Football

Gimenez carries Cruz Azul, Puebla marches on, more problems for Solari, America

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Liga MX’s Jornada 6 is in the books and the latest round of matches showcased a stunning victory for Pachuca at Club America, two goals from a promising Cruz Azul striker, Puebla staying in first place and much more. Here are three big talking points, plus some further observations.

Gimenez brace carries Cruz Azul

He only came into the game in the 77th minute, but 20-year-old Santiago Gimenez turned in a two-goal display in a 4-1 win against Toluca that earned him player-of-the-match honors and provided much-needed moments of success for a player, who did not have an ideal start to 2022

The young Mexican forward, who wasted little time making an impact with his goals arriving off a penalty and via a header, scored his first goal for the Mexican national team last December, but had to miss out on his club’s season opener after testing positive for COVID-19 in early January.

« He went several days without training, and well, we’re human beings, we’re not robots and everything takes a process, » Cruz Azul manager Juan Reynoso said after the game. « With goals he’ll surely gain confidence. »

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Gimenez, who is the son of Cruz Azul legend Christian Gimenez, still has much to prove after scoring his first goals in Liga MX since August, but if he continues to make an impact at the club level, it would not be much of a surprise if he returns to the national team for next month’s crucial World Cup qualifiers.

As for Cruz Azul, three points and a return to the top three in the standings will brush away some off-the-field drama regarding front office changes that made headlines earlier this month.

Hype is real for undefeated Puebla

The undefeated run for the Liga MX team with the lowest market value ($22.77 million on Transfermarkt) charged on with a 1-0 win over Monterrey, who are not only the team with the highest value ($94.49m), but also represented CONCACAF in the recent Club World Cup.

Even more impressive was that Puebla achieved the win despite playing almost all the second half with 10 men after a red card was shown to Gustavo Ferrareis in the 53rd minute. Goalkeeper Antony Silva saved the subsequent penalty and would remain unbeaten.

Undaunted by the task he faced, 37-year-old manager Nicolas Larcamon oversaw his side holding onto the narrow lead, provided by Diego de Buen after three minutes, with a tight and organized 5-3-1 formation.

Defenders de Buen and Emanuel Gularte shone with tackles and interventions that complicated things for Monterrey. In the midfield and frontline, meanwhile, Puebla created more shots on target than their opposition thanks to their direct and aggressive style of play.

They looked like true title contenders and, with another week sitting first in the league table, the fairy-tale run from the « Larcaboys » goes on.

More problems for Solari, America

Puebla are not the only underdogs worth noting: Pachuca, who lie second in the table, earned the result of the weekend with a 3-1 win at Club America, whose struggles continue.

Guided by a goal and an assist each from Aviles Hurtado and Victor Guzman, Pachuca were dynamic and energetic as they stole the show at Estadio Azteca. Through an attack-minded and pressing system from head coach Guillermo Almada, Los Tuzos utilized their attractive style to improve their record to four wins, one draw and one defeat in six games.

That said, the away team’s performance was overshadowed by a blossoming crisis at America. A report from ESPN MX earlier this month stated that upcoming results would likely define the future for manager Santiago Solari; with only one win from the first six games of the season, his days look to be numbered.

Additional notes

– Results elsewhere saw FC Juarez earn a 0-0 draw with Santos Laguna, Queretaro defeat Mazatlan 2-0, Club Tijuana hold Necaxa to a 1-1 draw, Tigres earn a comeback 2-1 win against San Luis and Leon claim a dramatic 2-1 victory over Chivas in a game that featured a game-winner from Osvaldo Rodriguez in the 94th minute.

– The CONCACAF Champions League continues this week and Liga MX’s four representatives are well-placed to advance: Santos Laguna, Leon and Cruz Azul take leads into the second leg, while Pumas host Saprissa with the aggregate score level at 2-2.

– In transfer news, Chicago Fire announced on Saturday that it finalized a deal for Atlas’ Jairo Torres, who will join the MLS club on May 1 and have a contract through 2025. Those timings mean the 21-year-old Mexican winger could remain with Atlas through the Liga MX regular season, but be gone once the playoffs start.

– To close things out on a heartwarming note, an uplifting story regarding a young Puebla fan named Dylan Flores, a video of whom went viral when he cried tears of joy after Puebla scored a late equalizer against Atlas in Week 5. On Valentine’s Day, Puebla invited him to watch the team train.

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