Los Angeles Soccer: Primera Division

MEXICO: Whither Michael Orozco? Who knows

March, 8, 2011

Michael Orozco Fiscal's status remains uncertain after his odd departure from Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union, with the defender from Orange apparently back with San Luis.

The Mexican club hasn't placed Orozco on the roster on its website, but Union coach Peter Nowak said in a news conference last week that Orozco had returned to Mexico.

It was a strange announcement by the second-year MLS club's coach. Orozco (Magnolia HS in Anaheim) arrived in Philadelphia on loan last season, started 29 of 30 games, was No. 2 on the team in minutes played, and was instrumental in tightening the Union backline after moving to the middle for the final eight matches.

Orozco was in camp with the Union and played in preseason matches during the team's camp in Orlando, Fla., and assistant coach John Hackworth had reported that the club was on the verge of a new agreement to keep him with the team in 2011.

The MLS' roster-compliance date arrived, and Orozco was gone. No word, no nothing, until Nowak -- a former Polish national-teamer, Chicago Fire icon, title-winning D.C. United coach and 2008 Olympic team manager -- finally admitted the defender had left the team.

“Why do we need to announce it? End of story, he's back in Mexico,” Nowak said. “Simply, his loan was up, and it seemed like this stuff was already done. There is no need to explain anything about Michael Orozco Fiscal.”

Orozco, who last year began using Fiscal as part of his name (in the Latin fashion) to honor his mother, hadn't been part of the team since Jan. 1, but he also hasn't been with San Luis, which is sixth overall in the Primera Division Clausura standings with a 3-2-5 mark and at the bottom of its Copa Libertadores group at 0-2-1. No indication he will be any time soon.

BIG SCORE, BIG GAME: Morelia's electric form took it roaring past host Toluca, 6-1, in one of the more stunning scorelines of the season, boosting the Monarcas to second overall (and in Group 3) with their fourth successive victory and extending their unbeaten streak to eight games since that 5-0 loss to Atlas in the Clausura opener.

Rafael Marquez Lugo netted a second-half hat trick for Morelia (5-1-3), which has a showdown this week at home against Pumas UNAM (6-0-3), the overall leader. Marquez Lugo is the top Clausura scorer with six goals.

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MEXICO: Monterrey holds off Pachuca, is favorite

November, 22, 2010

Monterrey assumed the role as favorite in Mexico's Primera Division playoffs after holding off visiting Pachuca on Sunday in a wild quarterfinal second leg.

Humberto Suazo, Aldo de Nigris and Neri Cardozo scored goals, and the second-seeded Rayados settled for a 3-3 draw -- leaving aggregate at 4-4. Monterrey advanced as the higher seed to a semifinal showdown with Pumas UNAM.

Santos Laguna also reached the final four, outlasting Jaguares, 1-0, for a 2-1 aggregate triumph. The No. 3 seed was set for a series with America before Juan Pablo Rodriguez's penalty kick deep into second-half stoppage.

Monterrey, which is the highest remaining seed after No. 1 Cruz Azul's defeat Saturday against Pumas, won the Apertura title last fall and posted the best record in the spring Clausura earlier this year. Pachuca pulled the first round upset in May, twice beating the Rayados to reach the semifinals.

The Tuzos appeared finished after Monterrey jumped to a 3-1 lead after 57 minutes, but Faustino Arizala, who scored their goal in Thursday's 1-1 draw in Pachuca, finished off a headed hat trick with goals in the 84th and 89th minutes. Monterrey held on for four minutes of stoppage to advance.

Former Galaxy star Herculez Gomez set up the third of Arizala's goals.

Gomez, who joined Pachuca over the summer after scoring 10 goals last spring for Puebla, has been targeted by UANL Tigres, Spanish-language Web site Medio Tiempo reported. Club vice president Andres Fassi said he would be in contact with the Monterrey-area club about the Los Angeles-born forward, who is slated to play for the Tuzos in next month's FIFA Club World Cup in Dubai. Jonathan Bornstein (Los Alamitos/Los Alamitos HS and UCLA) will join Tigres from Chivas USA in January.

LIGA DE ASCENSO: The last of the higher seeds in action during the second-tier Liga de Ascenso quarterfinals is out. Veracruz rode an early goal by Guillermo Rojas to oust fourth-seeded Lobos BUAP, a 1-0 road victory Sunday providing a 2-1 aggregate triumph.

Second-seeded Indios de Ciudad Juarez and third-seeded Alacranes de Durango were eliminated Saturday. Top seed Club Tijuana received a bye into the semifinals and will begin its playoff trek Wednesday at Albinegros de Orizaba. The home leg is tentative scheduled for Saturday at Estadio Caliente.

Monterrey 3 (Suazo 19, de Nigris 37, Cardozo 57), Pachuca 3 (Arizala 26, 84, 89)
Santos Laguna 1 (J. Rodriguez pen. 95+), Jaguares de Chiapas 0

Santos Laguna at America, 5 p.m.

Monterrey at Pumas UNAM, 7 p.m.

America at Santos Laguna, 4 p.m.

Pumas UNAM at Monterrey, 2 p.m.

Lobos BUAP 0, Veracruz 1 (G. Rojas 12)

Club Tijuana at Albinegros de Orizaba, time TBA

Veracruz at Irapuato, time TBA

Albinegros de Orizaba at Club Tijuana, time TBA

Irapuato at Veracruz, time TBA

MEXICO: Pumas ousts Tigres for final berth

November, 16, 2010

Pachuca's in, Toluca and Guadalajara are out, and Pumas UNAM scored a big victory to claim the final berth in the Mexican Primera Division's playoffs.

Pachuca, with three Americans, struck early to beat Necaxa, 2-1, on Friday night, then waited 24 hours -- through five games -- to celebrate, clinching a top-eight spot when Atlas rallied to tie UANL Tigres on Saturday night.

It was a wild final regular-season weekend in the Apertura, featuring four late comebacks -- two of them playing decisive roles in the playoff race -- and Guadalajara's finest moment of the campaign, which was far too little for one of Mexico's two most popular clubs.

A quick rundown:

WHO'S IN: Jaguares (6-4-7), Pachuca (7-6-4) and Pumas (7-6-4) won the three available berths, all finishing one point ahead of Tigres (6-5-6), which saw its playoff hopes die on two penalty kicks.

Jaguares clinched with a 1-1 draw at Gallos Blancos, with Jorge Rodriguez's 81st minute equalizer providing the Chiapas club the required goal. Queretaro had gone ahead just two minutes earlier on a tremendous Sergio Oreteman drive to the upper-left corner.

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MEXICO: America makes its move; so does Toluca

November, 9, 2010

America is peaking at the best possible time. Toluca is crumbling when it counts. The impact on the Mexican Primera Division's Apertura campaign is massive.

The Aguilas clinched a berth in the eight-team playoff Liguilla with a 1-0 victory at Atlante, courtesy of Matias Vuoso's eighth goal of the season, and head into their final regular-season outing -- against Mexico City rival Pumas UNAM -- with three-game winning and six-game unbeaten streaks.

They've pulled through last month's attacking drought, in which they were shut out by first-place Cruz Azul, second-place Monterrey and archrival Guadalajara, scoring seven times in their past three games -- and that should be eight.

Pavel Pardo converted a stoppage-time penalty kick against Atlante, but referee Paul Delgadillo ordered a retake for encroachment, and Potros goalkeeper Moises Muñoz saved Pardo's second attempt.

America, which is atop Group 2 and fourth overall, behind Santos Laguna on goal difference (plus-8 to plus-7), appears to have shored up its defensive problems, and the relationship among Vuoso, playmaker Daniel Montenegro and former Toluca star Vicente Sanchez has solidified just when it most matters.

“We're there, and we were able to get there,” America coach Manuel Lapuente said after Saturday night's victory, according to Reforma. “We're playing well … we've finished the league well, although we have a game against Pumas to play, and we cannot lose at home. We're going to put a lot of effort into that game. This isn't over until it's over, and we're going to fight to climb one spot higher.”

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