Liga MX schedule muddled by Covid outbreak

Monterrey moved into first place after defeating América 1-0 on Saturday night.. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Monterrey moved into first place after defeating América 1-0 on Saturday night.. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

Liga MX Matchday 3 kicked off with a Thursday Night Fútbol special but it appeared as if Guadalajara didn’t get the memo.

Atlético de San Luis took advantage of the listless Chivas, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first half hour and cruising to a 3-1 victory, the first of the season for the Tuneros.

Guadalajara is winless after three weeks for the second season in a row, slumping to 0-2-1, its goal of claiming a top 4 seed looking improbable.

The Chivas played the first half as if they expected the Tuneros to be intimidated by the uniform. Coach Víctor Manuel Vucetich looked less like “King Midas” and more like an old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn.

Coronavirus flare-up tests Liga MX schedulers

League-leading Monterrey saw its next two games postponed after 19 members of their organization tested positive for Covid-19 right after their Matchday 2 against América. Three Rayados were placed in quarantine before the Saturday night contest but contact tracing was not carried out (Liga MX rules do not mandate it).

Eleven Monterrey players and eight members of the Rayados staff tested positive, raising concern that “infected” players and staff had taken part in the Matchday 2 game. The Aguilas were infuriated (América had already played a friendly against Liga de Expansión MX club Atlante, potentially infecting the Potros).

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Sure enough, on Wednesday the Aguilas reported that goalie Memo Ochoa and midfielders Richard Sánchez and Nicolás Benedetti had come down with the virus.

Liga MX officials rescheduled Monterrey’s next two matches (the Matchday 3 game vs León is now set for March 10, the Matchday 4 game at Puebla will be played on Feb. 2). América’s Matchday 3 meeting with FC Juárez was postponed until Feb. 3.

Liga MX president Mikel Arriola issued a statement urging all clubs to redouble their virus protocols, while tests will be carried out every 10 days now, instead of every 15 days.

Another casualty of the Monterrey-América match is ref Jorge Antonio Pérez Durán, but his “suspension” is not health-related.

Pérez Durán was not given a Matchday 3 assignment after the Referees Committee determined his penalty against América was incorrect. The call resulted in the lone goal of the match as Rogelio Funes Mori connected from the penalty spot to give the Rayados a 1-0 victory.

All that drama aside, Monday’s Pachuca-Cruz Azul match could be the most significant game of the weekend.

The Cementeros have looked hopeless in their past four games (4-0 rout in the Liga MX semifinals; 2-1 loss to LAFC in the Concacaf Champions League and two shutout losses to start the Guardianes 2021) and are frantically trying to find a pulse.

Star striker Jonathan Rodríguez will not be with the team in Pachuca as the front office weighs disciplinary measures after last season’s scoring leader violated team rules by sneaking out of the team hotel to attend a part the night before last week’s game against Puebla.

Cruz Azul looks so fragile right now that another loss could condemn the club to a season in the cellar. Coach Juan Reynoso must find a way to light a spark under his team – and soon – or the playoffs will be a pipe dream even with 13 games remaining.

This could be a perfect opportunity for youngster Santi Giménez to stake his claim as the Cementeros’ long-term striker.

Meanwhile, Pachuca has title aspirations but has looked unsure of its identity while settling for two draws to open the Guardianes 2021. The Tuzos have yet to look comfortable with new target man Mauro Quiroga and coach Paulo Pezzolano must settle upon linemates quickly so as to build camaraderie up front.

With Felipe Pardo, Ismael Sosa, Romario Ibarra and Roberto de la Rosa as options, there’s little excuse for a continued scoring blackout.

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Look for this game to be played with a sense of desperation.