The Rayos are coming off a huge road win and Brian Fernández is the league’s hottest scorer.
Necaxa is ripe for a letdown after stunning América 3-1 at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday and Brian Fernández scored in his team record-tying 6th consecutive game. The come-from behind win moved the Rayos into 5th place and could spark them to an unexpected playoff appearance.
Or they could get caught resting on their laurels by a desperate Toluca team.
Toluca has been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season (along with Cruz Azul) and their offensive struggles cost Hernán Cristante his job. Cristante was fired two weeks ago after his Diablos were shut out yet again.
Ricardo La Volpe has taken over the reins, but he only took over the team on Thursday so he won’t have had too much time to install his philosophy.
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América 1, Necaxa 3
The Aguilas stormed out to an early lead, scoring in minute 5, but the Rayos fought back with 3 second-half goals. In minute 53, 21-year-old left back Cristian Calderón ventured forward and Fernando González found him with a pass behind the defense. Twelve minutes later, Rodrigo Contreras deflected an outlet pass by América goalie Agustín Marchesín and Brian Fernández sent the ball into the empty net. In stoppage time, Necaxa scored off a rapid counter following an América corner kick with Calderón doing the honors once again. A strong victory for the Rayos who have made a habit of giving up late leads this season.
Toluca 3, Veracruz 1
The Diablos Rojos had scored exactly 1 goal in their previous 6 league matches, so this came as a veritable offensive explosion. Pablo Barrientos scored in minute 18, but the Tiburones equalized just before halftime. Captain Antonio Rios got on the scoreboard in minute 72 and striker Emanuel Gigliotti earned his debut goal with the Diablos in stoppage time. Toluca fired 21 shots and got 7 on net, while controlling possession too (62%).
Meza – Peña – Alvarado – Calderón
Castro – F. González – Gallegos – Sepúlveda
Fernández – Contreras
The season-ending injury to right back Carlos Guzmán forced coach Guillermo Vázquez to tinker and against América he might have found a solution in Fernando Meza. The midfield tandem of Fernando González and Felipe Gallegos has been the strength of this team though Brian Fernández’s scoring exploits get all the headlines.
Salinas – Madueña – González – Ruiz
Rios – López
Mancuello – Barrientos – Mendoza
This is merely guesswork as coach La Volpe often prefers playing with a 5-man back line and relies on wingers to spread the field up front. Luis Mendoza could thrive under La Volpe, as could right back Rodrigo Salinas. It remains to be seen how soon La Volpe turns to the Toluca academy players and sidelines the underperforming veterans.
Necaxa: Forward Rodrigo Contreras has earned playing time after Martín Barragan failed to produce and Eduardo Herrera got injured. Against América, Contreras was a constant pest for Aguilas defenders and his hustle led directly to Ferández’s go-ahead goal. As he becomes more familiar with his linemates, he could become even more dangerous, especially since Fernández will be the focus of opposing defenses.
Toluca: Midfielder Luis “Quick” Mendoza could benefit from La Volpe’s preferred attacking formation but he must improve the quality of his centering passes. It would also help if his teammates were more accurate with their shots.
Necaxa has been better on the road than at home this season, as illustrated by their victory at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday which ended a three-game losing streak. The Diablos Rojos will likely be eager to show their new coach they deserve to be in the starting line-up and I think the Rayos will struggle to get up for this game.