This week, a Liga MX great grabbed the headlines, while two teams at the bottom continued to struggle.
Boselli A Liga MX Legend
With a clinical double on Wednesday night to down América 2-0, Léon forward Mauro Boselli reaffirmed his status as one of the deadliest forwards to ever play in Liga MX. Although he is best known on European shores for an unsuccessful spell at Wigan Athletic, Boselli has struck 101 times for la Fiera since joining before the Apertura 2013. Furthermore, Boselli needed only 174 matches to break the 100-goal barrier, making him the second quickest player to reach the mark in Liga MX history.
Boselli’s first goal highlighted his deadly finishing ability in and around the penalty box. After right-back Fernando Navarro drove in an outswinging ball, Boselli rose between América center-backs Edson Álvarez and Bruno Valdez, hanging in the air to head home. The Argentinian marksman made no mistake when he stepped up to take a penalty kick in the second half, sending goalkeeper Agustín Marchesín the wrong way with a powerful strike. Boselli’s double represented his 11th and 12th goals against América in 13 matches, making him the top scorer against las Águilas in the last 10 years.
Although Boselli’s goal-scoring exploits have seen him named in the Liga MX team of the season twice (Apertura 2015 and Apertura 2017), his reserved personality and presence on a mid-level side in León means that he has not gotten the attention he deserves. Given the goal-scoring struggles of main forward Oribe Peralta, América could certainly do with a player like Boselli.
Atlas and Veracruz Highlight Need For Relegation
This past March, Liga MX officials announced a plan to abolish relegation from the Mexican top flight for the following two seasons. The proposal aimed to increase the number of Liga MX teams from 18 to 20 by the start of the 2020-21 season. During this time, second-division clubs could improve their infrastructure in order to comply with Liga MX standards. As a result, there would be no repeat of the end of the 2017-18 season, when Ascenso MX (Mexican Second Division) winners Cafetaleros de Tapachula were not promoted because of infrastructural deficiencies.
Though the league’s attempt to upgrade the infrastructure of second division clubs is admirable, the eradication of relegation from the Liga MX has made the top division less competitive. Namely, clubs near the bottom of the division know that their spot in Liga MX is assured regardless of their performance. The two clubs that have embodied this attitude in the Apertura 2018 are cellar-dwellers Veracruz (17th) and Atlas (18th).
After finishing 15th in the Clausura 2018, Atlas sold numerous key players, including star centre-forward Milton Caraglio. Without the contributions of the Argentinian marksman, los Zorros have been terrible in front of goal. Atlas have yet to score after six league matches. Yet, they are tied for 3rd in the league in shots with 101.
Another issue for Atlas has been the relative inexperience of their squad. The Guadalajara-based club were the first team in the league to satisfy the 20/11 rule, doing so after only three matches. Furthermore, their coach, Gerardo Espinoza, is in his first professional head-coaching job, having previously served as assistant coach at Atlas under José Guadalupe Cruz and Rubén Omar Romano.
Huge problems have also arisen at Verarcuz. On August 14th, the club accepted the resignation of head coach Guillermo Vázquez, who saved the side from relegation last season. Vázquez reportedly resigned over unpaid salaries owed to him and his coach staff going back three months. Chilean Juvenal Olmos, who has not had a head coaching job since 2007, has since taken over for Vázquez. Yet, Olmos has so far been unable to debut on the Tiburones Rojos bench, as he needs to get his coaching license certified in Mexico.
What To Watch Out For: Crucial Clásico Capitalino
The stand out match of round 7 will take place at the Estadio Azteca, with América taking on Pumas in another edition of the Clásico Capitalino. The 2nd (América) and 3rd (Pumas) best-supported clubs in Mexico come into this match in poor form. After victories in their first three matches, Pumas are winless in their last three. América have failed to win in their last two matches, and are coming into this clásico off the back of an insipid performance in a 2-0 loss at León.
Even though there is intense pressure on both sides heading into this match, América should feel confident based on their recent history against their city rivals. Las Águilas have not lost to Pumas since the first leg of the Apertura 2015 semifinal. Furthermore, América coach Miguel Herrera has won 10 of 11 games against Pumas as coach of los Azulcremas.
Injuries could have a considerable influence on the outcome of this match. Pumas face the possibility of missing four of their starters, with Pablo Barrera, Alejandro Arribas, Luis Quintana and Carlos González all in doubt. Although Pumas bought well in the summer following the sale of forward Nico Castillo to Benfica, the squad still lacks depth, which means the potential absences of multiple starters would be acutely felt. On the other hand, América have been able to field a settled squad in recent weeks, and have quality on the bench in the shape of Renato Ibarra and Cecilio Domínguez to turn the match in their favor. Pumas should be competitive, but look for América to come out on top.