Clausura 2024 at the FIFA break: A look at who's struggling and who's making waves

Monterrey, América battle for Liga MX supremacy while Chivas and Pumas among four who need to find new energy

Guadalajara and León are going in opposite directions and time is running out on the Chivas who are in danger of missing out on the Liga MX playoffs if coach Fernando Gago can't right the Chivas ship.
Guadalajara and León are going in opposite directions and time is running out on the Chivas who are in danger of missing out on the Liga MX playoffs if coach Fernando Gago can't right the Chivas ship. / Simon Barber/GettyImages

The first FIFA break of the year comes as the Liga MX approaches the two-thirds mark of the Clausura 2024, and the two-week pause comes at just the right time for a few teams who need to recharge batteries ahead of the stretch run next month.

While unbeaten Monterrey widened its lead atop the Liga MX table, defending champion América is watching its locker room turn into a triage situation.

Meanwhile, Pachuca, Cruz Azul, UNAM and Guadalajara need to regroup after stumbling a bit, while teams like Necaxa and León might be worried about losing momentum.

We’ll consider these topics before the season resumes, but for now let’s take a look at the top stories from Matchday 12.

Familiar duo bosses Liga MX

Monterrey and América have finished 1-2 in the standings each of the past three seasons, the Aguilas nabbing the No. 1 seed in the Apertura 2022 and Apertura 2023, the Rayados doing so in the Clausura 2023.

The two clubs are setting the pace once again, Monterrey an impressive 12-4-0 overall (4-0-0 in the Concacaf Champions Cup) as coach Fernando Ortiz masterfully rotates his line-up, keeping his team fresh. 

New striker Brandon Vazquez (8 goals in all competitions) appears to have settled in comfortably and the Rayados’ deep roster remains healthy, unlike last season when injuries derailed a promising Monterrey season.

The same can’t be said for América which saw right back Israel Reyes and playmaking midfielder Diego Valdés go down in back-to-back games last week. 

Both players will be sidelined less than a month but Valdés’ thigh injury is a concern as the risk of re-injury is real. As it is, Valdés might miss the first leg of the team’s Concachampions quarterfinal series against New England Revolution on April 2. 

Although Reyes will miss the Concacaf Nations League this week (he was replaced on the Team Mexico roster by Monterrey’s Erick Aguirre) he could be back in training by the time the Liga MX season resumes.

Four teams needing a break

After missing the playoffs last season, Pachuca surprised pundits with an impressive start to the Clausura 2024. The Tuzos were in first place a few weeks last month thanks to an explosive offense that was scoring 2.4 goals a game.

A 1-1 draw at Necaxa on Feb. 23 allowed Monterrey and América to climb past Pachuca, before the Tuzos hit the FIFA break on a two-game skid in which they were held to 1 goal in each game. Pachuca now sits fifth in the standings with a heavy agenda coming up (five games from March 30 through April 13).

Cruz Azul has lost three of four after a six-game win streak boosted the Cementeros into third place. 

Martín Anselmi’s high-intensity approach seems to have worn the team down. “La Máquina Azul” conceded six goals during this four-game slump after giving up just five in the first eight games of the season. And the offense has short-circuited as well, failing to score twice this month.

UNAM was a surprise semifinalist last season and the addition of striker Guillermo Martínez was seen as a bid to ensure another deep playoff run.

The Pumas started the season 4-3-1 and first-year coach Gustavo Lema was having success working some academy kids into the rotation.

Although Martínez is second in Liga MX with 6 goals and winger César Huerta is second with 6 assists, UNAM’s defense is coming up short. The Pumas have already conceded more goals this season (20) than all of last season (18) and “los felinos” have  tumbled down to 11th.

The loss of holding midfielder José Caicedo to a second injury has left the UNAM back line in the lurch and goalie Julio González – despite being selected for El Tri in the upcoming Nations League fixtures – has not been as sharp as he was last season.

Guadalajara defeated UNAM 3-1 on Feb. 24 and Chivas Nation thought their heroes had turned a corner after a ragged start to the season. Instead, “El Rebaño Sagrado” has since gone 1-3-1, tumbling into 10th place and eliminated from the Concacaf Champions Cup.

Coach Fernando Gago is only 16 games into his tenure and already is on shaky ground. The 10th-place Chivas are a mediocre 4-4-4 with 15 goals scored and 15 allowed, and their next game is at league-leading Monterrey.

Gago doesn’t have much time to right the ship and he might have to get creative with his line-ups. He gave “Chicharito” Hernández his first start over the weekend and J.J. Macías has seen some time after returning from a lengthy injury absence. 

With five games remaining, Gago can’t afford to err in line-up decisions. He must successfully identify his best line-up and stick with it, limiting his rotation to a select few. 

A Liga MX Cinderella and a Green Machine revival

Necaxa finished dead last a season ago and not much was expected this season, but the front office made some great decisions – bringing in striker Diber Cambindo on loan from Cruz Azul while also acquiring goalie Ezequiel Unsain and midfielder José Paradela.

Add in a few gems from the academy system and some opportunistic offense and coach Eduardo Fentanes has “los electricistas” smack dab in the middle of the playoff hunt.

With just one loss, the Rayos sit in seventh place while getting great production from Cambindo (6 goals), spectacular play from Unsain (second in Liga MX with 40 saves) and regular contributions from their Kiddie Corps.

A perennial contender for a decade, León barely made the playoffs last season. The Esmeraldas’ aging roster figured to make a postseason appearance difficult this season and the first month seemed to validate that position.

Then something clicked and “La Fiera” rediscovered its roar. Striker Federico Viñas has been playing inspired futbol and the defense has bared its claws, sparking a four-game unbeaten run (3-1-0) that has lifted León into a postseason play-in spot ahead of Guadalajara and UNAM.


The Esmeraldas visit Necaxa when the Clausura 2024 resumes in a match that might determine how lasting the team’s revival is.