Underachieving Pumas make last-gasp roster moves

Gabriel Torres never could figure out how to score for the Pumas and now he is out of a job. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)
Gabriel Torres never could figure out how to score for the Pumas and now he is out of a job. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) /
Pumas make moves
Not much has gone right for the Pumas this year. The Mexico City club is in 16th place after finishing 15th last season. They were a Liga MX finalist a year ago. (Photo by Sergio Mejia/Getty Images) /

In a clear message to UNAM’s underachieving team, the Pumas cut striker Gabriel Torres on Monday. The 32-year-old appeared in 20 games – 13 as a starter – but scored just 1 goal.

The Panama international joined the team in January on a free transfer and his contract ends in December so there is not considerable cost involved.

The move is the first since former Team Mexico coach Miguel Mejía Barón took over as vice president of football operations earlier this month. “El Doctor” (Mejía Barón is a licensed dentist) didn’t waste time in filling the roster spot vacated by Torres, acquiring Brazilian forward Diogo de Oliveira from Uruguay’s Plaza Colonia.

De Oliveira, 24, has played in Uruguay’s top division the past two years, scoring 12 times in 42 appearances (27 starts). Today (Sept. 22) is the final day for Liga MX teams to register players for the Apertura 2021 season.

New coach for Pumas?

Mejía Barón was hired to replace general manager Jesús Ramírez who resigned last month. Upon taking the job, he asked fans for patience, saying it will take time to clean up the mess he inherited. “El Doctor” has been tasked with evaluating the roster, scouting players and overhauling the struggling club.

One rumor making the rounds is that the new chief executive will hire “Tuca” Ferretti to take over the team next season. The legendary Liga MX coach played for Mejía Barón at UNAM, helping UNAM win the 1990-91 title (watch “El Tucazo” here), scoring a magical free kick in the final against América.

“Tuca” retired after that season and was immediately hired by the Pumas to succeed Mejía Barón and he has had a Liga MX job ever since, guiding three different franchises to seven Liga MX titles, including the Pumas (Clausura 2009). Of more significance, “Tuca” has never once been fired by a team.

If Cruz Azul scores on you first, forget about winning

The reigning champs have been tough to beat in 2021, and that’s because they so often strike first.

Cruz Azul has scored first in 21 of its 26 Liga MX games this calendar year – more than any other team (América is next with 18) – and has not lost a single one of those matches.

As such, “La Máquina” boasts the longest current streak of not losing when scoring first and since teams have trouble preventing the Cementeros from striking first … well, you get the idea.

América is second in that category, also refusing to lose any game in which it has scored first, with Santos next at 13. Monterrey (17) and León (16) have scored first more times than Santos in 2021, but both have coughed up leads and lost games in which they have drawn first blood.

The Cementeros visit Puebla on Friday night. It will be Nicolás Larcamón’s job to instruct his players not to allow Cruz Azul to score first.

Liga MX result

Ten-man FC Juárez staved off a late push from Atlético de San Luis and held on for a 1-0 win in a game moved forward from Matchday 14. Diego Rollan converted a penalty kick in minute 35 for the only goal the Bravos would need.

FC Juárez now has won three straight after opening the season 0-2-5. The mini-streak has lifted the Bravos from last place into 11th.

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The Tuneros saw their four-game unbeaten streak come to an end, despite enjoying a man advantage for the final 20 minutes of the match. San Luis outshot the Bravos 16-4 but could not find a way past Hugo González who only needed to make three saves to earn the shutout.