Friday kick-off: Tuzos, Cementeros seek road wins

Cruz Azul striker Milton Caraglio, left, fights for the ball with Anderson Santamaria of Atlas. (Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Cruz Azul striker Milton Caraglio, left, fights for the ball with Anderson Santamaria of Atlas. (Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The Liga MX has turned the quarter pole and is headed toward the back stretch as Matchday 5 kicks off on Friday.

Week 5 of the Apertura 2019 opens with a Friday night double-header. The undercard sees the Tuzos of Pachuca visit Puebla while the nightcap has early surprise team Atlas hosting slow-starting Cruz Azul.

The first game features two teams desperate to salvage their seasons while the back end of the double-header pits a team eager to remain in the playoff hunt (Atlas) against a preseason title favorite that has struggled to find the net.

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Tuzos tangle with Camoteros

Four Liga MX teams have yet to win a game this season and two of them will be battling it out inside Estadio Corregidora. Host Puebla already had its bye so it is only winless through three games, whereas the Tuzos find themselves with a 0-1-3 record and fast-fading playoff dreams.
The Camoteros will get star striker Lucas Cavallini back after he missed last week’s loss to Santos Laguna while serving a red-card suspension. That should help up front, but the erratic play on the back line has been the real bugaboo for coach José Luis Sánchez Solá, aka “Chelis.”

Alejandro Chumacero is playing out of position at right fullback and he is proving to be a liability. But “Chelis” has little choice since management sold promising youngster Vladimir Loroña to Tijuana without signing a replacement. More problematic has been the inconsistent play of the central defense tandem of Daniel Arreola and Néstor Vidrio.

Tuzos v Puebla Week 5
Ref Jorge Antonio Pérez shows Edwin Cardona a red card after Cardona slugged Querétaro’s Alonso Escoboza in the mouth. (Photo by Angel Castillo/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Pachuca will be without playmaker Edwin Cardona who was ejected early last week against Querétaro. This might not be all bad since Cardona had been playing uninspired soccer for the Tuzos. New acquisition Rubens Sambueza will be expected to step in, but coach Martin Palermo also got midfielder Pablo López back from Pan Am Games duty where he helped El Tri’s Under-22 team win a bronze medal.

Coach Palermo needs to light a spark under the Tuzos, or else he could find himself looking for a job before the month is out.

Cruz Azul needs 3 points from visit to Atlas

Atlas has benefited from an easy schedule, but the Zorros deserve credit for winning games they should win. That is especially true because there were four Atlas players on the El Tri roster at the Pan Am Games.

Tuzos vs Puebla
Edson Rivera celebrates after scoring Atlas’ only goal in their 1-0 win over FC Juarez during their game on Matchday 3. (Photo by ULISES RUIZ/AFP/Getty Images) /

The Zorros are 3-0-1 with their three wins against Veracruz (19th place), Morelia (13th) and Juárez (14th). Their lone loss came against the team at the top of the table, Santos.

It might take Atlas coach Leandro Cufre a few games to figure out his roster now that it is complete, but he won’t be playing it safe at home against Cruz Azul.

The Cementeros are off to a disappointing start, playing a scoreless draw in their opener at Necaxa, then giving up a late equalizer at home against Toluca. It got worse the next week, as Querétaro spanked Cruz Azul and sent the Cementeros tumbling down into 15th place.

Coach Pedro Caixinha finally earned his first win of the season last week, but it was an unconvincing performance against overmatched FC Juárez.

Only three teams have fewer goals than the Cementeros and there is no excuse for that considering the roster at Caixinha’s disposal. Part of the problem appears to be tactical. Cruz Azul has been playing with a single striker (Milton Caraglio) who is often double-teamed, but the Cementeros insist on lobbing centers into the box instead of trying to exploit the space on the wings and in the channels.

Playmakers like Elías Hernández and Orbelín Pineda need to step up and Roberto Alvarado must participate more. Midfielder “Pol” Fernández is still trying to figure out his role, but if he is given greater freedom to direct the offense, the Cementeros should benefit in the long run.