Liga MX committees take disciplinary action
Before taking a quick glance at the Easter Weekend games in Liga MX, there’s some housekeeping to catch up on.
Last week’s América-León game had it all – high-quality performances on the pitch including a couple of skirmishes among the players; a mini-brawl between the coaching staffs that resulted in both managers being ejected; and three VAR interventions that annulled goals (two for América, one for León). Oh yeah … and also the referee kneed a León player in the groin.
Liga MX officials slapped ref Fernando Hernández with a 12-game suspension as a result, but some former referees think he got off easy. It’s also not clear how those 12 match day’s will be counted (including playoff? And including each segment of each playoff round?).
Meanwhile, León coach Nicolás Larcamón and América boss Fernando Ortiz were hit with two-game suspensions. The oddity here is the leniency of the ban. Ortiz has never been involved in an on-field fracas and has a spotless record in dealing with game officials, but a sideline brawl could have earned a three-game punishment.
Larcamón, however, is a sideline terror who harangues refs throughout the game, insults opposing coaches and Saturday was the third time he has been red-carded in his Liga MX career (the second time this season).
League officials took the “Solomonic decision” of equal punishment. Since this was Ortiz’s first offense, a two-game ban was determined to be adequate even though the incident likely merited a stronger sanction. And Larcamón’s recidivism surely warranted a stiffer penalty, but officials didn’t want to appear to be favoring América.
Rayados can claim No. 1 seed, but it won’t be easy
The most attractive game on the Matchday 14 slate – by far – is Saturday night’s clash in Monterrey.
The Rayados put their 12-game unbeaten streak (11-1-0) on the line against a visiting América side that is desperate for a win and some momentum heading into the playoffs.
The Aguilas will be without their coach – as noted above – and are battling some inconsistency. “Los Azulcremas” have gone 2-2-1 in their past five matches, including a 3-0 loss at home against Pachuca, the reigning Liga MX champs.
Still, América is the top-scoring team in the league (29 goals, and striker Henry Martín leads Liga MX with 12), but they have conceded 18 times. Their defensive struggles forced a change in goal and Luis Malagón has gone 2-1-0 since stepping between the pipes, but he has had to fish the ball out of his net four times in those games.
Monterrey has won four straight since suffering its only blemish during its streak (a 1-1 draw at León on Matchday 9) and boasts an impressive +18 goal differential.
With the stingiest defense in Liga MX (9 goals allowed), the Rayados would seem capable of controlling the high-flying Aguilas attack, but they’ll have to pay special attention to Martín. Center backs Héctor Moreno and youngster Víctor Guzmán will be tested as will goalie Esteban Andrade who has five shutouts this season.
At the other end, Rogelio Funes Mori (8 goals), Germán Berterame (5 goals) and Arturo González (5 goals) are probably salivating at the chance of taking aim at Malagón and the struggling América defense.
The rest of the Liga MX calendar …
Matchday 14 kicks off with a Friday night doubleheader, beginning with Toluca at Puebla. The second-place Diablos Rojos can clinch a playoff spot with a draw while the host Camoteros are in contention for a wildcard spot thanks to a 3-0-1 record in their past four.
The nightcap is a “who cares?” game as 15th-place Querétaro visits 16th-place Tijuana. Both are still alive for a playoff spot, but there’s not much else I can say in favor of this contest.
Saturday’s schedule starts with 7th-place Tigres hosting last-place Mazatlán FC.
Once considered a title contender, Tigres are on a three-game skid that saw the high-powered club go 298 minutes between goals. “Los felinos” are still within sniffing distance of a Top 4 spot and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it, but they’ll need to find a spark to do so. Playing the Cañoneros could be just the tonic they need.
Also Saturday, third-place León hosts surging Cruz Azul (6-1-1 in their past eight). The Esmeraldas can clinch a playoff spot with a draw, while the Cementeros face a harrowing stretch run (fourth-place América and sixth-place Guadalajara are next) such that securing home-field advantage in the Wildcard Round (finishing fifth through eighth) might be their most plausible outcome. Then again, a win at the Camp Nou on Saturday could be a tremendous morale-booster.
The Chivas host 13th-place Necaxa in a trap game. The Rayos should be a pushover, but Guadalajara might get caught looking ahead to next week’s showdown against León (which is followed by a date with Cruz Azul).
Sunday’s triple-header sees Atlético de San Luis at UNAM, Pachuca at Santos Laguna and Atlas at FC Juárez. We’ll take a closer look at these games before the Saturday games begin.