Tigres makes quick work of Pumas

It did not take long for Tigres to take the initiative in the Liga MX Apertura final vs Pumas.  It was all of 10 minutes before the Monterrey side grabbed hold of the series and looks to not let go.

For some, the penalty called against Pumas’ Javier Cortés was karmic justice.  It was Cortés’ tackle that led to the fracture of America’s Javier Güémez last week in the their semifinal.  Cortés was not carded or even called for a foul.  Andre Pierre Gignac, the French international who has been nothing short of sensational since his arrival to the Sultana del Norte this past summer, delivered a thundering, unstoppable blast.  It was 1-0, but it may well have been 10-0.  The rout was on.  The Frenchman, along with his strike partner, former Brazilian international Rafael Sobis, had their way with a Pumas backline that has picked the worst time in the season to become ball watchers.  Their inability to control the scoring tandem was only compounded by the fact that Tigres’ wingers, Javier Aquino and Jurgen Damm, feasted on their slower defenders.  And then there was the complete control in the midfield by Guido Pizarro.  The Argentine, like most holding midfielders, will never get the recognition he deserves, but the way he dominated the middle of the pitch was as close to an MVP performance as one can see at a championship game.  There is a reason why the strikers and wingers were so effective. The reason last night was Pizarro.

One would have never known that Damm was playing with an injury that limited his effectiveness.  Pumas had no answer for the right winger’s deep runs, where Damm set up his wingman Aquino with the second.

2 goals for Pumas to overcome was always going to be difficult, but a third would be borderline insurmountable.  And that is exactly what happened early in the second half as Sobis, tipped in a Gignac shot that Pikolin Palacios could only parry away. It is interesting that for the second week in a row, a team will take a 3-goal lead to the second leg to Mexico’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday.  The difference here is Pumas is just not equipped to take the offensive initiative like Club America was.  They are an absorb and counter side that used the strategy to great success during the season.

Now they will have to press a team whose coach, Tuca Ferretti, despite having more than 70% possession in the first leg, can’t shake his reputation as being the cat mouse coach.  It is true that Tuca has softened a little; his teams play a little more offensively than before.  But when they need, they counter, and like they showed last week in Toluca, it is still as lethal as ever

There are still 90 minutes left to play, and we all know that anything can happen.  But Tigres is the team that has the most talent, and playing the best soccer right now.  And Tuca is still Tuca.  They can be be more offensive, but order and shape is still what he cares about most.

What it all means is that come Sunday night, for the 2nd time in two months, Tuca will emerge sans moustache and Tigres will have their 4th trophy in hand.

Tigres Offense vs Pumas Defense Stats preview

Pumas vs TigresSo Martin Del Palacio has been putting up some great Youtube videos analyzing the statistics side of these Liguilla games. You can find his videos here!

I wanted to review a quick video he covered in text format for you to read. This is what he gathered. Props and credit to Martin:

Pumas Defense:

Pikolin the best goalkeeper in LigaMX?

Stats during Apertura 2015 for Pikolin Palacios (Pumas goalkeeper):

  • Most shots received at 126
  • Blocked 83 of those shots. (Best in League of all keepers)
  • 20 goals received. (2nd Best in League)

Pumas gave up 1 goal for every 15.5 shots on goal.

Tigres Offense:

Stats during Apertura 2015 for Andre Pierre Gignac (Tigres goalscorer):

  • 48 shots on goal. (league leader)
  • 1 goal for every 4.36 shots. (Last place amongst top 10 goal scorers)

As a reference lets look at Ismael Sosa’s numbers:

  • 22 shots on goal.
  • 1 goal for every 2.2 shots.

 

Offense as a team:

Tigres:

  • 1 goal for every 10 shots

Pumas:

  • 1 goal for every 5.8 shots

 

So based on these stats, Pumas takes advantage of their opportunities. Tigres creates and has more opportunities, but has a lower percentage of effectiveness. Additionally Pikolin and the Pumas defense has been solid in keeping the ball out of the net. This was displayed in the 1st leg of the America semifinal game, where America dominated but was not able to score on the Pumas defense, even though they had the majority of possession.

It should be an interesting game tonight.

Much thanks to Martin, who you can find on twitter @martindelp

Ep. 13: Los Cachirules podcast – More Liguilla Drama as America falls.

Los Cachirules podcastThe Liguilla final is set and a certain Americanista on the Cachirules podcast is salty like no other. In this latest episode of Los Cachirules, we discussed the Pumas lack of beautiful game play and possession in the 2nd leg of their Semifinal vs America. Pumas had a bad game. They had 2 goals scored on them fairly early. America again found themselves in problems as Sambueza stomped on a Pumas player to then get deservedly sent off.

The panel in its majority viewed the game to be evenly refereed, with bad calls going both ways. It was a tough job for a Ref in such a heated rivalry. The big drama was the clash between Javier Guemez and Javier Cortez. Both players went hard for a ball, with Guemez going in faster and harder. Cortez took ended up with studs up and hitting Guemez in the shin. This caused a fracture and Guemez to be out and will miss Club World Cup. Indeed an unfortunate injury, but the intention of of Cortez or entry to recover the ball did not seem malicious.

Second point of drama in the game is the alleged racist remarks from Dario Veron to Darwin Quintero. This is not the first time this has allegedly taken place. Quintero had an issue with another player while at Santos. First of all let me say, racism or racist remarks have no excuse to be used in my opinion. With that said, in the podcast we discussed the idea of “what goes on in the field, stays in the field”. Wether or not this is a legit statement we discussed the fact that Quintero was called out in the past for being a “chismoso” but no call out of Pelaez or Moises Munoz for the same “chisme”.

There were bad things all around in this series:

  1. Bad Pumas play on the field.
  2. Unfortunate Guemez injury.
  3. Racist gestures in the headlines in Mexican soccer.

We now have a LigaMX final with Tigres Vs. Pumas. Hopefully we can see some good soccer to end the season and year.

We will be having another show on Thursday to talk the first leg of the final. Tune in!

Ol’ Ugly is Better than Ol’ Nothing

Full disclosure:  The title is not one of mine.  I wish.  No that belongs to Darrel Royal, Texas coaching legend, and a man with a long list of quotables.  Pumas coach Memo Vasquez would also be happy with the title. But he did not take to heart with one of Darrel’s most famous axioms:

you dance with who brung you

You can understand his motives to playing with 3 holding midfielders vs America in their second leg of the Liga MX semis.  3 away goal advantage, the stiffest defense in Liga MX.  They had the chops to bend and not break for 90 minutes.  So why did they break after 20 minutes and 2 goals from Darwin “the Goal Scientist” Quintero?

There was plenty of disconnect.  And Complacency?  Oh yeah?  Add to that a Club America team that was hellbent on scoring the 4 goals they needed to advance, and it was very nearly a historic, calamitous, unforgivable collapse.

Luckily for Pumas, Memo Vasquez moved quickly to start dancing with who brung him to this point, and the team settled down enough to squeak through to the final.  It wasn’t the prettiest way to go through.  Their performance was awful, actually. The worst they played all season.  But in the end, the result is what mattered.

But not in Mexico.

In a league where style and spectacle is almost as (and in some cases more) important as the result, Pumas committed a mortal sin:  they played to defend a result, not to look for one.  The post game presser was a somber affair where the underlying tone was one of defeat, not making their 13th final since being promoted in the early 60’s.  As coach Royal said

I learned this about coaching: You don’t have to explain victory and you can’t explain defeat.

The reporters were baffled as to why Pumas betrayed the 3G philosophy that all teams, championship or otherwise, are apparently obligated to adhere to in Mexico:  ganar, gustar, y golear.

Did Pumas play badly?  Of course they did.  But their 3-goal lead gave them the luxury of rolling out a real stinker and still eliminating their cross-town rivals.  In other words they had their worst performance of the season, and in the end the result was what mattered.

Ep. 12: Los Cachirules podcast – We talk Pumas vs America and more

Dos a Zero podcast

A Dos a Zero podcast

This was an exciting episode, because we decided to start it right after the Pumas vs America game and while the Tigres vs Toluca game was going on.

You all know how the Pumas vs America game went, so you can imagine certain panelist’s jimmies were most definitely rustled. He had his say and may have spurred a blog post from fellow panelist which you can read here.

My take is, the ref made a mistake by calling the early Pumas goal off. Britos was not offsides and Veron converging in, did not interfere with Moises and was not involved in the play. The call may have been that Britos was offside, and in that case it was wrong. The call could have also been that Veron was interferred, but he was not between Moises and the ball. The ball went so quickly past Moises and Veron that none of them could have done anything to change its trajectory. Clearly a bad call.

No matter, you have to fight through bad calls. It was expected for America to be on attack and to have posession. This an elimination tournament and not a regular season game like had been previously played a couple weeks earlier. It was intense. Memories of Goltz and other Americanistas proving to be hot heads came back. It was a heated and physical game. One stat is that America is the team with the most bookings(red/yellow cards). No change here.

Another stat, in the entire game America had 1 shot on frame. The UNAM defense was strong. I recall seeing cross after cross get headed by a Universitario. First touch and defensive posture was strong with UNAM. Some may say that America possessed and attacked, but didn’t put Pikolin in real danger.

Then came the Red cards. As a result open space for the speedsters, Fidel, Sosa and Britos. Even Lalo Herrera came up big with a very nice Cabezazo!

 

Anyways, we also talked the Neymar showboating issue we have been arguing about. The Real Pundits that claim they would have done the same as Isco and fouled Neymar for acting a fool. I’ll let you have a listen for our differing takes.

We also had some play by play on the Tigres vs Toluca game. All in all a great night for Futbol and good discussion.

The Loser’s Lifeline

The ref hadn’t even taken the whistle out of his mouth before the whining and complaining started.  It was the usual sentiment:  “Robo!”  “Regalo!”  “Jugaron con 12.” Veracruz fans were furious and and steadfast in their belief that the referee had robbed them of their chance to advance past Pumas in the Liga MX playoffs.

Never mind the fact that Veracruz failed to capitalize on numerous chances in the home leg, or that their cries for offside on Pumas’ early goal in the way leg were unfounded, as were their desperate pleas for a decision on a penalty for a handball that would never be called even by the worst ref on the planet. Even the Shark’s front office this week demanded an investigation to root out the obvious favoritism demonstrated by Roberto Garcia Orozco.  Please.

It is an all too common occurrence.  Fans of a losing side,  instead of coming to terms with their team’s shortcomings, point fingers at the man in black.  The perennial scapegoat.

That is not to say that ref’s don’t make mistakes that affect the outcome of a game.  Of course they do.  But it is a huge part of the game. And to the Red Sharks’ credit, they certainly didn’t seem to let it affect their play.  They did their level best to tilt the game in their favor.

But for a large swath of fans, that is meaningless.  The ref’s dubious decisions are the ONLY reason their side lost.  As if whatever happened before or after that blind idiot blew his whistle had no influence on the game.  They cling to it — the loser’s lifeline.

Even after America was embarrassed at home by the same Pumas, 3-0, some fans latched on to the loser’s lifeline to blame the ref.  The players lost their mind, the coach didn’t make the necessary adjustments after 2 red cards, but it was the ref’s fault.  Ain’t it always?

How is that working out for you, losers?

Ep. 11: Los Cachirules podcast – Liguilla talk as well as results vs. performance debate

Los Cachirules

After a short break for Thanksgiving, the crew got back together to talk the ongoing Liguilla tournament. Chivas is of course NOT in the Liguilla so some of the guys were getting ragged on about the possibility of America winning another Trophy as well as even Toluca winning their 11th and reaching the same number of titles as Chivas has.

Pumas is also in the mix and some predict an upset in the making vs an apparently better team in Las Wilas from America.

Tigres seems to be the big favorite, with their goal scorer Gignac leading the way. Even if his last Golazo via Chilena was actually kicked off his shin. Pure luck maybe?

The discussuion was also swayed to the question of what is more important having a good performance or getting the result.

Have a listen on iTunes or link below.

We plan on having another show on Thursday evening during the Tigres vs Toluca Liguilla Semifinal. Maybe do some play by play and in game analysis.

Pumas Secures Top Seed, Libertadores Berth

It is not that they came out of nowhere, or that they weren’t on anyone’s radar. Frankly, anyone who tries to make pre-season predictions on the outcome of Liga MX should probably have their head examined. The only sure thing in Luga MX is that there are no sure things.

But, there they are, the team no one saw coming, taking the top spot in Liga MX with a game in hand. Pumas will be the top seed in the Liga MX playoffs. A curse more than a blessing really, as Alberto “Chiquis” Campa noted earlier.  The bigger prize, though, is a ticket to Copa Libertadores. A tournament where Pumas has not distinguished themselves at all. And now they get another shot.

How did Pumas, a club that had spent 4 years in the wilderness, manage to turn it around? It is simple really. Continuity. Pumas only dabbles in the transfer market, and the players they do cherry pick tend to stick around. This is not a team that reshuffles its roster every six months. The one time the did try it recently, under Alberto Garcia Aspe (another prodigal son), it failed miserably and is the main reason Pumas nearly slipped into the abyss.  It also didn’t hurt that they brought back two lifetime Pumas to run the squad: Memo Vazquez, former Pumas player and last title-winning coach, was brought back after his inexplicable exit. Antonio Sancho is in the front office.

This year, they only collected 3 new players before the season. Two of them have had a major impact. Fidel Martinez, el Neymar Ecuatoriano has solidified an attack that has scored the most goals since C2011, which conincidentally, was the last time Pumas won a title. The other is Alekandro Castro. The former Cruz Azul holding midfielder has had an exceptional campaign which even warranted a call-up for the upcoming qualifiers.

The Mexico City side started slow, which was a problem: a few more losses and they would have slipped into the relegation fight. Instead, a 6-game winning streak catapulted them away from the drop zone and to the top of the table. They haven’t looked back. No team has scored more and only one team has given up fewer — Tigres (coached by another Pumas disciple, Tuca Ferretti).

But there is that whole top seed curse thing. It is very real. In the last 10 years, more top seeds have fallen in the first round than have won the title by a 2.5:1 ratio. Only 4 have won the title outright. If Pumas crash out early, so be it. But they have only partiacpted in the Copa Libertadores twice, and only got as far as the round of 16 in 2003. That should be the focus in 2016. Do they have a roster that can compete in the two tournaments? Tough to say. They play well together and have decent depth, but they need some youth players to step up. Which should never be a problem at Pumas.

So for the first time in 24 years, Pumas will enter the post-season as the top seed. What happened the last time they were the #1 seed?  Funny you should ask…

Is the curse of Super Lider, legit or rubbish?

Veracruz Super LiderIf you are familiar with the Mexican League and the Liguilla/Playoff, then you know of the “Super Lider curse”. Being at the top of the General Table usually is a good thing. In La Liga, it means you are the champion. Not in the Mexican League. It just means now you have to go into the playoff and win the Championship in a series of home/away games.

The curse is that throughout history it is percieved that the team at the top of the table (aka #1 seed) always fails to win the Cup via playoff and bows out early in quarterfinals or Semis.

So I went back 10 years to get a look at how legit this is. I know as far as my memory goes, the teams that I recall being Super Lider always would fail in the playoffs. My first memories were back when Cuautemoc led lowly Veracruz to an excellent season, only to bow out early in playoffs. This year, Pumas is at the top and being a fan of UNAM I want them to do great. However, I have seen this curse take effect and bring teams down. Or have I?

Going to the cold hard stats, lets look at the past 10 years. In 21 seasons (Apertura/Clausura) the Super Lider has won the Cup 4 times. That is a 19% success rate, not very good, but surprising. I was thinking it would be more like 0%. Maybe some exageration on my part regarding this so called curse? Not even very far back, America beat Tigres to win the Championship in Apertura 2014. Further back in Clausura 2012, Santos did it vs Monterrey. Then we have a gap until we get to Clausura 2007 where Pachuca beats America to win it all. Then just a year passes and we have Pachuca beating San Luis in Clausura 2006.

So as you can see, it can be done, and it has been done. Pumas is now the determined Super Lider in this Apertura 2015 playoffs, so we will see if it can be done again. Can a #1 seeded team take on playoffs and win the Tournament?

On a side note, should the playoffs even exist? Should Mexico go the way of La Liga and crown the team that ends season at the top of the table? We’ll save that topic for another post.  😀

 

Here are the stats I looked up on the Super Lider from each season:

Clausura 2015 – Tigres lose to Santos in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2014 – America beats Tigres, is Champion.
Clausura 2014 – Cruz Azul loses to Leon in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2013 – Amercia, loses to Leon in Final.
Clausura 2013 – Tigres lose to Monterrey in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2012 – Toluca loses to Tijuana in Final.
Clausura 2012 – Santos beat Monterrey in Final.
Apertura 2011 – Chivas lose to Queretaro in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2011 – Tigres lose to Chivas in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2010 – Cruz Azul lose to Pumas in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2010 – Monterrey lose to Pachuca in Quarterfinals.
Apertura 2009 – Toluca lose to Monterrey in Semis.
Clausura 2009 – Pachuca lose to Pumas in Final.
Apertura 2008 – San Luis lose to Santos in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2008 – Chivas lose to Monterrey.
Apertura 2007 – Santos lose to Pumas in Semis.
Clausura 2007 – Pachuca beats America in Final.
Apertura 2006 – Cruz Azul lose to Chivas in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2006 – Pachuca beat San Lus in Final.
Apertura 2005 – America lose to Tigres in Quarterfinals.
Clausura 2005 – Morelia loses to Estudiantes in Semis.
1 2