MEXICO: Isaac Acuña steps up, cuts down Santos' boss

Calexico's Isaac Acuña is starting to flower, following his first Primera Division appearance in nearly a year with a game to remember.

Acuña, 21, scored in his first start in Mexico's top league to lead Gallos Blancos de Queretaro (2-4-1), who started the week at the bottom of the Clausura standings, to a stunning 2-0 triumph at Santos Laguna (3-3-1).

Acuña scored in the third minute -- he took a pass from Eder Borelli as he slipped past the backline, dribbled past goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez and knocked the ball into the open net -- and fed Carlos Bueno for the second goal just before halftime.

Santos' fans answered with jeers after a second successive 2-0 home loss, and coach Ruben Omar Romano, who guided the Torreon-based club into the Apertura final, was dismissed after cameras caught him making an offensive gesture to fans, after which he criticized the supporters.

“His behavior went against the values that the club stands for and promotes, which is why the decision was taken to end our working relationship with immediate effect,” the club said in an announcement on its Web site. Said club president Alejandro Irarragorri: “This is a deeply hurtful decision, but we must be consistent with our values and responsibility as a model team. Ruben reacted negatively to pressure from the fans, and that's something we can't cover up.”

Fellow Argentine Diego Cocca, 38, was hired to replace Romano. Cocca, a former right back who counts Atlas, Veracruz and Gallos Blancos among the nearly dozen clubs for which he toiled, previously has managed three Argentine clubs, most recently La Plata's Gimnasia y Esgrima.

Acuña, who is with Queretaro on loan from America, played 35 minutes in a 5-0 loss Feb. 12 to Toluca. He made his debut last April 10, playing five minutes for America in a victory over Jaguares.

SINCE 5-0: The most alarming result of the Clausura occurred in week one, when Atlas, the worst team in the fall Apertura, throttled a decent (or so we thought) Morelia side, 5-0. After three games, Atlas had matched its fall win total and sat atop the overall table.

Since then? The Zorros (3-3-1), facing a considerably more difficult string of opponents, has lost three of four, falling to America, Santos and -- this week -- Cruz Azul to slide into eighth place, one of five teams (stretching from seventh to 11th in the standings) with 10 points.

Against Morelia, Atlas scored five goals in 55 minutes. It has five goals in 638 minutes since.

Morelia, a 2-1 winner Sunday at America, is 3-0-3 and has outscored foes, 13-6, since the opener, climbing from last to fifth in the standings.

DRAMATIC GOALS: Cruz Azul's and Morelia's victories were started early, with Emanuel Villa laying out to head home a long Christian Gimenez ball to the left post in the second minute of the Cementeros' 2-1 triumph. Isaac Romo scored Cruz Azul's winner more than three minutes into stoppage, also from Gimenez.

Morelia scored one brilliant goal -- Rafael Marquez Lugo, in the first minute, finished Aldo Ramirez's long, penetrating pass, slipping it past goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and just inside the far post -- and another that was perfectly executed, with Elias Hernandez playing Joao Rojas into open space.

Morelia was aided by a phantom red card to America's Matias Vuoso just 15 minutes in, apparently for complaining he'd been fouled, which he had been.

CHIVAS RISING: Guadalajara's dismally indifferent form since Estadio Omnilife opened last summer seems to have lifted the past couple of weeks. Three games, three wins, nine goals. That after losing in the home leg of last year's Copa Libertadores final and going 2-2-6 -- with four 0-0 ties -- in the first 10 home league games.

Chivas (2-1-4) had only scored eight goals in the 11 games before beating Atlante, 2-0, Feb. 5 on late goals by Patricio Araujo and Hector Reynoso. They followed with a 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls in a friendly, rallying from a two-goal deficit on goals by Jesus Sanchez, Antonio Gallardo and Jorge Mora.

Pachuca offered little resistance in Saturday's 4-1 decision, which sent Guadalajara to seventh overall, into the playoff zone for the first time since the season kicked off in July. Alberto Medina scored two fine goals -- the second, a volley, was really nice -- Erick Torres contributed a goal and assist, and Mora scored another.

LOOK WHO'S STREAKING: Necaxa was never as bad as its record -- 0-4-1 with no goals scored (but only four conceded) through five weeks of the Clausura -- but the Rayos are as good as anyone in Mexico at the moment. They followed their upset of America by rallying from a two-goal, second-half deficit to beat Toluca, 3-2, with Christian Suarez scoring terrific goals in the 77th and 80th minutes to pull Necaxa even and push it ahead.

The upturn isn't likely to save the club from relegation -- Gallos Blancos' victory did not aid Necaxa's cause -- but its victories count for more than any other club's: The formula judges Necaxa's results over just one year, Gallos Blancos' over two and everyone else's over three.

COPA TIME: The CONCACAF Champions League returns to action this week, and two of the quarterfinal home-and-homes are fully Mexican affairs. Santos visits Cruz Azul on Tuesday and Monterrey plays at Toluca on Wednesday. … America and Jaguares won their should-win group openers in Copa Libertadores, but San Luis couldn't stop Paraguayan power Libertad, falling on a second-half penalty kick. … Vicente Sanchez scored at the start of the first half and Vuoso at the start of the second for America, which visits Argentinos Juniors this week in Group 3. … San Luis and Jaguares also have midweek road games.

ETC.: When is Ricardo Ferretti going to learn? Start Jonathan Bornstein, UANL Tigres win. Ferretti left our favorite Primera Division newcomer on the bench, and Tigres (4-1-2) dropped from the top spot in the overall standings with a scoreless draw at archrival Monterrey (3-3-1). … Pumas UNAM (4-0-3) returned to the No. 1 spot, a point ahead of Tigres, with a 1-0 win at San Luis (3-2-3). Martin Bravo scored in the third minute following a weaving 60-yard run. San Luis' Wilmer Aguirre clanged a penalty kick off the crossbar at the end of the first half after his first attempt, which hit the net, was waved off for encroachment. … Puebla ended a three-game slide by extending Jaguares' losing streak to five, Felix Borja scoring the only goal. The Chiapas club has during its skid gone 3-0-0 in Copa Libertadores. … Surprising Atlante (3-3-1) is 12th overall after Christian Bermudez's sensational header beat Estudiantes Tecos,1-0. Former Chivas USA forward Giancarlo Maldonado missed a penalty kick that would have doubled the advantage.

AMERICANS ABROAD: Herculez Gomez and Jose Francisco Torres are, officially, regulars in the Pachuca lineup. They made their third straight starts in the loss to Guadalajara, with former Galaxy standout Gomez assisting Edgar Benitez's goal. … Marco Vidal, formerly with Chivas, was in Leon's lineup for its Liga de Ascenso victory over Altamira and draw at Veracruz.

LIGA DE ASCENSO: San Diego's Joe Corona scored the second goal in Club Tijuana's 2-0 victory Wednesday at Alacranes de Durango, the Xolos' first Clausura victory. He was red-carded, for a silly foul, just 20 minutes into Sunday's 0-0 draw at Caliente against Albinegros de Orizaba. Tijuana (1-1-5) is 13th of 17 clubs. …

Nobody sailed through the “doble-jornada” with two wins (nor two losses), and everybody claimed at least one point aside from Dorados de Sinaloa and Merida, who had byes. The big winners, with four points (one win, one draw): Tijuana, Leon, Atlante Neza, Albinegros, Leones Negros and La Piedad. …

Ariel Gonzalez's goalscoring streak ended in Irapuato's midweek 0-0 draw with Cruz Azul Hidalgo, but he netted two Saturday against Pumas Morelos -- his eighth and ninth in eight games -- in a 2-0 victory that sent La Trinca (4-1-3) atop the second-tier Liga's standings. Cuauhtemoc Blanco missed the weekend game after a midweek red card. …

Correcaminos (4-2-2) dropped from first to third, one point behind Irapuato and Leon (4-0-3), as they followed last weekend's loss with a tie (1-1 vs. Atlante Neza) and loss (2-1 to La Piedad, which climbed from 17th to 14th. … Eder Pacheco scored for the third successive game in Veracruz's 2-1 loss to Pumas Morelos. He was goalless in the 1-1 tie against Leon. … Former Chivas USA forward Roberto Nurse scored both Cruz Azul Hidalgo goals in a 3-2 loss to Atlante Neza.


Last week's games (home teams listed first)


Estudiantes Tecos 0, Atlante 1 (C. Bermudez 56)

San Luis 0, Pumas UNAM 1 (M. Bravo 3)


Monterrey 0, UANL Tigres 0

Cruz Azul 2 (E. Villa 2, I. Romo 94+), Atlas 1 (Flavio Santos 74)

Guadalajara 4 (J. Mora 1, A. Medina 12, E. Torres 34, A. Medina 59), Pachuca 1 (E. Benitez 47)

Santos Laguna 0, Gallos Blancos 2 (Acuña 3, C. Bueno 43)


Puebla 1 (F. Borja 41), Jaguares 0

Toluca 2 (Ayovi 44, C. Esquivel 54), Necaxa 3 (Iñiquez 58, C. Suarez 77, 80)

America 1 (V. Sanchez 55), Morelia 2 (Marquez Lugo 1, J. Rojas 42)


Group 1: UANL Tigres 14 points, Guadalajara 10, Monterrey 10, Santos Laguna 10, Necaxa 7, Estudiantes Tecos 6

Group 2: Toluca 12, San Luis 12, Atlas 10, America 10, Atlante 10, Pachuca 8

Group 3: Pumas UNAM 15, Cruz Azul 13, Morelia 12, Puebla 7, Gallos Blancos de Queretaro 7, Jaguares de Chiapas 4

Overall (top 8): 1. Pumas UNAM 15 points (+5 goal difference), 2. UANL Tigres 14 points (+5), 3. Cruz Azul 13 (+5), 4. Toluca 12 (+7), 5. Morelia 12 (+2), 6. San Luis 12 (+2), 7. Guadalajara 10 (+4), 8. Atlas 10 (+3). Playoffs: If season ended now, the top eight would qualify.

Relegation percentage: 1. Necaxa (24 games/23 points) 0.9583; 2. Gallos Blancos (58/65) 1.1207; 3. Jaguares (92/106) 1.1522, 4. Atlas (92/108) 1.1739, 5. Atlante (92/109) 1.1848

This week's games (all times Pacific)


Santos Laguna at Necaxa, 6:10 p.m.


Guadalajara at Jaguares, 3 p.m.

Cruz Azul at Gallos Blancos, 3 p.m.

Puebla at UANL Tigres, 5 p.m.

San Luis at Pachuca, 5 p.m.

Monterrey at Atlas, 6:45 p.m.


Estudiantes Tecos at Pumas UNAM, 10 a.m.

Atlas at Morelia, 10 a.m.

Toluca at America, 2 p.m.

Schedule subject to changeLeading scorers

1. Wilmer Aguirre (San Luis) 5

Juan Carlos Cacho (Pumas UNAM) 5

Humberto Suazo (Monterrey) 5

Matias Vuoso (America) 5

5. Carlos Bueno (Gallos Blancos) 4

Mauro Cejas (Estudiantes Tecos) 4

Hector Mancilla (UANL Tigres) 4

Emanuel Villa (Cruz Azul) 4

9. Jaime Ayovi (Toluca) 3

Edgar Benitez (Pachuca) 3

Christian Bermudez (Atlante) 3

Felix Borja (Puebla) 3

Nestor Calderon (Toluca) 3

Rafael Marquez Lugo (Morelia) 3


Last week's games (home teams listed first)


Copa Libertadores: San Luis 1 (Cavallo 40), Libertad (Paraguay) 2 (Pavlovich 18, Aquino pen. 56)

Copa Libertadores: America 2 (V. Sanchez 4, Vuoso 48), Nacional (Uruguay) 0

Friendly: Guadalajara 3 (J. Sanchez 71, A. Gallardo 80, J. Mora 90), New York Red Bulls 2 (Richards 29, Agudelo 39)


Copa Libertadores: Jaguares 2 (M. Martinez 66, R. Esqueda 79), Jorge Wilstermann (Bolivia) 0

This week's games (all times Pacific)


Copa Libertadores: San Luis at Universidad San Martin (Peru), 4:30 p.m.

CONCACAF Champions League: Santos Laguna at Cruz Azul, 7 p.m.


Copa Libertadores: Jaguares at Internacional (Brazil), 4:30 p.m.

CONCACAF Champions League: Monterrey at Toluca, 5 p.m.


Copa Libertadores: America at Argentinos Juniors (Argentina), 7 p.m.


Last week's games (home teams listed first)


Lobos BUAP 2 (Sara 57, M. Lopez 82), La Piedad 2 (J. Mendoza 25, R. Murguia 53)

Cruz Azul Hidalgo 0, Irapuato 0

Pumas Morelos 2 (E. Herrera 34, 49), Veracruz 1 (Eder Pacheco 36)

Albinegros de Orizaba 1 (C. Vela 29), Indios de Ciudad Juarez 0

Alacranes de Durango 0, Club Tijuana 2 (G. Mora 23, J. Corona 32)

Merida 0, Leones Negros 2 (M. Zepeda 10, J. Pina 50)

Leon 3 (Bonells 8, B. Perez 56, 78), Altamira 1 (F. Sanchez 46)

UAT Correcaminos 1 (R. Saucedo 76), Atlante Neza 1 (Sainz 68)

Idle: Dorados


Altamira 1 (Castillejos 53), Dorados de Sinaloa 0

Irapuato 2 (A. Gonzalez 44, 69), Pumas Morelos 0

Veracruz 1 (M. Romero 27), Leon 1 (Polo 65)

Indios de Ciudad Juarez 1 (O. Rojas 19), Lobos BUAP 0


Leones Negros 0, Alacranes de Durango 0

Atlante Neza 3 (M. Moreno 26, Neumann 56, D. Mejia 81), Cruz Azul Hidalgo 2 (R. Nurse 57, 90)

Club Tijuana 0, Albinegros de Orizaba 0

La Piedad 2 (O. Valdez 38, J. Ramirez 40), UAT Correcaminos 1 (C. Morales 70)

Idle: Merida

Standings: 1. Irapuato 15 points; 2. Leon 15; 3. UAT Correcaminos 14; 4. Atlante Neza 13; 5. Cruz Azul Hidalgo 12; 6. Albinegros de Orizaba 12; 7. Altamira 10; 8. Pumas Morelos 9; 9. Dorados de Sinaloa 9; 10. Indios de Ciudad Juarez 9; 11. Club Tijuana 8; 12. Veracruz 8; 13. U de G Leones Negros 8; 14. La Piedad 8; 15. Alacranes de Durango 7; 16. Merida 4; 17. Lobos BUAP 4

This week's games (all times Pacific)


Indios at Correcaminos, 6:30 p.m.


Atlante Neza at Pumas Morelos, 2 p.m.

Leones Negros at Albinegros, 4 p.m.

Veracruz at Irapuato, 5 p.m.

Altamira at Merida, 5:05 p.m.

Leon at Dorados, 6 p.m.


La Piedad at Cruz Azul Hidalgo, 10 a.m.

Club Tijuana at Lobos BUAP, 10 a.m.

Idle: Alacranes de Durango

Schedule subject to changeLeading scorers

1. Ariel Gonzalez (Irapuato) 9

2. Blas Perez (Leon) 6

Roberto Saucedo (Correcaminos) 6

4. Jair Garcia (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 5

Juan Manuel Sara (Lobos BUAP) 5

6. Eduardo Herrera (Pumas Morelos) 4

7. Pablo Bonells (Leon) 3

Eder Pacheco (Veracruz) 3

Raul Enriquez (Club Tijuana) 3

Edgar Garcia (Alacranes) 3

Jose Luis Lopez (Irapuato) 3

Luis Nieves (Leon) 3

Roberto Nurse (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 3

Mario Padilla (Dorados) 3