After getting a bye last weekend, the Tiburones get a chance to show they are not as toothless as they were last season.
Long-suffering Veracruz fans get to watch their bumbling Tiburones kick off their Apertura 2019 season against visiting Pachuca. Veracruz had a bye for Matchday 1.
The Tuzos are traveling to the port city off a disappointing 3-1 home loss to León last Saturday, their first loss at Estadio Hidalgo since August 2018.
The host Tiburones have been making headlines the past several months, but none are scrapbook-worthy. Last season, Veracruz set an all-time record for futility, becoming the first Liga MX team to finish with 0 points. The fact that the “0” occurred because of a points deduction mandated by FIFA (for failing to pay a debt to a Uruguayan club) only makes the “achievement” all the more embarrassing.
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If that weren’t enough, Veracruz is having trouble paying its bills, including more than two months’ backpay to several players. There is some concern that financial considerations could scuttle the Tiburones’ season but league officials are keeping a close watch (so they say).
In the second half of Friday night’s doubleheader, Atlas visits Morelia with a chance to open the Apertura 2019 with two wins.
The Zorros need points desperately since they remain in the relegation zone. The Monarcas played gamely in a 4-2 road loss to the Tigres, while Atlas held off upstart Atlético San Luis with a late goal to win 1-0.
Pachuca at Veracruz
Veracruz starts off the Apertura 2019 with a clean slate, so to speak. Since they paid a 120 million-peso buy-in fee after were officially “relegated,” the Tiburones open with 0 points in the Relegation Table. That puts them in a tie with Atlético San Luis, the team that won promotion from Ascenso MX on the field.
Management was not splashy in the offseason (any transfer funds set aside were gobbled up to pay the buy-in fee), but did bring in some veterans – defenders Leobardo López and Leiton Jiménez, and midfielder Abraham González. These graybeards will work with future Hall of Famer Carlos Salcido, who – at 39 – announced that this will be his last season.
Veracruz also got back two players it had loaned to Necaxa last season – midfielder Hibert Ruiz and fullback Osmar Mares.
Coach Enrique “Ojitos” Meza will also be asked to squeeze production out of midfielder Ángel Reyna, despite his history of discipline problems. Reyna, 34, last played in Liga MX with Toluca in the Clausura 2018, but he was a rarely used substitute.
The target for the Tiburones is to earn no less than 20 points in each of the next two seasons to avoid relegation again. They get their first chance at points against a wounded Pachuca team.
The Tuzos were outplayed at home by León, despite a late rally after Esmeralda midfielder Carlos Guerrero was red-carded in minute 71. Pachuca was 8-0-0 at Estadio Hidalgo last season, so the home loss was a gut punch for a team that was awful on the road.
Pachuca did not win a single road game in the Clausura 2019, finishing 0-4-5 with a lousy 7-22 goal differential. If the Tuzos don’t turn that stat around this week, Pachuca fans could be in for a disappointing season.
Midfielders Víctor Guzmán and Erick Aguirre need to step up their games and fulfill the promise they’ve each shown flashes of these past three years. The last time these two teams met (April 13, 2019), Guzmán scored twice as Pachuca destroyed the Tiburones 9-2.
Atlas at Morelia
The Monarcas look to be in a rebuilding period and coach Javier Torrente will try to steal points wherever he can by pressing on defense and being quick to the counter. Last week, the Tigres were able to exploit their talent advantage and cruise to a 4-2 win. But to the Monarcas’ credit, they never quit, even rallying to narrow the 3-0 first-half deficit to 3-2 in minute 88.
Atlas stocked up with a trio of Santos Laguna players over the summer, acquiring defenders Hugo Nervo and Jesús Angulo, as well as center forward Javier Correa.
Last week’s season opener demonstrated that the Zorros still have work to do before the entire team is on the same page. Visiting Cd. Juárez were threatening to leave Estadio Jalisco with a point even after Edson Álvarez scored early in the second half. But Atlas held on for all 3 points.