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.
“We weren’t at our best,” Monterrey coach Victor Manuel Vucetich told reporters. “I think we didn’t carry through moves we usually do. We’ve started with a defeat we don’t like, but we also know we have a good enough team to do well.”
NO JOHNNY: Former Chivas USA star Jonathan Bornstein wasn't to be seen as Tigres rallied for a 2-2 draw with Gallos Blancos. Lucas Lobos led the comeback, setting up Danilinho's header in the 71st minute and scoring the equalizer seven minutes later. Carlos Bravo scored both Queretaro goals.
ETC.: Uruguayan midfielder Marcelo Palau scored in his Cruz Azul debut, a 4-1 rout of Estudiantes Tecos. … Christian Benitez's 17th goal of the season was the difference in Apertura runner-up Santos' 2-1 win over Atlante. … A most fortunate deflection -- with Omar Esparza's blast twisting off Edgar Lugo for a 25-yard own goal -- gave Guadalajara an eighth-minute lead, but Puebla rallied for a 1-1 draw, Chivas' ninth in their last 15 games. … Toluca forged a 1-1 tie with Pumas when a corner kick ricocheted off two defenders and onto Juan Carlos Cacho's path for the 81st-minute equalizer. … Damian Manso's brilliant strike in his Jaguares debut beat Necaxa, 1-0. … Former Chivas USA forwards Giancarlo Maldonado (Atlante) and Eduardo Lillingston (Estudiantes Tecos) started in losses.
LIGA DE ASCENSO: Irapuato was the big winner in week one, routing Dorados, 4-0, as Ariel Gonzalez and Gandhi Vega -- feasting on an attack created by Cuauhtemoc Blanco and winger Javier Saavedra -- netted two goals each. Red cards whittled the Sinaloans lineup to 10 men in the 12th minute and to nine in the 72nd. … Three matches were pushed back, including Apertura champion Club Tijuana's visit to Guadalajara to play Leones Negros, which go off Jan. 25. The Xolos are idle this week -- Guerreros FC's expulsion, over economic troubles, leaves the Liga with 17 clubs -- and won't play their home opener until Jan. 30, in the fourth round of the Clausura.
AMERICANS IN ACTION: Only Sacramento's Miguel Angel Ponce, at left back for Guadalajara, saw a full 90 minutes, and Edgar Castillo started in his Puebla debut and played the first half. Both were yellow-carded. … 2005 Galaxy team MVP Herculez Gomez came on in the second half of Pachuca's victory. Atlante's Sonny Guadarrama came off the bench, too.
Last week's games (home teams listed first)
Necaxa 0, Jaguares 1 (Manso 48)
Monterrey 0, San Luis 2 (Mares 73, J. Medina 93+)
Gallos Blancos 2 (C. Bueno 19, 56), UANL Tigres 2 (Danilinho 71, Lobos 78)
Cruz Azul 4 (E. Villa 6, C. Gimenez 15, Palau 37, G. Pineda pen. 86), Estidiantes Tecos 1 (Cejas pen. 18)
Santos Laguna 2 (Quintero 54, C. Benitez 72), Atlante 1 (F. Navarro 82)
Atlas 5 (G. Espinoza 27, 71, Conde 41, C. Diaz 59, D. Osorno 82), Morelia 0
Puebla 1 (F. Borja 55), Guadalajara 1 (og E. Lugo 9)
Toluca 1 (N. Calderon 37), Pumas UNAM 1 (Cacho 81)
America 0, Pachuca 2 (Anchico 25, E. Benitez 67)
Group 1: Santos 3, Tigres 1, Guadalajara 1, Necaxa 0, Monterrey 0, Estudiantes Tecos 0
Group 2: Atlas 3, Pachuca 3, San Luis 3, Toluca 1, Atlante 0, America 0
Group 3: Cruz Azul 3, Jaguares de Chiapas 3, Gallos Blancos de Queretaro 1, Puebla 1, Pumas 1, Morelia 0
Overall (top 8): 1. Atlas 3 (+5 goal difference), 2. Cruz Azul 3 (+3), 3. Pachuca and San Luis 3 (+2), 5. Santos 3 (+1), 6. Jaguares 3 (+1), 7. Gallos Blancos and Tigres 1 (-).
Relegation percentage: 1. Necaxa (18 games/16 points) 0.8889; 2. Gallos Blancos (52/59) 1.1346; 3. Atlante (86/99) 1.1512; 4. Atlas (86/101) 1.1744; 5. Estudiantes Tecos (86/104) 1.2093
This week's games (all times Pacific)
Monterrey at Estudiantes Tecos, 6:10 p.m.
America at Jaguares, 3 p.m.
Necaxa at Tigres, 5 p.m.
Toluca at Pachuca, 5 p.m.
Puebla at San Luis, 6:45 p.m.
Gallos Blancos at Atlas, 6:45 p.m.
Cruz Azul at Atlante, 7 p.m.
Santos at Pumas, 10 a.m.
Guadalajara at Morelia, 10 a.m.
Schedule subject to change
LIGA DE ASCENSO
Past week's results (home teams listed first)
Altamira 1 (E. Gonzalez 52), La Piedad 0
Club Tijuana at Leones Negros, ppd. to Jan. 25
Albinegros 0, Correcaminos 1 (O. Carrasco 91+)
Dorados 0, Irapuato 4 (U. Gonzalez 10, 78, G. Vega 29, 68)
Alacranes 0, Cruz Azul Hidalgo 1 (G. Velasco 75)
Leon 1 (B. Perez 33), Atlante Neza 1 (C. Neumann 44)
Veracruz at Lobos BUAP, ppd. to March 10
Pumas Morelos at Merida, ppd. to March 30
Idle: Indios de Ciudad Juarez
Standings: 1. Irapuato 3 points; 2. Altamira, UAT Correcaminos and Cruz Azul Hidalgo 3; 5. Atlante Neza and Leon 1; 7. Club Tijuana, Indios, U de G Leones Negros, Lobos BUAP, Merida. Pumas Morelos and Veracruz 0; 14. Altamira, Albinegros de Orizaba and Alacranes de Durango 0; 17. Dorados de Sinaloa 0
This week's games (all times Pacific)
Lobos BUAP at Correcaminos, 6:30 p.m.
Alacranes at Pumas Morelos, 2 p.m.
Merida at Irapuato, 5 p.m.
Leones Negros at Veracruz 5 p.m.
Altamira at Indios, 5 p.m.
Dorados at Atlante Neza, 10 a.m.
Albinegros at Cruz Azul Hidalgo, 10 a.m.
Leon at La Piedad, 2 p.m.
Idle: Club Tijuana
Schedule subject to change