Torta Tuesday, Mid-Season Review, Clausura 2013

 
All good things must come to an end. Things that take me an incredible amount of time and are exceptionally high in fat are easier to end than others. I’m officially putting Torta Tuesday to bed this week. It’s been a good run, but it’s also kind of hard to run on account of all the tortas.

However, if Torta Tuesday is going to go out, I’m going to send it out right. I bring you a monster, mid-season review Torta Tuesday. Included is a movie clip for each team that represents their season thus far. As an after dinner refreshment, I give you my predictions for the remainder of the season and the playoffs. Buen provecho!

What's Happening: Week 9 Results and Table

Chiapas 1 -3 Santos ... All four goals were scored in a seven minute span in the first half. Chiapas only scored one.

America 3 - 0 Cruz Azul ... A Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez hat trick helped to make a mockery of Cruz Azul

Queretaro 1 - 0 Monterrey ... Wilberto Cosme scored in the 3rd minute and helped Queretaro ride the lead out the rest of the way.

Pachuca 2 - 1 San Luis ... Christian Suarez and Angel Reyna continue to prove themselves as beneficial signings as each netted another goal.

Tigres 1 - 1 Morelia ... Carlos Ochoa scored the stoppage time equalizer for Morelia to secure the improbable draw in the Volcan.

Leon 0 - 1 Puebla ... There were plenty of chances in this game, but obviously not many goals. Par for the course for Leon.

Atlas 1 - 0 Tijuana ... Atlas “pulled a Tijuana” on the Xolos. They (Omar Bravo) scored early and then nested on their lead – a Tijuana specialty

Pumas 1 - 1 Chivas ... The score probably should have been 3-3. Either team could have won.

Atlante 0 - 1 Toluca ... Atlante probably played a stronger match, except for the whole scoring thing.

A good supply of body bags: Tigres: (6-3-0, 21 pts.)

Much like John Rambo, Tigres are programmed to destroy. They are cruising through this season with few hiccups. They are rightly the last remaining undefeated team. The loss of Emmanuel Villa for the next month will hurt the team but not dramatically. They are clicking on all levels and will have no problems cruising in to the Liguilla as one of the top seeds.

At least now we know when the next train was due: Atlas: (6-2-1, 20 pts.)

Atlas began the season in a deadlock with Queretaro at the bottom of the relegation table. Their average of sixteen points over the last five seasons got them in to that position. They are now on 20 points with nearly half the season remaining. They’ve turned it on and just in the nick of time. While not technically out of danger, the relegation race is basically over. Queretaro is nine points behind Atlas (and now San Luis). Even if Atlas slips up a bit, they will still be above those two teams at the end of the season. As much as it makes me cringe, Tomas Boy needs to get serious credit for what he’s done with this team.

It’s strictly business: America (6-1-2, 19 pts.)

The steady rise under manager Miguel Herrera continues for Club America. One of the traditional elite teams in Mexico is reclaiming their spot at the top of the hill. Along with Tigres, they are the clear favorites for the title. With the strength of their youth system, it doesn’t look like they’ll be dropping far off this pace anytime soon.

Women weaken legs: Tijuana (5-1-3, 16 pts.)

Coach Antonio Mohamed began the season by bluntly stating that Copa Libertadores would take priority over league play. The focus being shifted away from league play appears to be having an effect. While still in fourth position in the table, Tijuana hasn’t been as solid defensively and is definitely lacking the scoring punch of last season. Some regression in scoring is not surprising, but some of the points they have dropped have been eyebrow-raising. It’s difficult to attribute the slump to one thing. However, when the manager indicated that the focus is elsewhere, it’s a good place to start.

You’re grownsed up and you’re grownsed up: Pachuca (5-1-3, 16 pts.)

The Hugo Sanchez era in Pachuca lasted all of one short tournament season. He may have been given too much time. Pachuca’s turnaround from last season has been dramatic. They are now a team that can win against any opponent any week. They have a great mix of talented youth and experienced veterans that manager Gabriel Caballero has helped gel together in a short period of time.

Everybody can change: Santos (4-3-2, 15 pts.)

Speaking of team’s with new identities, Santos certainly fit that characteristic as well. The once high flying, outshoot opponents on the way to victory team is still winning now. They are just doing so with defense. Santos has conceded a league-low six goals. New manager, Pedro Caixinha, has turned this squad in to defensive stalwarts. They have defended as an organized team but still possess the scoring threats to make teams pay on the break and with decisive passing. Santos is a team to be reckoned with going forward.

We’re way past big speech time: Puebla (4-2-3, 14 pts.)

Continuing with the change in leadership theme … the season Puebla has had thus far is worthy of plenty of praise. The logical place to start heaping on the plaudits is with manager Manuel Lapuente. The veteran coach has done more with this team than many thought possible. They are no longer pushovers and are contending for a Liguilla position.

Bringing Felix Borja back in to the mix has proven to be a wise move for the team. His five goals are a testament to this. But the play of Puebla’s midfield has been a game changer for the club. Segundo Castillo probably has the largest impact on the field from game to game. His play across the field has been strong. Diego De Buen is also having a strong season for the club.

Puebla will give up some boneheaded goals and will probably lose more matches badly on the road. Yet, they are relevant more than halfway through the season. This is something that couldn’t be said in recent history.

How am I supposed to kill this bunny?: Pumas (3-4-2, 13 pts.)

Pumas are so very much improved from their disappointing Apertura season. They are playing high quality football that generally makes them appear to be the stronger team on the field. They’ve outplayed nearly every one of their opponents this season. Pumas just aren’t always getting the favorable results.

Considering the number of matches where they’ve been superior, sitting in eighth place is not good enough. The problem is simple and easy to pick out. Pumas can’t score. They consistently find ways to miss clear chances and squander a wealth of possession. With the Liguilla race looking to be crowded heading in to the second half of the season, Pumas need to start converting more of these opportunities.

Double Down: Chivas (2-6-1, 12 pts.)

Sticking with the urgency theme, there’s probably no team that needs a strong season more than Chivas. The high expectations that reside permanently with this club have not been met for some time. Chivas are playing better now but still need to ratchet up their play a few notches.

Having drawn in 2/3 of their matches thus far points to competent play (but nothing stellar). Chivas have only allowed nine goals in nine matches, but they’ve also scored nine. Benjamin Gallindo has utilized the squad’s depth and youth effectively, but he will need to see more this team to more wins the rest of the way. Failure to make a dent in the Liguilla has clear consequences under the current regime at Chivas.

I’m sorry, Wilson: Morelia (3-3-3, 12 pts.)

With a home win over Pachuca and a road draw against Tigres, recently hired manager, Carlos Bustos, has done well since taking over for Ruben Omar Romano. The play of Jefferson Montero has been much improved this season, and Joao Rojas is always dangerous.

Morelia still really misses a front line striker. To be more specific they miss their departed strikers, Rafa Marquez Lugo and Miguel Sabah. Those two could play so well off of the dynamic speed of Montero and Rojas. But alas, they’ve drifted off to Guadalajara. Monarcas may qualify for the playoffs, but two Chivas-shaped holes in their lineup.

Turn it away, please: Toluca (3-3-3, 12 pts.)

A rollercoaster would not be an accurate metaphor for Toluca’s first half. Rollercoasters have predictable ups and downs. Toluca’s season has been much more erratic (like sitting down to dinner with Billy and his family). They followed up three straight league losses with a trip to Buenos Aires and a victory over Boca Juniors. A respectable draw at Club America was then followed up by a home loss to Nacional of Uruguay in which Toluca conceded three second half goals.

It’s kind of hard to say how the remainder of Toluca’s season will play out, but I would bet they keep us all guessing.

You Can’t Stop What’s Coming: Queretaro (2-5-2, 11 pts.)

By their standards, Queretaro is having a pretty decent season. With only two losses in nine games, their form is dramatically changed from last season. Unfortunately, they are still going to be relegated. Due to the ridiculous season of Atlas, they are in a nine point hole with eight matches remaining. Anything short of a miracle finish accompanied with the continued demise of San Luis and the Gallos Blancos will be in the Ascenso MX next year.

Your slip is hanging: Cruz Azul (2-4-3, 10 pts.)

Cruz Azul began this season in their usual fashion. Through six matches, they were undefeated but with a large number of draws. Then the wheels came off. They have now lost three consecutive matches which culminated with their being butchered in the Azteca on Saturday.

The loss of Javier Aquino, the spotty play of the central defense, the liability that Israel Castro has become, and the slow return of an out-of-form Pablo Barrera have all contributed to the failures of the team. Cruz Azul seems to be a team that is bucking the trend of youth systems growing in strength. They may pay for this misstep for some time.

He’ll be alright in a couple of minutes: Monterrey (3-1-5, 10 pts.)

Monterrey is the team we continue to expect to turn it around. Yes, they just lost another match that their talent level demands three points from, but they’re Monterrey. They are too good to be this low in the table. Right? Right?

I guess not. They’ve now lost the majority of their games this season. They have yet to win a road match and just lost at home to Puebla. It seems like it’s time to give up on the Rayados. They don’t look to be getting back up anytime soon.

I can’t stop: Atlante (2-1-6, 7 pts.)

When you send Tommy Boy (as opposed to Tomas Boy) in to a sales meeting the expectations can only be so high. He may be entertaining, but the end result is probably not going to be too pretty.

When Ricardo La Volpe signed on with the team last season expectations shot much higher for Atlante. In some ways, they were met. Atlante nearly qualified for the Liguilla. When considering their roster, this was significant. Without dramatic changes to the club, the expectations weren’t much higher this season.

La Volpe was forced to leave the club earlier this season due to health issues. Prior to that and since then, Atlante is keeping up with its normal status quo. They are in 15th position. Atlante finished in exactly 14th position the last three seasons.

I’m all in: Leon (1-2-6, 5 pts.)

The magical run of 2012 is very much over for Leon. Gustavo Matosas guided this club to promotion and then a semifinal appearance in their first season in Liga MX.

The momentum grinded to an abrupt halt this year. Leon bombed out of the Copa Libertadores in the qualifying round. They have only one win through nine games and that was against San Luis. It’s ugly.

They made the big gamble this offseason by making some big name acquisitions. Rafa Marquez and Nery Castillo were brought in to reinforce the squad. Neither player was coming off recent successes. Castillo didn’t pan out in his return to Mexico with Pachuca last season, and you won’t need to ask too many MLS viewers about Marquez’s time with the Red Bulls to get a clear picture of his level of play. Unsurprisingly, neither play has been a difference maker for Leon. In fact, you could safely say that this gamble upset the one thing that Leon had going for it above everything else – great team chemistry. Leon went ‘all in’ to bolster the team. Now they are empty handed.

Sixty percent of the time, it works every time: Chiapas (1-2-6, 5 pts.)

A year ago, Chiapas was a fringe playoff team. They weren’t always great, but could get some big wins on occasion. They were, however, a must watch every week. This was in large part due to the presence of Jackson Martinez. Probably the most dynamic scorer in Mexico, he helped lift this team out of the bottom basement of the league.

His void has been thoroughly felt in Chiapas. Martinez was sold to Porto, where he has continued his scoring ways. Chiapas hasn’t. Jaguares have only scored ten goals through their nine matches. Considering where this team used to be, this is a dramatic drop off.

The additions since Martinez’s departure have failed to make a difference in adding even a significant portion to what has been missed. Luis Gabriel Rey continues to score, but no longer has the prolific scoring partner to work with. Times are tough in Chiapas.

Hi. I’m in Delaware: San Luis (0-2-7, 2 pts.)

Oh, San Luis.

Last season, they weren’t great. They did at least have some scrappiness to them. They gave tough games nearly every week and snuck out the occasional victory. This year they have been little more than a speed bump. San Luis is very much on the Queretaro pace from last season. Unless San Luis finds a way to fix things soon, they will be in a similar position as Queretaro next year.

Predictions: How I see the rest of the season playing out…

1. America – 36

2. Tigres – 35

3. Atlas – 32

4. Tijuana – 31

5. Pachuca – 29

6. Santos – 26

7. Chivas – 26

8. Toluca – 24

9. Puebla – 24

10. Cruz Azul – 22

11. Pumas – 21

12. Morelia – 20

13. Monterrey – 17

14. Queretaro – 17

15. Atlante – 12

16. Chiapas – 11

17. Leon – 8

18. San Luis – 6

Quarterfinals:

America v Toluca: America wins

Tigres v Chivas: Chivas wins

Atlas v Santos: Santos wins

Tijuana v Pachuca: Tijuana wins

Semifinals:

America v Chivas: America wins

Santos v Tijuana: Santos wins

Finals:

America v Santos: Santos wins