Slumping Pumas take center stage; El Tri on standby

The Pumas aim to get back on the winning track when they host Mazatlán FC in a Liga MX make-up game. (Photo by Sergio Mejia/Getty Images)
The Pumas aim to get back on the winning track when they host Mazatlán FC in a Liga MX make-up game. (Photo by Sergio Mejia/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Pumas Mazatlan
Alan Mozo (left) has been playing at an all-star level for the Pumas, earning plaudits as the best right back in Liga MX today. (Photo by Daniel Santana/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Liga MX make-up game serves as bridge to El Tri match

While Mexico soccer fans fret about the fate of El Tri, there’s a Liga MX make-up game to distract us.

OK, maybe the Pumas-Mazatlán game won’t lessen the anxiety heading into Sunday’s game against Honduras in San Pedro Sula, but it’s all we’ve got. So let’s have a look …

The 13th-place Pumas welcome the last-place Cañoneros to the UNAM campus in Mexico City, both looking for their first league win since mid-February. The Pumas have had success in Concacaf Champions League play – going 2-1-1 to advance to the CCL semifinals – but the club’s last Liga MX victory came back on Feb. 13, a 2-1 triumph over León.

Today’s contest is one of the three Matchday 9 games that were canceled due to the big brawl at Querétaro’s La Corregidora stadium the night before.

With a win – the Pumas are a modest 2-1-2 at the CU this season – UNAM can climb into 8th place. And Mazatlán just so happens to be the worst road team in Liga MX (0-0-5 and outscored 14-5), so perhaps “Los Felinos” can win one for their absent manager (coach Andrés Lillini is serving the second of his two-game sideline ban earned for insulting the ref during the team’s 2-1 loss at Cruz Azul).

Mazatlán can climb out of the basement (7 points in 10 games) with a win while a draw would lift the “The Purple Gang” above FC Juárez on goal differential. I suppose 17th place is better than 18th.

New coach Gabriel Caballero is also aware that the Cañoneros are flirting with relegation penalties. Mazatlán FC currently sits 15th in the demotion standings, just one spot clear of the financial penalty zone (the bottom three teams in the “Relegation Standings” must pay a fine to remain in Liga MX).

Caballero will be conducting his second match as Mazatlán head coach. His debut was a tough 2-1 home loss to León. The Cañoneros’ last win came at home against América on Feb. 16, the club following up that historic win – its first-ever against the Aguilas – by going 0-1-4 since.

Meanwhile, in Central America …

Mexico must win against last-place Honduras or risk a nervy finale at Estadio Azteca against the always scrappy Salvadorans.

It won’t be easy. Three recent El Tri faceplants against Honduras have seen Mexico’s head coach sacked during the qualifying campaign: Enrique Meza fired after losing 3-1 in San Pedro Sula; Sven-Goran Eriksson booted after losing 3-1 to the Catrachos in the same city; and, José Manuel de la Torre, chased out of town after Honduras won in Estadio Azteca.

If El Tri succumbs to the “La H” Sunday, at least Gerardo Martino won’t have to witness it in person though he might have to pack his bags anyway. “Tata” was unable to make the trip to Honduras due to a detached retina that prevents him from flying.

A Mexico win combined with a Costa Rica tie or loss earns El Tri a ticket to Qatar. If The Green-White-and-Red lose Sunday and Costa Rica defeats El Salvador, Mexico will be playing for its World Cup life on Wednesday against El Salvador.

Next. Mexico held to home draw by USA. dark

The drama continues … one thing perhaps playing in Mexico’s favor is that FIFA has ordered Sunday’s clash to be played behind closed doors. The Honduras federation was sanctioned due to fan misbehavior at the previous home game against El Salvador. So there’t that …