There is turmoil in the capital as the Big Three struggle to match last season’s achievements.
Last season, the Mexico City clubs finished 1-2-3 in the standings. This season, Cruz Azul has been a disaster, UNAM fired its coach after Matchday 4 and early-season title favorite América finds itself in 8th place at the halfway point of the Clausura 2019 season.
Cruz Azul topped the standings last season and rode its home-field advantage all the way to the Finals only to lose to América, the team that finished second in the standings.
The Pumas surprised everyone with a strong campaign, finishing in third place, coming up short against América in the semifinals after eliminating the favored Tigres.
Feeling the Mexico City Blues
This season, Cruz Azul is scoring less than a goal a game and the Cementeros have already lost the same amount of games as they did last season (3).
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Coach Pedro Caixinha has barely survived two “last-chance games,” snatching a tie against winless Veracruz last weekend, then overcoming an early deficit at home against Necaxa to win 2-1, thus saving Caixinha’s job for another week.
What’s worse, after going 8-1-0 at Estadio Azteca last season, Cruz Azul has stunk it up at home this season. The Cementeros lost their home opener this season and are 2-0-2 in the “Colossus of Santa Ursula.”
Cruz Azul also lost both Copa MX games at home and was eliminated in the group stage of the tournament they won last season when second division Oaxaca beat them at Estadio Azteca.
This Cat has grown into a kitten
After overachieving last season, many wondered if the Pumas could do it again this season. However, management decided to lay low during the transfer window and coach David Patiño expressed disappointment. When the Pumas lost at Pachuca on Matchday 4, the club fell to 0-2-2 and found themselves in 16th place. Coach Patiño was given the boot and Bruno Marioni was hired.
Since taking over, Marioni has guided the Pumas to a 2-1-2 record and the club has looked flaccid in losing the last 2 games, particularly on Sunday while losing at modest Lobos BUAP.
Sitting in 15th place at the halfway point, it is not looking like UNAM will have a chance for another playoff run.
Learning to fly
América opened the season with key players injured and struggled to regain focus after claiming the Apertura 2018 title. The Aguilas had less than 4 months between the Final and their opener (even getting permission to postpone their Week 1 match and starting the season with their Matchday 2 opponent, Atlas).
Then, Aguilas management waited until the final days to make a big transfer splash, bringing in striker Nico Castillo and playmaker Nicolás Benedetti. Those two are just now finding their legs with the club and it comes at just the right time, because América will need contributions from them.
América has just started a 5-games-in-15-days odyssey that ends with back-to-back Super Clásicos – the first, a Copa MX quarterfinal match on Wednesday, March 13, at Estadio Azteca and, the second, a league match at Estadio Akron in Guadalajara. The 5-game gauntlet did not get off to a good start as the Aguilas managed only an undeserved draw at lowly Morelia on Friday.
We’ll have a very good idea then of whether or not América is in position to defend its Liga MX title.