Liga MX

Three things about Liga MX’s 2019 Apertura Week 13

Coming up on yet another international break, Liga MX has now completed 13 of its 19 weeks. As it stands now, 17 of the league’s 19 teams are either in position to make the Liguilla or within six points of a spot. Only Juárez and Veracruz fall outside of that bubble, and Juárez is just seven points out with six weeks to go (and Veracruz is Veracruz). It’s a great thing for all teams and the league in general to be coming back from the break with every single game on the schedule being meaningful in some way. Fans of 18 teams are going to tune in to see where their team winds up, while Veracruz fans will want to see if they’ll win a game ever again.

The league in particular has to be happy with this, as the longer games continue to have meaning the more valuable the product is to television companies and advertising sponsors. More people will tune in to games that are meaningful and not just contractual obligations, and this too will increase the value of the product as well as the interest in the product from people who may not have been interested before.

This is a great thing, because the product on the field is great to watch both in terms of quality of play and entertainment value. While the quality of play may not quite match the top European leagues, I’ll put the entertainment value up of Liga MX up against any league any day.

1.) The stoppage time of the Xolos-Atlas game was insane. Xolos had been protecting a one-goal lead while playing down a player since the 72nd minute. The game had devolved into a kind of boring slog where Xolos were doing what they could to kill the clock while Atlas were pushing players forward to try and get an equalizer. In the 87th minutes, it all started to unravel for the Aztec Canines as Camilo Sanvezzo drove forward into the Atlas box. Goalkeeper Camilo Vargas came out and made a sliding stop on Sanvezzo, and Sanvezzo hit the deck. Referee Diego Montaño showed Sanvezzo a yellow card for simulation, however it appeared that while Sanvezzo had embellished the contact to try and draw another penalty, contact was made. It wasn’t a great deal of contact, and I’d have been fine with a no call.

As things always seem to do, this had repercussions. Two minutes later, Kevin Balanta would be shown a yellow card for a hard foul on Jesús Angulo. Montaño went to VAR and took back his yellow and gave Balanta a red. Montaño again seemed to choose the harsher of the two options when either would have been acceptable. This put Xolos down two players, but it was already into stoppage time and surely Xolos would find a way to hang on right?

Four minutes into stoppage, Sanvezzo took a heavy touch on a throw in and it went back out of bounds. Whether it was out of frustration, an attempt to waste time, or both, Sanvezzo chipped the ball up and over the Xolos bench. Montaño immediately reached for his card, and Sanvezzo collapsed on the turf. Montaño showed the second yellow and red, sending a third Xolos player to an early bath.

As Sanvezzo walked off the field, Atlas restarted play, and after mere seconds the ball wound up on the foot of Manuel Balda about 35 yards out. Balda took a touch and just ripped a shot that beat goalkeeper Gibran Lajud for the equalizer. Balda ripped off his shirt and was mobbed by his teammates at the corner flag, where he was met with roughly half of the beer in Estadio Caliente raining down on him from the stands above. Tijuana-based photojournalist Itzel Segura captured the moment Balda scored from the tunnel Sanvezzo was walking through, and his reaction really says it all.

Are you not entertained?

2.) For the second week in a row, Veracruz found a way to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. One of the most compelling storylines of the year for me has been Veracruz and if they’re actually going to win a game. Their winless streak was almost broken last week they scored on the rebound of a missed penalty in the 73rd before conceding a Kevin Castañeda goal in stoppage. This week they went to León who didn’t appear to take them seriously enough given the match was tied 0-0 heading into the 80th minute. Bryan Carrasco would convert the penalty in the 82nd, but three minutes later Joel Cambpell hit a beautiful cross from the right wing all the way across the box to Luis “Chapito” Montes and Chapito was able to slip past his mark and beat Sebastian Jurado with a header to push Veracruz’s streak to 40 games.

3.) Two teams had perfect social media bits. I love that teams are so open and accessible on social media. Instead of having to go to each team’s website to find out what they’re doing, I’ve aggregated them all into a twitter feed (as I’m sure most people have) and any time anyone does anything it’s there for me to see. This past week, two videos really struck me with their powerful message. First was this video put out by Monarcas where children talk about ‘El Grito’ and how it sets a poor example for kids.

“What you say, I repeat. What you shout (grito), I shout. I hear you. You are my example.” It’s so powerful and poignant. Morelia’s social team has been killing it with their player gifs, but this is just so well done. I hope it works.

The second is this one by Atlas. A few weeks back Atlas released a video about Don Pepe, a fan who is unable to see or hear due to a genetic condition called Usher Syndrome. He and his son (who serves as his window to the world and helps him “see” Atlas) were invited to an Atlas training session to be with the players and coaches where he was presented with a jersey with his name in braille.

This week, Atlas released another Don Pepe video showing him and his son at a match and his son signing a goal call. It’s such a wonderful reminder of what makes this game so special to so many of us. The connection with family. The sense of community. The idea that a ball going into a net can bring people such unadulterated joy.

Bonus.) Tigres Femenil beat the Houston Dash in the first ever meeting between a Liga MX Femenil club and an NWSL club. Think of friendlies what you will, but Tigres Femenil was able to come back from a 1-0 deficit to beat the Houston Dash 2-1 at El Volcán. For those that aren’t familiar with women’s soccer, the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) is widely regarded as one of (if not the) top women’s league in the world and while the Dash will finish the season seventh out of nine teams this should be a watershed moment for women’s soccer in Mexico. I’m hopeful this will garner interest in the women’s game from fans on both sides of the border and spur more competition between teams in both leagues.



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