Mexican Primera: Toluca, America, and Pachuca Struggle in Mexico
Another weekend in the Mexican Primera brought with it another round of disappointment for the three marquee teams in Group 2. What appeared to be the strongest group prior to the start of the season has instead turned into a muddle of mediocrity. Defending champion Toluca has yet to win a game, Pachuca has already lost their coach, and an improved Club America has yet to meet expectations. If Group 2 is indeed the group of death, then these teams are all zombies stumbling over each other in a backwards retreat from the top spot. Despite these collective struggles, one assurance is that someone will have to eventually emerge and take a firm hold on the group lead. With the group’s other teams also struggling (Atlas and Atlante remain winless, and San Luis remains San Luis), it will still be one of these three teams that ends up on top in the end. Here‘s a look at the three’s latest struggles and long-term prospects.
With only 5 points, America amazingly sits in the top spot of Group 2 (compare that with Group 3 where five of the six teams already have more than 5 points). The America offense continues to struggle though, with the latest evidence Sunday’s 1-1 home draw with Atlas. The team has now posted consecutive 1-1 results against fairly mediocre teams- Tigres and Atlas- and desperately needs to find a way to jumpstart the offense. Fortunately for America the schedule remains light over the next two weeks, with an away match against Queretaro followed by a home date with Necaxa. Manager Manuel Lapuente will need to make the necessary adjustments over these next few fixtures before the team reaches the more difficult portions of the schedule. If the scoring output doesn’t improve, America won’t be holding onto first place for long.
An analysis of Pachuca’s loss to Cruz Azul reveals problems all over the field, but the main issue for the Tuzos continues to be the play of the backline. Cruz Azul strikers Javier Orozco and Emanuel Villa repeatedly found themselves unmarked in the box on Saturday, easily beating Pachuca’s defenders to their spots. If not for several great saves from Pachuca goalkeeper Miguel Calero, the final margin could have ended up much, much worse. The 4-1 defeat proved to be enough for manager Rivarola, who officially resigned following consecutive losses by a combine 7-1 margin. The primary concern for the new manager will be dealing with the play of the defense. Pachuca still has loads of talent on the roster and following next week’s match against Monterrey the schedule finally gets a little easier. With a favorable schedule to end the year the Tuzos are still very much alive in the playoff hunt, but without improvements on the backline the season could just as easily go down in flames.
This weekend saw Toluca come away with a draw at home for the second time in the Apertura. In the intimidating atmosphere of Estatdio Nemesio Diez, a place Toluca almost never loses, a draw against Tigres might as well be considered a loss. While Toluca was clearly the better side (it took a late penalty from Tigres to even the score), the result kept the Red Devils without a win in their first 4 games. As defending champion, Toluca has to be looked at as one of the biggest disappointments in the league so far this season. With both Hector Mancilla and Sinha still yet to score, the team will surely find its footing eventually and should end up being a contender by year’s end. Toluca had a similarly slow start in the Bicentenario, where they also drew their first two home matches. The team recovered to win 6 of 7 games to end the regular season followed by an undefeated playoff run to the league championship. A similar turnaround for the Red Devils in the current season is not at all unthinkable.