Chivas win streak continues

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PUEBLA, MEXICO. Chivas Guadalajara continued their winning streak outclassing Puebla FC 3 – 0. This is the 3rd win in row and 4th straight away win. Making their away record 3 wins, 2 draws and a loss. With this win the Rojiblancos move to the 8th spot for liguilla purpose and are mathematically close to staving off relegation.

Chivas honcho Matias Almeyda stated “And with this result people will say ‘Chivas is a contender’ the primary objective, which has been meet, is for Chivas to not descend.”

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Pumas, Toluca Poised to Make a Libertadores Run

A quick look at the Liga MX table would tell one very obvious story:  both Pumas and Toluca are not having very good seasons.  They currently sit in 12th and 13th place – both out of the liguilla.  For Pumas, a stark contrast to their last campaign, where they finished the regular season at the top of the table.  Toluca, easily one of the most consistent teams since Liga MX halved their calendar, is also in a zone they are not particularly used to either.  On the outside looking in.  Normally, sluggish results like that would not just raise pundits’ eyebrows, they would also sow seeds for a fan revolt, and have coaches’ termination papers filled out.  In triplicate.

But, when we roll in what they have been able to accomplish in the group stage of the Copa Libertadores, this season has been an unqualified success… so far.

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Mexico Breeze Past Canada

VANCOUVER, BC – It was a bit of a surprise to see Hirving “Chucky” Lozano in the starting line-up for Mexico in front of the largest crowd to ever see the men’s national team play at BC Place.   Mexico coach, Juan Carlos Osorio deliberated up until the last minute.

Chucky or Marco Fabian?

Osorio went with Chucky, who took the field along with Jesus Corona and Javier Hernandez to make up Mexico’s line of attack.  The move paid off as all three were able to find the back of the net in Mexico’s 3-0 victory over Canada.  Lozano, in particular, was especially devastating. If it was not his speed, it was his ball control.  If it wasn’t his darting runs, it was his defense.  And when he dispossessed Canada late in the first half, all Javier Hernandez had to do was send the ball into space like a bucket of chum ready to be gobbled up by a lethal shark. Read more

Los “4 Grandes” All Win… Really

With a name like the “4 Grandes”, one would think that news of them winning should not be something to write about.  Well, they did win.  And they all won on the same weekend.  Again, you ask “what’s the big deal?  These are the premiere teams, the flagship clubs, the most powerful and popular clubs in Liga MX.  They are used to winning and winning championships.  So WTF, John?”

Well, let me tell you.

Yes, the big 4 won this past weekend.  America dispatched Leon at the Azteca 2-1

 

while Guadalajara surprised league leaders Monterrey in the tamalera 3-1.  A guy by the name of “la chofis” scored a riveting brace.

Cruz Azul made Atlas look so bad, favorite son Rafael Marquez begged forgiveness from the largest RednBlack supporters group, Barra 51 (named after the last year they won a league title).

After giving up an early goal, Pumas put together a 4 goal spurt to down Monarcas.

 

causing a butterfly to cry in a post-game TV interview.

The big deal is not that they won.  It is that they all had wins in the same matchday.  Something that had not happened in 4 years.  4 years.   Not very big 4-like.  We have to go back to Matchday 9 of the 2012 Clausura to see the last time this happened.

In those 4 years, Club America has certainly had the best run.  A couple of League titles and a CONCACAF trophy have restored order (if you ask any Americanista) to the world.  Cruz Azul and Pumas each have lost a final in that time frame, while Chivas has been in the wilderness, losing games and going through coaches and front office types like a tourist who eat too much street food goes through a roll of toilet paper.

 

The current table has them in the following positions:

  • 3. America       21 pts      +7
  • 5. Cruz Azul     18 pts      +7
  • 9. Pumas         15 pts      +2
  • 12. Chivas       12 pts        0

The 8th place team, Tijuana has 16 pts, so it is conceivable that with 6 dates left, all four sides could make the post-season.  When was the last time that happened? The 2011 Clausura, which coincidentally was won by Pumas – another opportunity to make the Butterflies cry…

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Clásico Nacional Wins the Ratings Battle

darwinIn a time when cable channels are losing subscribers to all manner of other content providers, there is one recently launched channel that is squashing the current narrative and proving to be a major success story:  Univision Deportes Network.

Launched earlier in the decade, the channel took its time to take root, as one would expect.  But carriage agreements with major carriers has been key.  Additional distribution for Univision Deportes Network has been one of the main reasons Univision has reported quarterly profits over the past year, so it is easy to see why network programmers have been steadily moving their sports properties off the over the air channels, Univision and UniMas.

The ratings for the Club America win over their arch rival Guadalajara have been announced.  And the broadcast took all other soccer games to the woodshed

For those who are math disabled, the Cremas-Cabras Clásico has 6 times the audience of the nationally broadcast MLS games, and nearly 4 times the audience of one of the US’ most popular sides, Manchester United, and their draw with the hammers in the FA Cup.

The ratings may have been even higher were it not for a carriage dispute between AT&T and Univision.  Those folks on U-Verse did not get to see America’s 2-0 win at all.

It would have been unspeakable just a few years ago to air the biggest, most important match of the Liga MX calendar on anything other than Univision, but the runaway success of UDN has changed the paradigm.  The momentum will carry through, at least through the summer as Copa America will also air on the Univision family of networks.

Despite the great news, it is not all flowers and sunshine for Univision, However. Telemundo outbid Univision for the rights to the World Cup starting in 2018.  Telemundo will have very large shoes to fill.  UDN’s coverage of Brazil14 was easily the most comprehensive (and best) in the history of US televison.

 

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Psychoanalysis of the Club America vs Chivas Super Clasico

What a fun game for an indifferent Pumas fan. So let’s begin.

Paul Aguilar StompThe game starts out very well for Chivas. The showed heart and hustle as an obvious underdog, battling relegation. It is a sign of a good attitude in the locker room to motivate a team that has been struggling, to step it up against their greatest rival. Who knows if it was Almeyda or Captian Omar Bravo who motivated them, but they came out with energy and on the attack. Even amidst negativity in the media, gossip about Gullit drinking, and relegation. In times like this, a team can come out half hearted or beaten before the game begins, or battle back as an underdog. Chivas came out as the latter.

Chivas attacking paid off and Conejo Brizuela got a goal in the 23rd minute, however it was called off. There was no dispute that he was offsides and that the goal should not have counted. The problem is with the side line ref, in that he hesitated to make the call and had to meet with the head ref to talk and call back the goal after the fact. This can play an issue in the mind of the Chivas players. The goal was scored, a whistle was not blown and Brizuela celebrated with his teammates as he pointed to the heavens. It is a glorious moment to have scored against your arch enemy. Then imagine how Brizuela and Chivas feel after it is ripped away from them. It has to be saddening and depressing. Again Chivas would have to dig deep and self motivate their mind and body to continue playing. This seemed to be the case, but you could tell there was a drop in play. America gained their composure and was able to get more possession and opportunities for attack.

We now know America scored 2 great goals, to take a commanding lead. This again can put a psychological burden on a down and out Chivas team. They still, however, battled and did not give up. They were running on pure passion.

So let’s talk passion. Passion is what brings fans to the stadium. Passion and love for their teams is what makes people yell, cheer and be loyal even through hard times. The deep desire to win is what motivates Chivas or America players to run hard after a ball. And Yes, sadly it can motivate fans to throw obscenities and even objects at the opposing team. It is no surprise to see this happen. Yes it is ugly, but these fans have passion. It may not be properly focused but it is passion. It is this same passion that would make Santos fans insult the Mexican NT hero Giovanni Dos Santos. Even a Chivas fan who threw a cup of beer at CONCACAF Cup hero Paul Aguilar and hit him in the back.

This passion even exists for players to do whatever it takes to win or get an advantage. Paul Aguilar has passion in the instances where he gets stomped on in the corner and proceeds to flop around like Pikolin did in last year’s Liguilla. His goal was fulfilled as the Chivas player got red carded and America took the advantage. He did the same later, when the cup of beer hit his back and he rolled around some more. He want’s to win and this is the type of things that sometimes needs to be done. Is it hated, yes, but it will continue to happen. Just like beers will continue to fly, so lets get over it.

Finally, to touch on a word that is commonly used in spanish, Ardido. This means rustled, upset, salty or many other adjectives that could be used to describe Omar Bravo near the end of the game. You could tell he was frustrated and in one instance he got hacked, fell to the ground and the America player got sent off. He then proceeds to run away and heads straight to Sambueza and hits him chest to chest. This was of course purposefully done as he was heated in the moment. Luckily he did not get carded himself, because he was carrying a yellow previously. This “rustle” on the part of Omar Bravo could have cost him the concentration and cool head he needed in later opportunities he had to score, but failed.

So the mind, emotions can play a huge part in Futbol. This type of passion, energy and competitiveness is what makes this Clasico the best in Mexico. Yes even greater than the Clasico Regio, which may have better teams that are higher on the table, the Clasico Nacional has more on the line, for fans and players.

¡Ay Chivas!

Chivas is in no danger of being relegated… this year.  But the toxic cloud of dropping to the lesser divisions has inexplicably spilled into next season as well.  And there is no guarantee that the newly promoted team next season will be as awful as Dorados has been this season.

And that means that Chivas might actually have to show  a real sense of urgency to avoid the most humiliating of fates:  becoming the most popular team in Liga Ascenso.

That sense of urgency that one would normally expect to find when a traditional power finds itself anchored down by the spectre of relegation has been MIA at Chivas central for the better part of the last 3 years.  It was front and center for former Mexico coach, Chepo de la Torre.  He knew how high the stakes were and managed risk accordingly.  He got Chivas to the semis in the C15 liguilla, but started slowly in the A15.  Too slowly for Vergara.  maa¡¡So he brought in an Argentine relegation “fixer” in Mathias Almeida.  The results have actually been worse.

There have been some interesting player additions, including a couple of members of Mexico 2014 World Cup side. But neither Isaac Brizuela or Carlos “Gullit” Peña have made the impact one would expect for the transfer fees Chivas paid.  Gullit has become the latest scapegoat for Chivas’ woes.  He had a bad game against his former team, Leon, yesterday in Chivas’ 1-0 loss;  the same Leon team that Gullit never wanted to leave and had to be dragged away kicking and screaming.

“We’ve bottomed out,” a beaten down Almeida said yesterday in the post game presser. If dropping points at home is the cardinal sin of a team in the drop zone, then Chivas has been a staple a the weekly confessional because they have not won at home since September.  How can that happen?

Teams don’t fall apart overnight, and Chivas is no different.  So how did this happen, Chivas fans?  I have my theories…

  • No stability or continuity in the coaching ranks or front office. 

How many coaches and or general managers has Chivas trotted out over the past few years?  Exactly

  • Selling Chicharito without a back-up planchich manu

It may have been good business, and Chicharito has taken full advantage of the opportunity afforded to him.  But Chivas is still paying the price for not having an adequate plan to replace their homegrown superstar.

 

 

  • Omnilife Stadium construction drained the club’s cash reserves

A lot of people, me included, poked fun at Vergara for his avarice in not signing players even with having to pay a premium.  Turns out he may not have had the cash to spend anyway. If you believe the rumors, budgeted costs severely underestimated the actual costs.  And you wondered why the first playing surface was made of plastic.

  • Le divorce

No need to explain this one

  • Swinging and missing on player movement

CHIVAS-LUIS-PEREZ-Y-MARQUEZPlease name a player that has been brought in in the past 5 years that has made a significant impact on the side.  When you do, ask for the blue guy, you know, the one holding his breath.

  • Terrible PR moves

Granted, this really does not have that much bearing whether or not Chivas drops, but here are just 2 brilliant PR moves that Chivas has made over the past few years.

Announcing a press conference to introduce a newly signed player — you the fan.  Denying FMF access to Chivas players for a non-sanctioned friendly only to lose anyway.

  • Vergara’s arrogance and unrealistic expectations

This always gets play in the press, but it is more of a deflection of Chivas’ current state than anything else.  His team has proved over the past 10 years that it is mediocre at best —  so why pretend like it is better than it really is?

Chivas will not be relegated this season, but instability in the front office, poor personnel moves, a coaching carousel, and uncertainty of team ownership, and a consistently under-performing roster of players means that Chivas may be looking at one maybe 2 more seasons of walking the tightrope.

Next season, they may not have a Dorados to break their fall.

Liga MX at a Crossroads – Whether They Know it or Not

ligaMXA FEW YEARS AGO, the string-pullers in the Mexican soccer business decided to re-brand their top flight as Liga MX.  New logo, new theme music, new cup tournament – it was quite a show.  The newly branded Liga MX was positioning itself to make a move on the global stage.  The cynics, and there are a lot (too many, really), who make it their business to follow and report on Mexican soccer responded they only way they know how:  cynically.  It is nothing more than just a fresh new color of lipstick for the same pig was the general consensus.  And why not?  The string-pullers of Mexican soccer have long had the reputation, whether justly earned or not, for not being the most transparent when it comes to league business.  The problem is, while these reporters, columnists, pundits, bloggers, beat writers, and pretty TV people are all at the ready to fire the most tired of criticisms, they are not talking about what is happening on the field.  As it turns out, they quality of play on the field is pretty good.

Instead, we hear incessantly that Liga MX is nothing more than mediocre.  Are they paying attention?  The league promotes itself, or at least tries to.  But their positive spins are lost in translation when it goes through the media middlemen.

That’s a problem.  And it is something that Liga MX needs to solve in the very near future.  So me of it is self inflicted.  There is a reason the press is so jaded.  Some of Liga MX’s existing policies are, well, baffling.  Take, for instance, coverage.  Here in the US at least, when watching Fox Deportes, or ESPN, or Univision Deportes, when they talk about the league, the networks may not have the right to show highlights.

Highlights!  It is not a good look.  Not in these times, when all it takes is a tap of the finger to see a goal scored from anywhere in the world.

Liga MX needs as many outlets as possible, and it certainly doesn’t help that the ones who talk about it the most spend a good deal of their time trashing it.  Some of that can’t be helped; it is what sells, after all.  So find new outlets.  Buy time on Eurosport and produce an hour-long weekly recap of the league. Or a couple of 60 min condensed games.  The point is:  get more exposure.  Andre-Pierre Gignac has been the best story of the season.  Why isn’t there a French page on the Tigres website, or at the very least a Twitter account in French?

Their website could use a face-lift, but, truth be told, it has improved dramatically from its initial launch. However, there is no English language version of their website.  Or any other, for that matter.  Their social media can also use a boost.  Again, this is a rights issue, and I get that. But it would be a smart move to have a video available minutes after someone scored, or a great play, etc. Liga MX’s official twitter is somewhat informative – but again, there is a lot of room to improve.

Why the need for all this?  Beacuse Liga MX is not just competing against MLS, but also La Liga, The EPL, Bundesliga, NFL, NBA, Ligue 1, and the Chinese League that has tapped into a seemingly endless pool of funds.  Liga MX has the structure, the funding and the stability to do well in this New World Order.  Their biggest obstacle, however, is for them to prove (to themselves as well) that they belong.  One step to clearing the obstacle is to get the word out.  Hey, everyone!  Liga MX is pretty good.  It is!  Really.  Here watch these highlights.

Instead of doing little to shake the reputation the league currently has, it can rewrite the narrative with an introduction to each new market.  In other soccer loving countries, Liga MX could become a solid, entertaining league that has some quality players.  Players could see a league that pays well, and is extremely competitive.  Other clubs around the world could see a league that is well financed, and open for business.

But this is entirely up to Liga MX.  If they continue to believe that the status quo has worked before and will do so moving forward, then they are missing out on a huge opportunity.  If the only market outside of Mexico that matters to Liga MX is the Mexpat one in the US, then they are selling their own league short.

The String-pullers decided on the name Liga MX for a reason.  Now it is time to let the rest of the world in on it.

Time for Some Upgrades

46 years ago, Mexico staged what many folks believe was the finest World Cup in history, even to this day.  The 16 team tournament only needed 5 stadiums to schedule games.  The facilities that had the honor were the Estadios Azteca, Jalisco, Cuauhtemoc, Nou Camp, and Toluca’s Bombonera.

Amazingly enough, 46 years later those stadiums are still being used today; they are the home stadiums for America, Atlas, Puebla, Leon, and Toluca.  And sure, they have been renovated over the years.  Some more than others.  One’s bandages are about to be removed.puebla

Puebla’s newly renovated Cuauhtemoc will open its doors for the first time since its face lift this weekend.  It was quite the nip and tuck.  Even though the new facade has been compared to a commode, it is a marked improvement to a stadium that had been condemned not that long ago.

It could be the start of a new arms race in Liga MX. Monterrey debuted a gorgeous new stadium in time for the Apertura 2015 season.  And just last week, Grupo Pachuca announced that they have started discussions about upgrading their playing grounds in Leon, although those talks are in the very preliminary stages.  The group is ready to finance the entire deal, provided the State of Guanajuato donates the land.  Stay tuned.

A city that is in desperate need of some new digs is Mexico City.  Estadio Azteca was quite the marvel in the 1960’s when it opened.  It was the inspiration for the modernization of NFL stadiums, with its verticality and multitude of luxury boxes.  Despite the occasional face lift, time has not been kind to the Coloso. Has anyone had to use the restrooms there?  Before you start hyperventilating and expecting the worst, let’s rip off the band aid early.  Yes, it is time to replace the Azteca.  It happens.  Wembley has been replaced, Highbury as well, as has Yankee Stadium.   Their fans survived.

So, it is a question of when, rather than if.

Financing for the projects will most likely be private.  There have been a few stadiums that have gone online since Mexico last hosted a World Cup in 1986, each with their own cautionary tale.

necaxaEstadio Victoria – Aguascalientes

The stadium was built as the new home for one of Mexico’s oldest clubs, Necaxa, who moved away from Mexico City.  The stadium delivered a modern structure to host games.  Unfortunately, the team’s front office could not deliver a team the fans wantd to see.  The shininess wore off, fans stopped coming, and Necaxa faded to the second division. Now Necaxa has the Liga Ascenso’s nicest digs.  Unless Chivas joins them this summer.

omnilife2Estadio Omnilife – Guadalajara

Sometimes private financing can only take you so far.  Jorge Vergara has been rumored to lose his shirt in the financing of this stadium, which led to the original playing surface being the fake stuff. But that is only one of the problems.  The location is awful.  The outrageous Sunday traffic on gameday has caused many Chivas fans to stay away.  And the 5pm local start time puts half the stands in direct sunlight.  The Stadium itself is wonderful, but there is a lot more to stadiums than just the structure.  If you build it, they will not come if it is a huge pain in the ass to do so.

bancomerEstadio Bancomer – Monterrey

On the surface, Rayados’ new home look spectacular.  Gorgeous, shiny, modern, accessible, it seems to have it all.  Except for one teency little problem:  ventilation.  The initial reports from the fans is that the stadium is great, but the air does not move too freely. And anyone who has been to Monterrey in August can attest to the fact that it is oppressively hot.  Laredo Hot.  Being the creative muchachos, they are, the Rayados fans have dubbed the new stadium la tamalera.

 

New stadiums are coming to Liga MX, slowly but surely.  But even a shiny new bauble doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, as we have seen.

The Relegation Hot Zone: Five teams battle to avoid the drop with one surprising team making the list

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The Liga MX Clausura 2016 Tourney is the definitive season for relegation. Relegation in the Liga Mx is based upon a percentage table that is calculated by games played and how many points were obtained.

The lowest team on the percentage table is the one who drops down into second division to pave the way for the promoting team. The bottom 5 places on the percentage table are extremely tight, with each team having either a slim/high chance of surivival or vice versa. Here’s an overview on the five team in the danger zone of relegation.

Dorados, The fish swimming against current

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“The message is to not go down (to second division), the message is to reach Liguilla (play-offs), one situation gives to the other.”- Luis Fernando Suarez (Dorados Head Coach)

Dorados is in the hottest spot in the percentage table, started the season with a loss and have the less talented squad, yet Mr. Suarez has the audacity to state that Liguilla is their main objective. The fight is NOT to get into Liguilla primarily, but to rise in the percentage table and avoid relegation.

Assuming that simply by being in Liguilla spots saves you is absolutely wrong. In the Clausura 2013, Queretaro finished the season in 8th place of the general table and qualified for the Liguilla. However, since they finished last in the percentage chart the ‘Gallos Blancos’ were relegated and lost their playoffs spot.

Therefore, Dorados mindset should change from entering Liguilla to obtaining the maximum amount of points this season. Their game against Chiapas was good ,but good won’t be enough this season for them. Priorities are wrong at Sinaloa, the future looks bleak ,however there is much of the season and much can happen from here to until the final whistle on Matchday 16.

Morelia, playing against 12?

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“The past tournament we suffered the unpleasantries of the referee’s, but my style isn’t to complain. Today’s was obvious and disgusting, but honestly i don’t like to talk about the referee’s, instead i like to help them” – Enrique Meza (Morelia’s Head Coach)

In a season where Morelia (17th) is right above Dorados (18th) in the percentage table and relegation seems close, it seems that Morelia’s biggest enemy is the referee’s. The referee’s could in no doubt play a huge part in this season’s biggest loser. Refereeing in Mexico has become extremely polemic to a point where their decisions directly affect games.

The referee mistake in Morelia’s game against Cruz Azul could have been a harsh blow in the percentage chart had it not been for the ‘Monarchs’ equalizing and rescuing a point. Morelia had a very good game against Cruz Azul giving their fans faith that they can avoid the drop.

Morelia has a decent team and a more than qualified Head Coach that will in no doubt obtain enough points to move up in the percentage table. Points are valuable for Morelia and if it wasn’t hard enough to play against eleven players, Morelia will have to be on the lookout of referee’s and their mediocre displays. One can only wonder if the referee’s this season can cost Morelia only this game or the whole season?

Chivas, awakening the sleeping…. goat?

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“The result is unfair, i think Chivas deserved the three points, they looked for it, took advantage of the extra man because they had the possession of the ball, pushing the rival in their own half and creating scoring chances”- Matias Almeyda (Head coach of Chivas)

Chivas showed dominance in their opening game against a resilient Veracruz that played one man down. That said, the result was fair. Chivas did not know how to make the most of their home-field and numerical advantage. Instead, Chivas looked better against 11-man Veracruz than a 10-man Veracruz.

Veracruz does deserve merit for knowing how to close down the game and being effective in their attacks, something Chivas wasn’t. However, Chivas did give glimpses of hope for their fans. Chivas’ pre-season signings were quick to bring results with Orbelin Pineda assisting Carlos Peña’s first goal for the club.

There is much to be excited about at Guadalajara. The team has enormous amount of talent and potential at their disposal. Although their main objective is to climb out of the percentage hot seat the ‘Goats’ can become a contender for the title.

Puebla, one of the league’s underdogs

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“The absolute priority is to fight the percentage issue which is definitive, afterwards think about Libertadores and Liguilla”- Pablo Marini (Puebla Head Coach)

Puebla is a team that has it’s priorities straight and it’s football even straighter. Despite being a very limited squad, exploited to their maximum potential by Pablo Marini, the ‘Camoteros’ will look to replicate last season’s performance to move up in the percentage table.

It will be a busy season for Puebla as they now have Copa Libertadores to deal with while the threat of relegation looms behind them. Already, Puebla started the season on the right foot taking a very valuable tie against Club America at the Azteca stadium.

Puebla could have even won the game but the ‘Aguilas’ on-form keeper Moises Munoz managed to prevent the ‘Camoteros’ from embarrassing his side. Puebla only needs 20 points to secure their stay in the top flight. Twenty points that will in no doubt come to Puebla if they keep up their amazing football and great mindset.

Tijuana, does Miguel’s bark equal his bite?

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“There is still much work to be done”- Miguel Herrera (Tijuana Head Coach)

The ‘Xolos’ of Tihuana are the surprise team in the relegation hot seat. Although, Tijuana is 14th in the percentage table and unlikely to get relegated a terrible season would push Xolos to the depths of the percentage chart.

Last season they managed to only earn 16 points, one more than last placed Dorados. While Tijuana’s main objective is Liguilla they can not ignore the fact that they are in an awkward position in the percentage table.

Miguel Herrera has been relegated before with Veracruz in 2008 and he’ll hope to avoid any of that pressure throughout the season. Herrera’s Tijuana looked a bit below average against Pachuca on Matchday 1 and will hope to ease up the pressure with a win against Dorados. Herrera will need some time at Tijuana to really implement his strategy and once he does the team can leave the percentage table in the past and look towards the future of fighting for the league championship.

 

Written by Luis Molano

Luis is a Liga Mx blogger and part time ranter. Always up for soccer debate!

Follow him on Twitter @Lu__Molano

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