Liga MX table fluid as Matchday 4 trundles along

Santiago Muñoz of Santos celebrates his game-tying goal against América on Feb. 1. It was the first career goal for the 18-year-old. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images)
Santiago Muñoz of Santos celebrates his game-tying goal against América on Feb. 1. It was the first career goal for the 18-year-old. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images) /

Santos and Tijuana climbed atop the Liga MX table but they might just be keeping the spot warm for Monterrey who still has two games in hand.

Toluca fell from first to third place after losing to the Xolos by a 3-2 scoreline Saturday and could tumble farther if the Rayados – currently in seventh – win on Tuesday. Monterrey will not have played in 17 days when they take the field vs. Puebla as they were hit by a massive Covid outbreak nearly three weeks ago.

The Tigres slot in at No. 4 but will miss the next two weeks as they’ve flown off to Qatar to participate in the FIFA Club World Cup. Their first match is Thursday against South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai.

América sits in fifth after their hard-fought 1-1 draw at Santos on Sunday night.

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At the other end of the standings, Atlas still has not scored in the Guardianes 2021 but at least they didn’t lose Sunday. The Zorros played the Pumas to a scoreless draw to earn their first point of the season, but that might not be enough to save coach Diego Cocca’s job.

The bumbling Guadalajara-based club is on a 9-game winless streak after closing the Guardianes 2020 on a 0-1-4 streak. Reports leaked heading into the weekend that the Atlas front office had already been in touch with former América coach Miguel Herrera and “Chepo” de la Torre.

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The Zorros can take a tiny bit of solace from the fact that their hated crosstown rivals – the Chivas – are also slumming in their neighborhood down in the cellar. “El Rebaño” Sagrado is also winless through 4 games after losing at home to FC Juárez on Saturday night.

The Chivas came into the new Liga MX season targeting a Top 4 finish, but have lost two straight after opening with two draws. What’s worse is the setbacks came against the teams that are 16th (FC Juárez) and 17th (Atlético de San Luis) in the relegation standings. Atlas is in 18th.

The 2-1 win at Estadio Akron was sweet revenge for Juárez coach Luis Fernando Tena who was sacked by the Chivas last August after a winless start to the Guardianes 2020. Wasn’t it just a few days ago that Guadalajara defender Antonio “Pollo” Briseño declared that the Chivas were not in crisis mode? I wonder if Ricardo Peláez has texted Diego Alonso yet?

Cementeros rediscover winning ways

Cruz Azul collapsed spectacularly in the semifinals last season and looked completely lost while opening the Guardianes 2021 with two shut-out losses. The situation was complicated by an act of rebellion by striker Jonathan Rodríguez who was fined and suspended, missing the Matchday 3 win at Pachuca (an uninspiring 1-0 triumph).

“Cabecita” earned a measure of redemption Saturday in the Cementeros’ 4-1 win over visiting Querétaro. The reigning Liga MX scoring champion etched his name in the box score with a goal and two assists, and both were of the A+ variety. His goal was a nifty volley on the dead run just before halftime, countering the Gallos Blancos goal that had cut the gap to 2-1 just 2 minutes earlier. His second helper came off a splendid “tres dedos” cross to the far post that Elías Hernández redirected into the back of the net with ease.

Left back Adrián Aldrete contributed a goal (a thumping volley off a corner kick from Roberto Alvarado) and an assist (the long pass from the left flank that “Cabecita” converted to make it 3-1 heading into the break).

The 2-game win streak has boosted “La Máquina Celeste” from 17th place to 8th, and eased the pressure on new coach Juan Reynoso.

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América winger Andrés Ibargüen had not made an appearance this season but he traveled with the team to Torreón for the Aguilas’ contest against Santos. The Colombian did not appear on the bench, however, and he did not travel back with the team to Mexico City.

That’s because Ibargüen was acquired by Santos where is will likely be given the chance to replace playmaker Diego Valdés who is out at least 6 weeks after fracturing a toe in practice, an injury that will require surgery.

Back in Mexico City, the struggling Pumas made a move to add an attacker to their anemic offense. UNAM acquired Panamanian striker Gabriel Torres on loan from Ecuador’s Independiente del Valle.

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The 32-year-old striker will be asked to step in quickly to make up for the loss of leading scorer Juan Ignacio Dinenno, out at least three more weeks with a thigh injury. Coach Andrés Lillini had been forced to rely on academy players the past two games, both shut-out losses.