Monterrey, Chivas kick off Liga MX Clausura with important wins
The opening round of matches of the Liga MX 2019 Clausura came less than three weeks after Club America lifted the Apertura title in Estadio Azteca. With the games coming so soon after the holidays, there was a little bit of a preseason feel to some of the clashes, but some important results and performances nevertheless.
Here are five takes from week one of the Clausura.
Rodriguez, Gonzalez shine as Monterrey makes statement
Monterrey made a lot of noise this transfer window, especially with the signing of Argentine Maxi Meza, but it was two homegrown midfielders that guided Rayados to a 5-0 thrashing of Pachuca on Saturday.
Jonathan Gonzalez, 19, returned from injury and took his place in central midfield alongside former under-17 and U-20 teammate Carlos Rodriguez. The young duo made Monterrey tick, with Rodriguez supplying a sublime pass for Aviles Hurtado's opener and then another to send Gonzalez through for Monterrey's second. In total, Rodriguez contributed to four of the five goals and both he and Gonzalez will be firmly on incoming Mexico coach Gerardo Martino's radar.
And if the scoreline on its own wasn't frightening enough, it's worth mentioning that the following weren't included in Diego Alonso's starting XI: Meza, Rodolfo Pizarro, Angel Zaldivar, Jose Maria Basanta, Celso Ortiz, Alfonso Gonzalez, Adam Bareiro and Jonathan Urretaviscaya. We knew it beforehand, but Saturday's display only emphasized that this Monterrey squad is built to win the title.
Over at Pachuca, new signings Leonel Moreira, Edwin Cardona and Ismael Sosa started on the bench, but this result was also a case of Tuzos falling into Rayados' traps. Monterrey sat back, soaked up Pachuca's pressure and possession (61 percent over the 90 minutes) and caused havoc on counters.
Cardozo boost as Chivas earn big win over Xolos
There was a 20-minute spell at the start of the second half of Chivas' 2-0 victory over Club Tijuana in which the Guadalajara team was superb. There was intensity, fluidity, aggressive attacking intent and Xolos couldn't get the ball out of the their own half. Crucially, Chivas also capitalized through an Alan Pulido goal.
New signings Dieter Villalpando, Jesus Molina, Alexis Vega and Hiram Mier all contributed and fans inside Estadio Akron got behind the all-Mexican side, which hadn't won a home game since last August and had a record of two wins in its last 25 home Liga MX matches.
The victory was a welcome boost to coach Jose Cardozo after an embarrassing display at the Club World Cup. With all the baggage coming into the season, it was vital to simply win, but Chivas' performance gave fans some hope that this term may not be all doom and gloom as some had predicted.
For incoming Xolos coach Oscar Pareja, this wasn't a great start to life in Mexico. The team looked disconnected and overly reliant on Fabian Castillo for attacking penetration.
Triverio hat trick sinks Morelia
The writing was really on the wall for Morelia in this 3-1 home loss to Toluca when the idea of celebrating veteran Carlos Morales' career by starting him and then taking him off the field after 10 minutes was approved. As much as 39-year-old Morales has been an example of professionalism in his long career and deserved to be showered with love from the Morelia faithful, this was an official Liga MX game with points at stake. Acts like this devalue the league.
The point here is that the send-off set the tone for Morelia, even if Ray Sandoval did open the scoring for Monarcas five minutes after Morales had exited.
Calling it "a loose defensive display" from Morelia after that is being kind, and Argentine striker Enrique Triverio is unlikely to score an easier hat trick in his career. The first came from a free kick, the second a defensive mix-up and the third a free header from a corner.
Morelia coach Roberto Hernandez has lots to work on and while his team will surely improve, the early odds are against Morelia making the playoffs. For a Toluca side that should be in the playoff spots, this was a gentle introduction to the Clausura without new striker Emmanuel Gigliotti and incoming right-winger Felipe Pardo.
Martinez early candidate for signing of offseason
Osvaldo Martinez has been a title winner at the past two teams he's been at. Asking the Paraguayan to make it three in a row after he signed for Atlas -- without a title since 1951 -- from Santos Laguna over the offseason is a mighty ask, but the 32-year-old could prove to be one of the shrewdest signings of the transfer window.
Martinez netted the winner in the 2-1 victory inside Estadio Corregidora against Queretaro and also gave Atlas increased poise and invention in possession.
The win will have been a welcome early shot of confidence for a team that didn't manage to score a goal until week eight of the Apertura and recorded just two wins from 17 regular season games last time out.
Up next for Atlas is a real test in Estadio Jalisco against reigning champion Club America, who rested during the opening weekend.
Placid displays from Pumas, Tigres, Cruz Azul
Pumas' 0-0 draw at home to minnow Veracruz doesn't bode well moving forward, while Cruz Azul could only draw 1-1 away at Puebla and Tigres needed a late Andre-Pierre Gignac penalty to secure a 2-2 tie against a spirited Leon.
In the final game of the weekend, Santos Laguna surprisingly lost 2-0 on the road to Lobos BUAP.