Chivas make statement in Clasico Tapatio
The 2019 Clausura season initially kicked off with more questions than answers for Chivas. Under the unexciting leadership of manager Jose Cardozo, it was difficult to predict what the league giants would look like after making significant roster changes over the winter. Although there was potential for progress through some of the new faces -- notably Hiram Mier, Dieter Villalpando, Jesus Molina and Alexis Vega -- there were no guarantees of immediate success in a rebuilding period for the roster.
The recent failure in the FIFA Club World Cup didn't help either. In short: Chivas embarrassed themselves on the world stage last December as after a 3-2 loss in their debut match against Japan's Kashima Antlers, Los Rojiblancos then slumped to a defeat to Tunisia's Esperance de Tunis via penalties in the 5th-place game.
Chivas fans were desperate for good news in the post-Matias Almeyda era of the club. Luckily for supporters, the team hasn't needed much time in 2019 to gel with Chivas off to promising start to the Clausura. Recently a struggling squad that hasn't finished in the top eight in the last three seasons, there is now reason to have hope in a Chivas side that is happily sitting in 4th place.
For those who still had any doubts surrounding the team's improvements, Los Rojiblancos all but silenced their detractors during last Saturday's 3-0 victory over Atlas in the Clasico Tapatio. Vega was brilliant with his hat trick, Isaac Brizuela had an exceptional evening with two assists, and the midfield duo of Jesus Molina and Villalpando were superb in helping maintain Chivas' momentum.
It wasn't as if Atlas was an easy opponent either. The crosstown rivals have had a revival of their own in early 2019 thanks to standout players such as Juan Vigon, Osvaldo Martinez and Jesus Isijara. Before kickoff, Los Zorros were sitting in the top eight themselves at 6th in the league table.
Now, Chivas have distanced themselves further from their rivals and are only three points behind first-placed Monterrey. There's still plenty of time left before Los Rojiblancos clinch a spot in the playoffs, but at the very least, a 3-0 win in one of their biggest games of the season does plenty to highlight that Cardozo and his men are headed in the right direction.
By the way, if you're looking for further proof that things are improving, that 3-0 result is Chivas' largest margin of victory in their last 53 Liga MX home games.
Take note of...
- The Clasico Tapatio wasn't the only rivalry match of the weekend. On Sunday, Pumas snuck past Club America with a 1-0 win at home in the Clasico Capitalino. Club America currently has a game in hand, but it's still a bit surprising to see the current title-holders at 11th in the league table.
- Dominated by Leon in a 3-0 away loss on Saturday, Toluca has now gone five consecutive matches without a win That's likely good news for MLS' Sporting Kansas City, who are set to face Los Diablos Rojos in the CONCACAF Champions League this Thursday.
- Another week, another three points for the two Nuevo Leon teams. Despite the fact that Monterrey and Tigres had some surprising defensive issues in their separate 3-2 victories, both Liga MX powerhouses held onto their places in the top two with wins.
- Club Tijuana is quickly picking up momentum. After a 3-0 victory at home against Veracruz, Xolos have now moved up to 8th place in the standings. The addition of attacking reinforcements and the return of Gustavo Bou appears to have significantly helped new manager Oscar Pareja in his first Liga MX season.
- Little by little, Cruz Azul is starting to drop points with each passing week. On Saturday, last season's finalists looked listless at home in a 2-1 loss to Santos Laguna. Is it too early to call this a crisis for the Mexican City side that currently sits 14th?
Player of the Week: Alexis Vega
It has to be Vega. Thanks to his hat trick against Atlas, Chivas earned what could be their most important result of the regular season.
Not bad for a young Mexican striker who had yet to score a single goal for Los Rojiblancos prior. Perhaps that call-up to the national camp a few days beforehand helped his confidence...
Team of the Week
Goal of the week: Andre-Pierre Gignac
Is it possible to have two people share this award? Week 7 provided us with world-class golazos from Tigres' Andre-Pierre Gignac and Monterrey's Rogelio Funes Mori. It's tough to select one over the other, and in spite of angering some Monterrey fans who were blessed to see the long-range effort from Funes Mori, this week's prize has to go to Gignac for the audacity to pull off his back-heel attempt.
Coach's corral: The Queretaro tenure of Rafa Puente Jr. has come to an end
It was only a matter of time. After starting the season off with seven straight losses, Queretaro announced on Sunday evening that Rafa Puente Jr. would no longer be in charge of the club. A playoff contender in late 2018, Los Gallos Blancos are now a shadow of their former Liguilla selves.
At time of writing, Jose "Chepo" de la Torre is rumored to be the replacement.
Other Superlative: Goals galore
There were 29 goals scored in nine games during Week 7, more than any other Liga MX weekend in the Clausura tournament so far. This follows the noteworthy 26-goal tally from Week 6. Led by high-scoring teams such as Monterrey, Tigres, Leon and Necaxa -- and some questionable defending from squads like Queretaro and Atlas -- there seems to be no lack of goals in the league this season.