Higher Education and Jornada 4

When a league sends nearly half its teams into a playoff to determine its champion it's a little silly to get too worked up about any one match. With the away goal rule recently creeping its way in to the Liguilla, the only advantage to higher seeds is hosting the second leg and having the second tiebreaker in the first two rounds (so, basically nothing). Finish in the top eight and you have a chance.

With that being said, no champion of Mexico has finished outside of the top three in the regular season in the last eight tournaments[1]. Early results aren't everything, but staking a claim to one of the top spots appears to be just that. Also, the short fuse that every manager in Mexico works under, bears mentioning. A few bad results could end even the most respected of managers tenure with the team.  

Week four presents plenty of learning opportunities. Is this team for real? Is this team on a believable upswing? Is this team about to be in the market for a new manager? Let's look at this weekend's syllabus to get a better idea of the instruction that will be provided and the eventual learning outcomes.


Queretaro v. Santos Laguna

The opening weekend draw with Chivas was forgivable. The loss at Cruz Azul was unjust. The scoreless home draw with Puebla was scary. Santos are off to a forgettable start this season. They've looked lifeless and lacking of their usual bite. This Friday's match in Queretaro will be important for showing us if Santos will be pulling themselves back off the mat or this might just be the beginning of a disappointing season for the Guerreros. Queretaro present tough opposition, especially playing in Estadio Corregidora. This is by no means a must win for the visitors, but it is most definitely a 'must-impress'. If we fail to see something more from Santos this Friday, it will be officially time to start worrying about the team from Torreon.


Tigres v. Pumas

This match is shaping up to be a loser goes home style battle. These are two teams absolutely under fire at the moment. Tigres are following up a highly disappointing Apertura, with a troubling start to the Clausura. Three matches, zero goals scored, and five goals allowed is not really a recipe for success. It is, however, a recipe to a coaching change. A home loss to their fellow struggling cats all but guarantees some sort of shake up.

Pumas were very clear to send out messages of support and stability this week. This team has reached some serious lows over the past six months. It's going to be hard for them to climb out of that hole any time soon. After this match, Pumas return home to play Tijuana, and then travel to Leon the following week. If Pumas hope to take a step in the right direction, they need to take advantage of a struggling Tigres squad. A bad loss could here could very likely lead Pumas to three consecutive bad ones. Despite all the support messages for the manager and the team, marquee teams in Mexico don't survive these runs in form without change.


Atlas v. America

Six points from three matches is nothing to sneeze at; there's certainly no reason to be ringing alarm bells at Club America. However, it's worth noting that the team looked fairly mediocre through the majority of these 270 minutes. Even with a seemingly lopsided victory over Tigres in week one, America haven't played like a dominant force. This really shouldn't matter. America aren't going to collapse and miss the Liguilla, but this match should go a long way in showing us what the Aguilas are bringing to the table this season. Atlas should not be able to hang with America, even in the Estadio Jalisco. If Atlas is able to control possession in midfield and pressure the America defense, we could safely add some question marks to Antonio Mohammed's America. Otherwise, proceed as you will, nothing to see here.


Toluca v. Monterrey

The Diablos Rojos of Toluca were title contenders last season after an impressive offensive output and decent showing in the semifinals. They are beginning to look more and more like the title favorites. Monterrey are by no means a measuring stick at this point. The Rayados are starting to show signs of life, though. If Toluca are able to dispatch of this team easily, it's time to raise the levels past simply 'contender'.


Atlante v. Chivas

A win in Cancun isn't necessarily a mark of success.  This should be a layup for visiting teams of strength. The problem is that Chivas have been anything but that over the past 18 months. It's a tired sports cliché, no doubt, but a good team needs to win the ones they are supposed to win. Chivas aren't a great team, but are they done being a joke? They've shown signs of being a competitive team thus far. If we are to continue to take them seriously, they need to come out with three points from this one. Chivas have lost three of the last four to Atlante, including losses in their last two trips to Cancun. A positive result for the visitors should be taken not as a salve for all the wounds, but simply a sign of being a team with fight.


Puebla v. Chiapas

I'm a big podcast guy. I listen to a collection of sports podcasts throughout the week religiously. One of the highlights each week is the new Men in Blazers podcast. They are always entertaining and a great listen. One of my personal favorites is an aside where the guys joke about the ridiculousness of a Will/Jalen Smith interview they had been recently released. Roger and Michael often reference one of the funniest lines from the interview that follows a discussion of the existence of mathematics in the world around us, where the younger Smith utters the ridiculous line of, "Patterns, Boom".

Puebla has played three matches this season. They sit on three points after three straight draws. They have an even goal differential after scoring three goals and conceding three.  Is this just an anomaly bound to corrected by a larger sample, or the result of larger forces at work?

Is this a ridiculous question following a ridiculous collection of paragraphs? Surely. However, a 1-1 draw between these teams will have me talking like this guy. Boom, Patterns.   

[1] The last team to finish outside the top three and capture the title was Vucetich's Monterrey in the Apertura 2009 season . The name of the team Monterrey defeated in said final was omitted for the sake of the author and his fragile psyche.

** the photo is used under a Creative Commons license from ec-jpr

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