Coaches in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons

América manager Santiago Solari (left) and Monterrey head man Javier Aguirre are in danger of losing their jobs. (Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images)
América manager Santiago Solari (left) and Monterrey head man Javier Aguirre are in danger of losing their jobs. (Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images) /
Liga MX coaches - M4
Santiago Solari arrived to Liga MX with much fanfare but his lack of playoff success has his job hanging by a thread. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

Cruz Azul chased León all over the pitch Monday night, holding on for a hard-earned 1-0 road win that lifted the Cementeros into a three-way tie for first.

Puebla (+6 goal differential), Cruz Azul (+4) and defending champs Atlas (+4) share the Liga MX lead at 10 points with two Matchday 4 games still pending. The Chivas visit FC Juárez on Wednesday night while the Monterrey-Toluca match will be played on April 6 since the Rayados are in the UAE finishing up their Club World Cup obligations (more on that below).

Cruz Azul did not create too many scoring chances but a patient move forward at the half-hour mark produced the winner. Uriel Antuna pounced on the rebound of a Brayan Angulo shot that came after four Cementeros players got a touch on the ball inside the León box. The play originated with a steal by Antuna.

The Liga MX just returned to action from the FIFA break but news off the field garnered more attention across the sporting media landscape in Mexico.

Big-name managers on thin ice

Javier Aguirre and Santiago Solari arrived to Liga MX within days of each other ahead of the Guardianes 2021 season, both with mandates to bring hardware to Monterrey and América, respectively.

Solari – a former Real Madrid coach – led the Aguilas to the best record last year (a No. 2 seed in his first season and the No. 1 seed last season) but América crashed out in the quarterfinals both times. Last season’s debacle was particularly hard to swallow since it was crosstown rivals UNAM – the No. 11 seed – that burst their bubble.

Two-time Mexico coach Aguirre guided Monterrey – the team with the biggest payroll in Liga MX each of the last two seasons – to a No. 4 seed in the Guardianes 2021, but a quick playoff exit followed.

Last season nearly cost “El Vasco” his job. The Liga MX campaign was a calamity, but Aguirre essentially avoided dismissal by defeating Solari and América to claim the Concacaf Champions League trophy. A disappointing No. 9 seed, Rayados did advance out of the wildcard round but went no further.

It did not sit well with ownership when Aguirre blamed “a short roster.” More money was spent during the winter window but Rayados won just once in three Liga MX matches before heading off for the Club World Cup where Monterrey was expected to make a statement (particularly since hated rivals Tigres made the finals last year).

Instead, Monterrey was beaten by heavy underdogs Al Ahly (Egypt) in its first match, sending the Liga MX giant to a consolation match. Headlines back home screamed “Flop!” “Fiasco!” and “Embarrassing!” Fans who’d traveled to the United Arab Emirates to root on their heroes actually stopped the team bus as it was leaving the stadium demanding answers of Aguirre.

The coach’s flippant comment that Monterrey had been to the Club World Cup five times previously and never done anything aroused the ire of fans and management. Aguirre conceded his team had disappointed but he declared he won’t resign. His status might be reviewed before Rayados return to Liga MX play, pending the outcome of Wednesday’s consolation match.

Solari in a very hot seat

In Mexico City, reports suggest the team has lost confidence in their coach.

Former team stalwarts are peeved about lack of playing time, prompting analysts to question his line-up selection and tactics. Home-grown hero Sebastián Córdova saw limited action last season and was sent to Tigres before the season, stoking the concerns about his player management skills.

Fans are angry about the haphazard roster juggling and the inefficient transfer strategy led by GM Santiago Baños. “FireBaños” memes have gone viral on social media.

Recently, owner Emilio Azcárraga visited the training grounds to scold players and coaches for the stumbling start to the current season, the Aguilas fell at home to the last-place team in Liga MX. Now there are whispers that the front office will start docking wages of players who underperform.

This could unravel quickly. América sits 16th in the Liga MX table and have three winnable games before a must-win match at UNAM on Feb. 26. Solari better get his ducks in a row soon or his time at Coapa could be short-lived.

Liga MX coaching carousel

In a classic “Be careful what you wish for” scenario, Jaime Lozano finally got a new coaching gig. Six months after leading El Tri Olímpico to bronze in Tokyo, “Jimmy” is back in Liga MX where he’ll be in charge of a terrible Necaxa team.

Lozano had been holding out for an attractive job, but with dreams of becoming the coach of Mexico’s senior national team, the 43-year-old Mexico City native figured it was better to work on his craft than sit by his phone.

Pablo Guede was axed by Rayos after the club got off to a 1-0-3 start including two ugly losses at home (4-0 to Monterrey and 3-1 to Pachuca on Saturday). Necaxa sits just above the final three spots of the Liga MX “Relegation Zone” and hopes to avoid the stiff financial penalties attached to the demotion standings.

“Jimmy” gets his second chance to lead a Liga MX franchise (he went 10-10-15 with Querétaro in 2017) and he will be bringing his Olympic coaching staff with him – Miguel de Jesús Fuentes, Aníbal González y Ryota Nishimura.

Late Tuesday, word leaked that Querétaro had fired Leo Ramos who lasted less than a year as head man. The Gallos Blancos are 0-2-2 on the Liga MX season and Ramos only won three of 14 games in charge.

dark. Next. Puebla, Atlas win to stay top of Liga MX table

Mediotiempo has reported that former Toluca coach Hernán Cristante is an option, but nothing official has been announced yet.