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

2015 in Review Episode III: Revenge of the Chich

We continue with our year in review.  And we have saved the best for last.

Player of the year

Chicharito

As 2015 comes to an end, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that one Javier Hernandez has been nothing short of sensational since moving over to the Bundesliga.  Hardly a surprise, to be blunt.  His naysayers, and there are plenty of them, would fall over themselves to be the first in pointing out how ill-suited our Chicharito was for the “big” teams every time he missed a shot for Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Never really understood the argument. Hernandez did plenty to show that he indeed could play, contribute, and flourish with the top teams.  Did he miss?  Of course.  What striker doesn’t miss?  The naysayers would go on to say that Javier needed to go to a less prestigious side, one that was more on par with his level of play.

What he has done at Bayer Leverkusen this season has been nothing less than outstanding.  The Bundesliga side is limited to say the least.  And the fact that they enter the Winter break in 4th place is due to one man — Javier Hernandez.  He has scored more goals since October than Manchester United.

Not their strikers, the entire team.  And with the amount of international duty on his calendar in 2016, he should become Mexico’s all-time scoring leader sometime during the Copa America.

His critics have said all he does is score goals.  I am sure Louis Van Gaal would love to have such a problem player.

 

Goal of the year

There were plenty of superlative goals that we could place here on soccerchronicle. I could have picked Paul Aguilar’s stunner in the Rose Bowl, Or any of the great Liga MX goals that breeched the nets.  Nope.  One goal stands out to me, even though it was in a losing effort.  Defender Diego Cortes’ individual effort in the 4-2 loss to Nigeria in the U17 semi-final gets my vote.

It would not be Mexican Football if the year wasn’t crazy.  Even by those standards, this year was borderline bizarro.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stay tuned for a 2016 tea leaf reading.

And don’t forget to tune in to our weekly podcast, Los Cachirules, that airs Wednesdays at 10:00 pm ET / 7:00 pm PT.  Live shows begin again on January 6, 2016.

Have a happy new year.

2015 in Review Episode 2: Attack of the Chon Chon

Any fan of Mexican football can attest to the fact that a roller coaster ride is an understated metaphor for the spectrum of emotions that one experiences in the course of following the team.  That full spectrum, the whole Roy G. Biv, was on display yet again in 2015.

We left off this particular year in review in Eindhoven, where the PSV supporters let it be known that Andres Guardado was an integral part of their championship season.  A well planned and executed display.  It was nice to see.  If only other parts of Mexico’s 2015 were pulled off as smoothly as this.

Worst Planning

Mexico’s Copa America campaign

mexico copa america For the second straight Copa America, Mexico was left wondering what could have been after another group stage exit.  It should have never come to that.

In 2011, Mexico was forced to send less than their best thanks to a Chuck Blazer mandated “it’s the U23 or don’t play” edict that ensured that Mexico’s best players would participate in the 2011 Gold Cup, and Chuck would maximize his 10% commissions on the $10 beers sold at Jerryworld.

The U23 team selected had a terrific run-up to the tournament, only for it to blow up in their faces after Chepo de la Torre suspended the core of the side after a prostitution scandal.  The side that played in Argentina was a hastily put together mishmash of Liga MXers an U20 stalwarts.  It didn’t work, but at least they had an excuse.

In 2015, there were no such limits to the roster, but Miguel Herrera decided to send a B squad anyway.  Once again, a group that had never played together were lassoed into service while the A team was getting ready for the Gold Cup.  Mexico did not embarrass themselves, but the results and the personnel could have been better.  It also did not help that Miguel Herrera, fresh off his politically motivated tweets, lost what little support he had left with some more outrageous statements.  Add to that Javier Hernandez’ post tournament comments that he was ready, willing, and able to play both tournaments, but was never asked to do so.

Mexico will continue to play in the South American tournament as an invited guest because the TV money generated by their participation is too succulent for CONMEBOL to pass up.  But Mexico has to decide how best to play the tournament.  A B side is an insult to CONMEBOL, even if the A side’s European clubs would not allow their players to double dip.  The most logical thing to do, then, is to send a U23 with a handful of pros.  Give the young guns a showcase for their considerable skills.

 

Most Underrated Coach

Raul “Potro” Gutierrez

potroHe led one U17 to a World Cup title and another to the final.  The natural progression was for Raul “Potro” Gutierrez to take charge of the U20 teams.  He did not, and they were not able to match the results they achieved one level below.  Instead he jumped a level, and led Mexico to their 2nd straight win in CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifying tournament. He is poised to take a team that may be more talented than the one that won Gold in London 4 years ago to Rio.

Yet anyone who has had the need to hire a coach over the past few months doesn’t have Potro’s digits.  He has not gotten a sniff at any of the numerous openings that pop up like mushrooms around Liga MX.  He was not considered when Mexico needed an interim (or permanent) National team.  His current gig takes into next summer, but there is no reason why he can’t moonlight, at say, Morelia in the time being.

Whoever does take that chance won’t be disappointed.

Coach with most Pressure

Juan Carlos Osorio / Iganacio Ambriz

No surprises here.  The former has stepped into a cauldron that is perpetually boiling.  The latter had his motives questioned by his boss during his last game of import, a loss to  Chinese club and Asian champion, Guangzou.  Both have no choice but to respond with results in 2015.

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Juan Carlos Osorio got off on the wrong foot with the Mexican media just by being announced as Mexico’s national team coach.  And then when he had the nerve to talk about tactics, the media tried to paint him as an intellectually pompous brainiac.  There is always a fatal flaw with Mexico’s coaches according to the media.  Hugo Sanchez was too ambitious, while Javier Aguirre was not ambitious enough.  Miguel Herrera was as educated as they were, so he did not deserve the position he had attained. Osorio is too educated, and, worse, a Colombian.  Nothing he does will be good enough, wins will be discarded and losses will be indictments that will only add to the chorus of talking heads who want to fire the guy yesterday.

And he was one of the few who wanted the gig.

Nacho Ambriz has the players to contend for another title at Club America, and will have front office support as long as he keeps winning, or avoids blundering his way to a loss.  He did so in the Liga MX Semis, when down to 9 men, did not sit back and absorb what little pressure Pumas was providing.  And over in Japan, he inexplicably ceded momentum to the Chinese side, and paid the ultimate price.

America will have defeats, but will the other team beat them, or will they hand them the win on a silver platter.  If Ambriz can avoid the latter, he should stick around.

Why don’t you stick around, we have a few more chapters to go.

Technical skill in USA vs Mexico

One of the main thoughts I have had in mind and truly believe in, is that the reason Mexican players have greater touch and on the ball technical ability than their US rivals is because they have the ball at their feet from an earlier age among other reasons. Lets analyze some of these reasons.

USA Soccer lifestyle:

  • First, in the US kids play soccer in the back yard if there is time, but mostly during soccer practice and the actual soccer game.
  • Second, kids will always play sports in the house and anywhere they can, but it is more common in the US that they have a pointy shaped football and throw it around. There are other more popular sports, in the US that take away from time playing with a ball at their feet.
  • Third, is it easier to play with the soccer ball in your house in Mexico or in the US? This theory I am not sure on. Do US parents require more order and are strict on their kids breaking something while trying some Ronaldinho moves? I am not sure.

Mexico Soccer lifestyle:

  • Kids in Mexico will play soccer anywhere and everywhere. They don’t need a fancy metal goal with nice white nets. They don’t need nice green grass. They play in the streets, in parks and even in dirt fields.
  • Mexican kids don’t have other sports that are more popular than soccer. This is arguable in some parts of the country where baseball is pretty popular. Soccer is the sport to watch on TV and with balls sold at every market, there is no reason a kid wouldn’t have one growing up.

 

To demonstrate this reasoning. In the last few years while living in the US, never once have I seen kids playing soccer in the street. I have a park behind my house and have only seen kids play soccer there maybe once. I have a full soccer field down the road and I have never seen any kids play soccer there on their own.

Another aspect of this is the Mexican-American population, who admittedly are the ones that are most interested in soccer in the first place. Do they play in the streets, even though they live in the US? I would say no. The US culture seems to sway this, be it playing Xbox or needing a better field, but probably the biggest reason is not enough Mexican-Americans around to start a game. I think in neighborhoods of higher concentration of Mexicans/Mexican-Americans, you would find more kids playing soccer and even in the streets of the US.

Now I have spent the last 3 days in Mexico and going out and about I see the following, which I record for hard proof of the Soccer culture in Mexico. You might even be impressed with some of the moves and skill that these kids do and surely emulate from their favorite players.

Enjoy:

 

Estadio Corregidora – Queretaro

Estadio Corregidora

Vacation has brought me to Queretaro, so I took a walk to the stadium for a few pictures. So let’s talk Gallos Blancos and reminisce some highlights from this past year.

The Estadio Corregidora is the home of the Gallos Blancos of Queretaro. A city just north of Mexico City and recently known as the Team where Ronaldinho Gaucho payed for the Clausura 2015 season and took the team to the League Final only to lose to Santos Laguna.

During the 1st leg Semifinal of the Clausura 2015 Liguilla, some controversy arose as Head Coach Manuel Vucetich, benched both Sinha and Ronaldinho right before the half after going down by 2 goals. Ronaldinho didn’t like being taken out and was visibly frustrated with Vucetich. He didn’t head to the midfield line for the substitution, instead he walked direclty to the locker room entrance to leave the field entirely.

Vucetich could be seen as the villain and to be attempting to humiliate the Brazilian legend. He could have easily waited a few minutes for the half to end and make the change then. There seemed to have been a bit of a power struggle between the two. Ronaldinho is now no longer with the team, since the summer of this year.

Now the Argentine, Emmanuel Villa is the goal scorer for the team. He will be joined by Mexican youngster Carlos Fierro. Clausura 2016 should be interesting for the team.

Ep. 15: Los Cachirules podcast – We talk America’s failure, Tigres win and LigaMX transfers.

Another Wednesday night, another show of Los Cachirules podcast. We discussed the failure of America during the Club World Cup. Atleast they got 5th place. We also discussed the Tigres win, LigaMX transfers and even who we wanted to see descend.

Listen in…

Ep. 14: Los Cachirules podcast – delayed post.

PumasEpisode 14 from last week, recorded right after the 1st Leg of the Tigres vs Pumas final. We discussed the bleak chances for Pumas to get back, which as we know now, didn’t turn out to be so bleak.

As always, we broadcast our show live on youtube, and announce it on our twitter account. So you can follow live, or wait until we release the episodes for iTunes and on this blog.

 

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!

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