Puebla v Pumas: A tale of two Liga MX defenses

Uruguayan goalkeeper Nicolás Vikonis has been a monster between the pipes for Puebla, while UNAM’s Alfredo Saldívar has fallen on hard times.

Last season, only two Liga MX teams gave up more goals than Puebla (31 goals allowed in 18 games) and the club finished second-to-last. Through 10 games of the Clausura 2020, however, the Camoteros turned that stat upside down.

Led by goalie Nicolás Vikonis, Puebla has conceded just 7 goals in 10 games, 3 goals fewer than the Tigres, the team with the second-best defence.

From Matchday 7 through Matchday 10, La Franja shut out Toluca, Tijuana, the Tigres (a scoreless draw) and Atlético San Luis. Thanks to the stingy defence, coach Juan Reynoso has his team in playoff contention, but its sputtering offence could be its downfall.

Keeper Vikonis and his mates can brag about five clean sheets in all (tied for most in Liga MX with América and Guillermo Ochoa), but the offence has failed to score in exactly five games as well. Still, the Camoteros went 3-1-1 in their past five games with a 4-1 goal differential.

Back-liners (left to right) Salvador Reyes, Daniel Arreola, Maximiliano Perg and Jesús Paganoni have been solid in front of Vikonis who has made 41 saves through 10 matches with an 85.4% save rate.

If the Clausura season resumes, Puebla and Vikonis will be put to the test as four of their seven remaining games are against top-scoring teams – Cruz Azul (24 goals), León (23), UNAM (20) and FC Juárez (20).

On the other side of the Liga MX coin

Through five weeks, the Pumas were tied with Puebla for fewest goals allowed in Liga MX (6 goals), but since then UNAM’s defence has collapsed. UNAM has conceded 13 goals in its past five games.

Coach Miguel González was able to overlook the shaky defensive effort in Matchday 6 after Juan Ignacio Dinenno scored twice in the second half to give the Pumas a 3-2 road win at Toluca. But the universitarios have not won since and have fallen from first place into fourth.

The host Pumas lost a heartbreaker to Morelia in Matchday 7, giving up the winning goal in minute 90+1. And this after taking a lead in minute 6 and holding a 1-0 lead at the half. Just 2 minutes after the restart, though, keeper Alfredo Saldívar gave up a soft goal, allowing a Rodrigo Millar shot to go through his hands and under the crossbar.

Since that 2-1 loss, UNAM has given up exactly 3 goals in each game: a 3-0 loss at Tigres; a 3-3 home draw vs América and a 3-1 loss at León. Saldivar gave up a bad penalty against the Tigres and then made a horrific mistake against the Aguilas that put the visitors up 2-1.

Next: Liga MX weighs options

The Pumas are now the worst defence in Liga MX, conceding 19 goals through 10 games. Unfortunately, coach González will likely have to hope that “Pollo” Saldívar can regain his confidence because his back-up is untested 21-year-old Rodrigo Cerecedo.