As this is a recap of the varying fortunes of two separate players in different leagues over the last week, rather than organising this summary chronologically, it will be easier to cover the individuals one after the other, starting with…
Tuesday 26 August 2014
Xolos de Tijuana 1-1 Deportivo Tepic
Cesar Farías put out a virtually full-strength side against the leaders of Mexico’s second tier and yet, despite having opportunities to seal a victory, ended up drawing this game and, following last week’s 0-0 draw, losing the tie on away goals. Juan Arango himself scored the home side’s goal after 69 minutes, bravely getting on to a low bouncing ball from the right and evading the sliding lunge of a defender to elegantly place it into the net with his cultured left boot. Arango was substituted within three minutes, yet Xolos soon had a golden chance to double their lead from the penalty spot but the effort of Argentine Alfredo Moreno was hit too close to the goalkeeper who made what was an easy parry – Moreno is now without a goal in eight appearances since returning to Xolos. His side were punished soon after when in the 76th minute Jorge Mora got the equaliser, knocking in a rebound from a Cirilo Saucedo save, whose right leg had denied a low shot from Michael Pérez. Xolos hit the post from a header towards the end, but Tepic held on for the draw and the extra point that is gained in the cup group stage from victories in ‘ties’.
For those who need a refresher on the Copa MX group stage rules: each of the seven groups has four teams who play each other twice just as they would in, say, the UEFA Champions League but a key difference is that after the home and away matches against each side are played, the aggregate score of these games is taken into consideration and an additional point is allocated to the winners. Thus, Xolos de Tijuana find themselves second in Group 3 with 6 points from 4 games despite a solitary win and a couple of draws as the additional point came from the aggregate victory over Zacatepec in the first set of matches. Xolos now go into their final two games against leaders CD Guadalajara (10 points) really needing to win both games to be absolutely sure of progressing to the knock-out phase as there is only one ‘Best Runners-up’ slot available and they currently have two points fewer than the side most likely to take that particular berth. Given that the winner of the competition outright enters the Copa Libertadores, this state of affairs really highlights how critical Moreno’s penalty miss could prove to be as had he converted it and Xolos hung on for victory, then they would be just a point behind the Chivas of CD Guadalajara.
As a brief addendum, this was the second cup game that Xolos placed youthful 20 year-old goalkeeper Dilan Nicoletti on the bench, which would be of little significance were it not for the fact that he has been handed the Number 112 squad number. Needless to say, his side do not have over 99 players and it would be remarkable in most countries that anyone, let alone a youngster who has never played a first-team game in his life, could be granted a shirt with three digits on it. However, while there is a lack of clarity regarding the rules regarding three digits, it appears that Mexico has some form in this area and are arguably pioneers, with CD Guadalajara playing a prominent role. Indeed, back in their centenary year of 2006, they were allowed to give striker Adolfo Bautista – erstwhile Mexican international and now of Deportivo Tepic – the number 100 shirt, which he then personalised with his name printed as ‘Bofo My Angel’, a nickname and term of endearment used by his then-recently deceased mother. Also, in the 2012-13 season, Guadalajara were also allowed to provide two youngsters who have since left, Víctor Perales and Luis Ángel Morales, with the numbers 143 and 163 respectively. These are not the only instances of three digits but the phenomenon is far from common so if anyone has any extra information feel free to get in contact through the usual channels. If you have an abundance of time on your hands, why not add any predictions regarding how long you feel it will be before agents demand that their clients be allowed to have birthdays, marriage dates and/or their representatives’ phone numbers printed on the backs of their shirts?
Image Source: Diario Futbol
Friday 29 August 2014
Xolos de Tijuana 1-1 Leones Negros
After 22 minutes, Arango scored an absolute scorcher from the very top-drawer as he lashed in one of his trademark thunderbastards from nearly 40 yards out that roared in off the underside of the crossbar. Yet, once again, his side were unable to build on a lead and drew for the fourth time in seven games as former Xolos striker, the Ecuadorian international Fidel Martínez, scored in his third consecutive game with a left-footed strike into the top corner after 77 minutes.
This result against lowly opposition leaves Xolos 13th with 7 points – 3 off the Liguilla (‘little league’/play-off) positions and 5 points above bottom. This state of affairs has been deemed by the board to be as intolerable as the fans have found it for weeks and thus, consequently, announced the sacking of manager Cesar Farías earlier this week. As Farías was in charge of Venezuela from 2008-13, he is believed by some (though not all) to have been integral in securing the services of Arango and so without him, questions marks have inevitably been raised about the player’s future. Former Mexican international striker Daniel Guzmán has already been installed to take the reins; he possesses over a decade’s worth of managerial experience in Mexico at ten different teams, which may give you an indication of how long he is likely to last in this position. The last time he managed was over a year ago with Atlante, a side currently in the second tier and where attention will now be turned.
Tuesday 26 August 2014
Atlante 0-3 Toluca
Edgar Benítez, a man who will be familiar to many Venezuelans from last October’s final World Cup Qualifying match in which he scored the opening goal for his native Paraguay in a 1-1 draw, scored a hat-trick for the Liga MX side as they secured a comfortable victory. Atlante’s priority is very much promotion hence why the prolific Giancarlo Maldonado, an ever-present in the league, did not play and has only made one appearance in a competition that his side now has no chance of progressing further in.
Friday 29 August 2014
Atlante 1-1 Atlético San Luis
Maldonado returned to the line-up against fellow promotion-chasers San Luis as Atlante went down to an early goal from Orlando Pineda, who took advantage of a very weak defensive clearance on the edge of the box to strike home into the far corner. Maldonado had a prominent role in his side’s second-half comeback and things could have been different had he managed to convert a penalty just before the hour mark but instead he hit a rather weak effort low down the middle that the goalkeeper Fabián Villaseñor saved with his trailing feet. However, around ten minutes later he did score a goal that, were it not for Arango, in almost any other week would be celebrated as the finest goal from a Venezuelan. Indeed, after 68 minutes, he expertly curled a 25-yard free-kick over the wall into the left-hand corner, leaving Villaseñor rooted to his spot in the middle. This goal marked Maldonado’s sixth in his opening seven league games for Atlante, making him the leading scorer in the league, with Celaya’s experienced Argentine, Patricio Gómez, and Alebrijes de Oaxaca’s more sprightly Colombian, Danny Santoya, both trailing him with five. With Salomón Rondón being really the only other Venezuelan striker who is playing abroad and scoring regularly, would it be such a surprise to see Maldonado recalled to the national side?