The coaches are the storyline as the winless Gallos Blancos host the struggling Pumas at Estadio Alfonso Lastras.
UNAM’s Bruno Marioni will be coaching his first road game in Liga MX, while Querétaro’s Rafa Puente, Jr., is coaching for his job.
The Gallos Blancos are in last place after five weeks, having lost all of their games, and the front office is ready to send the 40-year-old coach packing, pinning the blame on Puente instead of the inept roster management that has left the team a shattered pile of bones and feathers. Well, figuratively, anyway.
Marioni was hired to replace David Patiño and is working his second game. His first was a sweaty palm affair as the Pumas had to survive an early ejection and a 1-0 deficit to snatch a draw from the table-topping Rayados of Monterrey.
América 2, Querétaro 0
The Gallos Blancos gave up an early goal then staved off further damage before a late penalty sealed the scoring. Querétaro was relieved to avoid a rout after visiting León had destroyed the Gallos Blancos 0-4 the week prior.
The result leaves Querétaro with a 0-0-5 record, 2 goals for and 13 goals against, a far cry from last season’s 8th-place finish.
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Pumas 1, Monterrey 1
Coach Marioni debuted as Pumas manager at home against the league’s top team eager to make a statement. All his plans were tossed out the window in minute 25 when defender Luis Fernando Quintana was red-carded and Monterrey turned the free kick into a goal. The Pumas played a disciplined game, pressing the Rayados inside out, even outshooting them. Finally, in minute 83, a careful push forward found space inside the box, then a drop pass back to Juan Iturbe whose shot took a deflection and bounded into the net to earn the tie.
Samudio – Romo – Novaretti – Pérez – Corral
Gómez – Guemez – Trejo
Sanvezzo – Loba
It will be interesting to see how long coach Puente sticks with a 5-man back line. Goalkeeping errors have forced his hand and he needs to protect the net, but the lack of punch up front is perhaps a greater concern. Last season’s teen revelation Marcelo Ruiz must rediscover his confidence and it might be time for Camilo Sanvezzo to carry the team on his back for a while.
Mozo – Jaquez – Arribas – Domínguez
Barrera – Iniestra – Malcorra – Rodríguez
González – Mora
It’s time for the Pumas offense to find itself. Last season, UNAM boasted the second highest scoring offense but have only produced 4 goals through 5 games. The strike tandem of Carlos González and Felipe Mora has only played one game together this season, but now that both are healthy, they need to return to form.
Querétaro: Goalie Nicolás Navarro was acquired late in the transfer window when Gil Alcalá struggled to replace the departed Tiago Volpi, one of the league’s top goaltenders. Navarro likely has to wear the gloves but he looked awful midweek in a 3-2 Copa MX loss to second division Zacatepec. The job is his for the taking.
Pumas: Captain Pablo Barrera enjoyed a stellar Apertura 2018 season, but he has been slow off the mark this season. He needs to provide leadership by example and produce on the pitch.
The Pumas must rediscover their offensive flair or face the realization that the playoffs are not in the cards. A game against the last place Gallos Blancos could be just what the doctor ordered. The theatrics on the sideline should be entertaining, as Marioni attempts to take control of his new team while the typically placid Puente must inspire his downcast players.