Los Angeles Soccer: Victor Manuel Vucetich
It's taken just two weeks to turn things upside down in Mexico's Primera Division.
Atop the Clausura standings following wins lopsided (5-0 over Morelia) and tight (2-1 over Gallos Blancos) is Atlas, which won only three games en route to an 18th-place finish (among 18 clubs) in the fall Apertura.
At the bottom, in 18th: Apertura champion Monterrey.
Atlas is 2-0-0 after Alfredo Moreno, at the top of the box, redirected Edgar Pacheco's 82nd-minute blast Saturday to beat Gallos Blancos, 2-1.
"I think keeping our feet on the ground is something that has to work every day ...," Galindo told Mexican sports daily Esto. "These two games have been satisfying, but we must continue. There are many details to improve, and we can't rest."
Also 2-0-0 is San Luis, which routed Puebla, 3-0, behind two Wilmer Aguirre goals. Atlas plays at Necaxa on Friday, and San Luis is home Saturday against Guadalajara.
Monterrey, outclassed by San Luis in its opener (and missing manager Victor Manuel Vucetich, suspended three games after his ejection in that opener), was overrun by Estudiantes Tecos. Mauro Cejas scored twice and Ramon Morales set up two in Tecos' 3-2 victory. Sergio Santana scored both Monterrey goals, his first since Aug. 14.
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.
Monterrey needed every bit of its home-field advantage to claim its fourth Mexican Primera Division championship Sunday. The big winners: Chilean forward Humberto Suazo and coach Victor Manuel Vucetich.
Suazo netted his 14th and 15th goals of the Apertura as the Rayados romped, 3-0, past Santos Laguna in the second leg of the final. Vucetich won his 10th trophy and his fifth title in the top-tier league.
Monterrey, which also won the fall Apertura last year, posted a 5-3 aggregate triumph, rallying after Santos pulled out a 3-2 victory at home in Thursday's first leg on a late Duilio Davino own goal.
“Monterrey is a great club” Vucetich, who sandwiched last January's InterLiga title at Home Depot Center and the best regular-season record in last spring's “Bicentenario” Clausura tournament between the Apertura titles, declared to the Mexican media afterward. “It is an institution that in the last 10 years has countless achievements.”
Club Tijuana also won a trophy Sunday, claiming the second-tier Liga de Ascenso title with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Veracruz.
No problem for the Rayados, who dictated play most of the way and claimed a 1-1 draw at Pachuca -- almost as good as a victory -- in their quarterfinal opener Thursday in Mexico's Primera Division.
Santos Laguna also came away with a 1-1 tie on the road at Chiapas-based Jaguares, which provides a significant advantage in Sunday's second legs. The higher seeds advance to the semifinals if the aggregate score is even.
Monterrey, the No. 2 seed, went ahead in the 56th minute, with Jose Maria Basanta finishing Neri Cardozo's corner kick. It settled for a draw when Faustino Arizala fired into the top-right corner 11 minutes later.