Los Angeles Soccer: Ariel Gonzalez
The Xolos, fighting for a berth in the Primera Division, took Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Co. through 90 scoreless minutes Wednesday night, giving them the upper hand when the Liga de Ascenso's promotion final wraps up Saturday afternoon at Estadio Caliente in Tijuana.
Goalkeeper Leonin Pineda was masterful almost to the end, and Javier Gandolfi marshaled a superb defensive effort for the Xolos, who were forced into the promotion series after losing to Irapuato in last week's two-legged spring Clausura final. La Trinca, or the Strawberry Lashers, captured the title with a 1-0 home victory.
Tijuana captured the fall Apertura championship and would have automatically won promotion to the top league, to join the likes of Guadalajara, America, Cruz Azul and Monterrey, had it pipped Irapuato for the Clausura crown. A victory at home Saturday will send them up.
Acuņa, 21, scored in his first start in Mexico's top league to lead Gallos Blancos de Queretaro (2-4-1), who started the week at the bottom of the Clausura standings, to a stunning 2-0 triumph at Santos Laguna (3-3-1).
Acuņa scored in the third minute -- he took a pass from Eder Borelli as he slipped past the backline, dribbled past goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez and knocked the ball into the open net -- and fed Carlos Bueno for the second goal just before halftime.
“His behavior went against the values that the club stands for and promotes, which is why the decision was taken to end our working relationship with immediate effect,” the club said in an announcement on its Web site. Said club president Alejandro Irarragorri: “This is a deeply hurtful decision, but we must be consistent with our values and responsibility as a model team. Ruben reacted negatively to pressure from the fans, and that's something we can't cover up.”
Fellow Argentine Diego Cocca, 38, was hired to replace Romano. Cocca, a former right back who counts Atlas, Veracruz and Gallos Blancos among the nearly dozen clubs for which he toiled, previously has managed three Argentine clubs, most recently La Plata's Gimnasia y Esgrima.
Acuņa, who is with Queretaro on loan from America, played 35 minutes in a 5-0 loss Feb. 12 to Toluca. He made his debut last April 10, playing five minutes for America in a victory over Jaguares.
SINCE 5-0: The most alarming result of the Clausura occurred in week one, when Atlas, the worst team in the fall Apertura, throttled a decent (or so we thought) Morelia side, 5-0. After three games, Atlas had matched its fall win total and sat atop the overall table.
Jonathan Bornstein has brought UANL Tigres some needed luck. Give Danilinho and Hector Mancilla some credit, too.
The club from suburban Monterrey, known more for its disappointments than its triumphs, are atop the Primera Division's Clausura standings after Danilinho set up one goal and scored another in a 2-0 victory Saturday over visiting Cruz Azul.
Up next: Clasico Regiomontano rival Monterrey, which won the Apertura crown in December and has prevailed in three of its last four games.
Bornstein, who joined Tigres after five seasons with Chivas USA, made his fourth start (going 45 minutes) for UANL (4-1-1), which is 4-0-0 with the UCLA/Los Alamitos High School product in the lineup and winless when he's left on the bench.
Danilinho, a Brazilian midfielder who arrived from Jaguares, and Mancilla, a Chilean forward acquired from Toluca, have been huge additions, and their partnership proved too much for Cruz Azul (3-2-1), which fell from third to fifth overall with the loss.
Mancilla scored the first goal, a one-touch finish in the 69th minute after Danilinho burst past two defenders to the right byline and sent in a cross. The Brazilian added the second deep into stoppage, setting up his shot with a superb first touch.
Monterrey (3-3-0, in ninth overall) also won, routing Jaguares, 4-1, as Chilean World Cup star Humberto Suazo had a hat trick -- giving him 19 goals for the fall/spring campaign -- and Dario Carreņo set up two goals, one my Aldo de Nigris.
FALL FROM FIRST: Pumas UNAM's time atop the overall standings was short. The Mexico City club dropped to third overall after an error by goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios and missed penalty kick by former Chivas USA forward Francisco Palencia allowed Guadalajara to escape with a 1-1 draw.
America has righted things in a hurry, reeling off two more wins in the past week to leap into the overall top five and all but push the horrid-by-club-standards 0-2-1 start out of mind.Matias Vuoso scored three goals as the Aguilas (3-2-1) routed San Luis, 3-0, and dominated Gallos Blancos de Queretaro, 3-1, to push Chilean coach Carlos Reinoso's mark to 3-0 in his third stint in charge of the Mexico City giant.
"We've gotten good results, but we've been at this just 10 days," Reinoso told media as America began preparations for Friday's match at last-place Necaxa. "Suddenly, people are asking us to be more offensive ... but we're improving little by little, and what makes me happy is that the players have received [my] message."
The Aguilas dismissed Manuel Lapuente in a panic after sandwiching home losses to Pachuca and UANL Tigres around a draw with Jaguares, but the move worked as well as hoped. America responded to the firing with a 2-0 victory over previously perfect Atlas on Jan. 29, and it was more impressive in Wednesday's win over San Luis, a forward makeup -- the match was initially scheduled for April 13.
Vuoso converted two penalty kicks against San Luis and scored the second goal, just before halftime, against Gallos Blancos. Sunday's win wasn't assured until Aquivaldo Mosquera's 86th-minute goal.
"We went back to basics," Vuoso, who has five Clausura goals and 15 for the fall/spring season, explained to the Mexican media. "[Lapuente] had nothing to do with [the poor start] -- it was us, the players. We had forgotten the basics, forgotten to play as before, as we usually do. ... It was the fault of the players, not the fault of other people."
IN MONTERREY: Los Alamitos' Jonathan Bornstein, making his third start of the season for Group 1 leader UANL Tigres (3-1-1), set up Hector Mancilla's eighth-minute opener in a 2-0 victory at Santos Laguna. The home side was without top scorer Christian Benitez, who has an ankle injury.
Tigres' crosstown rival Monterrey (2-3-0) also posted a 2-0 victory, over Pachuca on Aldo de Nigris and Neri Cardozo goals, to vault to 11th in the overall standings. The Rayados have shutouts in four of their past five home games. Pachuca turned to former Galaxy forward Herculez Gomez and fellow U.S. World Cup pick Jose Francisco Torres, giving each his first Clausura start, but the Tuzos (1-2-2) fell to the bottom of Group 2 after failing to score for the third time in four games.
Atlas, the worst team in the fall, opened the second half of the Mexican Primera Division season with a stunning romp that underscores coach Benjamin Galindo's savvy eye for talent.
The Guadalajara-based club, which made several major additions to its roster during the winter break, opened the spring Clausura on Saturday with a 5-0 domination of visiting Morelia.
Gerardo Espinoza matched his Apertura goals total, scoring twice, to lead the Zorros. Former Chicago Fire defender Wilman Conde scored in his Mexican League debut, and 19-year-old Christian Diaz (in his first top-tier game in more than a year) and Daniel Osorno (with his first of the season) also tallied.
“I congratulated the guys in the locker room because [there was] not a single player who did not have a good performance. It speaks well of the commitment that exists with the team,” Galindo told reporters afterward.
“It's a good win which gives us confidence, but that's all. What we have to do is keep working with the same commitment that we had during the preseason.”
Atlas went through three coaches in a 3-10-4 fall campaign, but Galindo, a former Mexican national-teamer, went shopping in four countries to strengthen the club. Conde, Brazilian midfielder Lucio Flavio (from Botafogo) and midfielder Lucas Ayala (from UANL Tigres) contributed to the win Saturday.
BIG BOYS BEATEN: America got robbed. Monterrey got jobbed.
America, a sure title contender, saw two perfectly good goals erased on mistaken offside calls in a 2-0 home loss to Pachuca, which got goals midway through each half by Yulian Anchico and then Edgar Benitez.
Monterrey, which last month won the Apertura title, was outclassed at home by San Luis, also 2-0 -- with the Gladiadores' first goal, by Osmar Mares in the 71st minute, clearly offside. Juan Carlos Medina's sweet chip in stoppage, with the Rayados down a man, doubled the advantage.
Club America's title hopes might have disappeared on a piece of magic by Christian Benitez -- and black magic from referee Jaime Herrera.
The fourth-seeded Aguilas failed to get two penalty calls, then gave up a goal at the finish, absorbing a 2-1 defeat Thursday to visiting Santos Laguna in a semifinal first leg in Mexico's Primera Division playoffs.
Second-seeded Monterrey's defensive stance was rewarded with a 0-0 draw at Pumas UNAM in the other Mexico City encounter, and the Rayados will need no more than a tie in Sunday's home leg to advance to the championship series. Higher seeds move on if the aggregate score is even.
America will need a two-goal victory in Torreon after Benitez broke a tie in the 89th minute, beating three defenders and then firing home a cross-box shot, his league-best 15th goal of the campaign. Carlos Quintero gave No. 3 seed Santos a 10th-minute lead, and Angel Reyna pulled the Aguilas even in the 19th.
"The result serves us," Benitez told Televisa, the giant TV network that owns America. "Now we play at home. We have an advantage, and we must seize it."
That advantage was built largely on Herrera's inadequacies. He allowed play to continue after Felipe Baloy took down America forward Matias Vuoso in the Santos box, then allowed Fernando Arce to get away with hitting Vicente Sanchez in the face, also in the box.
Monterrey kept nine men (plus goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco) behind the ball for most of its match against No. 8 seed Pumas, which stunned top-seeded Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals. Neri Cardozo nearly gave the Rayados a lead in the 21st minute, but his shot struck the left post.
LIGA DE ASCENSO: Club Tijuana and Irapuato moved closer to the title showdown in Mexico's second-tier division.
The Xoloitzcuintles notched their 11th shutout in 18 games in a scoreless draw at Albinegros de Orizaba, hardly a surprising result. Tijuana has surrendered just seven goals during the Apertura, and Albinegros has posted five successive clean sheets, extending its shutout streak to 535 minutes.
Tijuana, which needs only a draw in Sunday afternoon's second leg at Estadio Caliente, has a decided advantage at home. The Xolos are 7-0-2 in T.J., conceding just twice.
Irapuato dominated Veracruz in its home leg, using goals by Ariel Gonzalez in the sixth minute and Jose Luis Lopez in the 60th for a 2-0 victory. Cuauhtemoc Blanco nearly made it 3-0, but his 43rd-minute header from Arturo Alvarado's cross crashed off the crossbar.
- PRIMERA DIVISION
SEMIFINALS, FIRST LEG
America 1 (A. Reyna 19), Santos Laguna 2 (Quintero 10, C. Benitez 89)
Pumas UNAM 0, Monterrey 0
America at Santos Laguna, 4 p.m.
Pumas UNAM at Monterrey, 6 p.m.
- LIGA DE ASCENSO
SEMIFINALS, FIRST LEG
Albinegros de Orizaba 0, Club Tijuana 0
Irapuato 2 (A. Gonzalez 6, J. Lopez 60), Veracruz 0
Albinegros de Orizaba at Club Tijuana, 1 p.m.
Irapuato at Veracruz, 5 p.m.