Football

Postponements, Pachuca shines, and ‘old man’ Gignac

Postponements, Pachuca shines, and ‘old man’ Gignac
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Liga MX is back! Week 1 of the Clausura is now in the books, kicking off the first of two seasons in 2023 from the top flight in Mexican men’s soccer. In case you missed anything or if you’re looking for a recap, we’ve got you covered with three talking points and some additional observations.

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The season starts…with postponements

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Ahead of the opening weekend of two Liga MX matches, Mazatlan vs. Leon and Atlas vs. Toluca, were postponed at the last minute.

In the state of Sinaloa, Mazatlan’s Friday home-opener against Leon was suspended after grim scenes of cartel-related violence emerged last week. In an apparent response to the arrest of cartel leader Ovidio Guzman, son of the imprisoned Joaquin « El Chapo » Guzman, outbursts of violence temporarily put the region into paralysis as local leaders told civilians to shelter in place.

Although normalcy has returned since the violence emerged, Liga MX and Mazatlan have yet to announce a date for the regular season match vs Leon.

Over in Guadalajara, Atlas also had their home-opener delayed, but for entirely different reasons. According to a review by Liga MX just days before Saturday’s game against Toluca, the field at the Estadio Jalisco was deemed to not be « in ideal conditions, » thereby forcing a postponement. Reports have indicated that preseason matches from the Copa por Mexico tournament, as well as a couple of concerts from Los Bukis — believe it or not — have impacted the state of the field that has yet to be fully restored.

Similar to Mazatlan vs. Leon, no new date has yet to be announced for Atlas vs. Toluca.

In either situation, it’s a blemish on the first weekend for the league. While there has been no lack of buzz and excitement for other games, both of the postponements are immediate setbacks for the competition that would have likely wanted a more encouraging start to the new year.


Defending champs Pachuca start off strong

There’s no championship hangover for Pachuca. After lifting the 2022 Apertura trophy, Los Tuzos hit the ground running with an assertive 5-1 result over Puebla on Monday night. Carried by a brace from No. 9 Nicolas Ibañez, Pachuca put on a show and embarrassed their opposition in front of a crowded Estadio Hidalgo.

Manager Guillermo Almada, known for loving to throw numbers forward and playing proactive soccer, wasted no time in the start to the season that featured countless shots, duels won and passes into the final third. Notably, the coach has also continued to provide plenty of minutes to young domestic talent like Mauricio Isais, Erick Sanchez and Kevin Alvarez, who could soon become highly prominent names in Mexican soccer.

In a club setup that prioritizes producing and elevating young academy players, success for Pachuca typically means success for the widening pool of the country’s up-and-coming players. Even if a second consecutive championship isn’t reached this season, the true legacy that the team is building is one that can provide the platform for the next Hirving Lozano or Erick Gutierrez.


‘Old man’ Gignac takes dig at ex-coach

The on-field image of the weekend belongs to Tigers star striker Andre-Pierre Gignac. After scoring in a 3-0 away win over Santos Laguna on Sunday, the 37-year-old became a talking point thanks to a peculiar celebration. Hunched over in fake pain with one hand on his back and another on an imaginary cane, the striker then began to laugh after his portrayal of an old man.

Was this a comment towards those who have questioned the abilities of the 37-year-old French star? Or, perhaps as many have alluded to, was this a gesture towards forming Tigres coach Miguel « Piojo » Herrera? Weeks before being fired after an underwhelming run in the 2022 Apertura playoffs, Herrera was widely criticized last October for his complaints that his Tigres squad had « gotten old. »

There’s a hint of truth there about the experienced roster of players that needs more youthful names, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Gignac and his teammates continue to be some of the most capable and imposing figures in Mexican soccer.

And if you bet against them, Gignac will have more clever celebrations to respond with after already scoring 179 times in Liga MX since 2015.


Additional comments

– Elsewhere in Week 1: A second half goalfest finished in a 3-2 away win for Atletico San Luis over Necaxa, Club America’s 26 shots weren’t enough to avoid a 0-0 draw with Queretaro, Chivas goalkeeper Miguel « Wacho » Jimenez was outstanding in a 1-0 away victory against Monterrey, two late goals pushed Pumas to a 2-1 win over FC Juarez, and Club Tijuana let a narrow lead slip away in a 1-1 draw with Cruz Azul.

– Dani Alves, who provided an assist in Pumas’ latest result, was recently accused of sexual assault at a nightclub in Barcelona during late December. The Brazil international has denied the accusations, claiming that « I don’t know who that young lady is. »

– Cruz Azul were reportedly reconsidering the status of Julio « Cata » Dominguez after the defender held a narcos-themed birthday for his son last week. The party was hosted hours after the aforementioned violence in Sinaloa. Dominguez was then left off of Cruz Azul’s gameday roster against Club Tijuana, but the league and club released a joint statement on Tuesday which claimed that the matter has since been dealt with internally.

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