Saturday
Lobos BUAP at Pumas Morelos, 2 p.m.
Albinegros at Irapuato, 5 p.m.
Dorados at Indios, 5 p.m.
Sunday
Correcaminos at Cruz Azul Hidalgo, 10 a.m.
Alacranes at Atlante Neza, 10 a.m.
Leon at Club Tijuana, 1 p.m.
Merida at La Piedad, 2 p.m.
Idle: Veracruz
Schedule subject to change