This week, one of Mexico’s biggest sides continued to struggle, while two other giants flexed their muscles.
Chivas in free fall
Last season, Chivas finished a lowly 17th, and are in the exact same position in the table after four matches of the Apertura 2018. After a 2-1 loss at home to Santos Laguna in round 4, Mexico’s best supported club have collected only one point so far in the league.
Goal scoring has been a long-term issue for Guadalajara. Chivas were 16th in goals scored in the Clausura 2018, with 14 in 17 games. Although the Goats often create chances going forward, they are profligate in front of goal.
Look at the records of their main strikers, and their trouble in front of goal makes sense. Alan Pulido has 20 goals in 69 matches for Chivas, while academy product Ángel Zaldívar has struck 17 times in 81 matches.
Due in part to their struggles in front of goal, Chivas have been miserable at home in recent seasons. Their last home win was back in October 2017 against Tijuana. Over 10 home matches in 2018, Chivas are averaging 0.5 goals a game. If they cannot improve their home form, Chivas have no chance of qualifying for this season’s Liguilla.
Cruz Azul underline title credentials
Even though they are one of Mexico’s biggest clubs, Cruz Azul have not won a league title since the Winter 1997 tournament. Since then, la Máquina have become famous for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
The most notable example came in the second leg of the Clausura 2013 final against archival América, when they conceded two goals after the 89th minute to bring the match to extra time before losing on penalties. Such failures have led to the creation of the verb “cruzazulear” (literally, to Cruz Azul) to describe someone choking under pressure.
However, Cruz Azul’s 1-1 draw with Tijuana this weekend reaffirmed that this season’s team has the potential to put those demons to rest. Even though star centreback Pablo Aguilar was sent off in the 22nd minute, Cruz Azul outshot their hosts 16-14. Playing on the artificial surface of Tijuana’s Estadio Caliente, Cruz Azul’s performance suggests that they have the mental fortitude necessary to seriously challenge for the Apertura 2018 title.
América too strong for Monterrey
The marquee match of the weekend saw hosts América blow away a previously undefeated Monterrey side 3-0. On a deplorable pitch at the Estadio Azteca, forward Roger Martínez scored his second goal in four league matches since joining from Villarreal, capitalizing on an error in possession from Jonathan Urretaviscaya. The visitors went down to 10 men midway through the first half, after John Stefan Medina was sent off for a studs up challenge on Guido Rodríguez. Although Monterrey looked more dangerous going forward after Medina’s expulsion, the game was over as a contest after Bruno Valdez headed home from a corner in the 50th minute.
The win sees América leap above Monterrey into third place, with nine points from four matches. Las Águilas have now won their last three league matches, scoring nine goals and conceding only one in the process. The Mexico City based side now face away trips to Querétaro and León before they host Pumas in the Clásico Capitalino.
Monterrey, on the other hand, will be concerned by the lack of chances they created. Big-name players Dorlan Pabón and Rogelio Funes Mori started on the bench, with wide forward Áviles Hurtado played as a lone front man. Although they were down to 10 men for two-thirds of the match, Rayados only mustered 5 shots, with Hurtado missing their best chance late in the first half. New coach Diego Alonso is likely to turn to natural center-forward Funes Mori from the start in future matches.