Back from the international break, Week 13 of the 2023 Clausura is now done and dusted! Looking at an overloaded weekend in the top flight of Mexican men’s soccer that seemed to make up for lost time, here are three talking points and a few additional observations from Liga MX.
– Liga MX standings | Liga MX coverage on ESPN Deportes
– Futbol Americas on ESPN+: Liga MX, MLS, USMNT, El Tri
Chaos after ref knees Leon’s Romero in groin
Who needs WrestleMania when you have Club America vs. Leon?
In a roaring Estadio Azteca, the enthralling 2-2 draw on Saturday night featured: Managers from both teams being sent off after a fight (which left Leon’s Nicolas Larcamon with a torn shirt), six yellows shown during a 10-minute window in the second half, a frantic injury time equalizer from Leon, a controversial goal for Club America, and referee Fernando Hernandez becoming personally involved after making the bizarre decision to knee Leon’s Lucas Romero in the groin while giving him a yellow card.
As entertaining as it all was for fans and media who indulged in the absolute disarray, it was clear that Hernandez had lost control of the game. More importantly, he blatantly crossed a line when he kneed Romero. Shortly after the match, the Mexican Football Federation’s Referees’ Commission responded by announcing that they would investigate Hernandez and the events that occurred during Club America vs. Leon.
¡No se puede creer! ¡Inaudito!
El árbitro Fernando Hernández le
dió un rodillazo al futbolista Lucas
Romero de @clubleonfc. pic.twitter.com/b7RYdDGKgV
— Xavi (@XaviSol_) April 2, 2023
Despite all parties (and PR departments) involved shaking hands online with social media posts, and Romero himself telling TUDN that “[referees] are human beings, many times they can make mistakes,” officiating in the league must use this as an opportunity to take steps forward.
Hernandez’s aggression was a significantly rare occurrence, but it can still provide referees in Mexico with an opportunity to reflect on how they can enhance their own control of games and also make sure to avoid situations like the one seen in Club America vs. Leon.
Refereeing isn’t as awful as many fans make it out to be, but it also isn’t out of ordinary to see drawn-out VAR calls, questionable yellows and reds, and poor decision-making at least once or twice per weekend.
Sure, the chaos was fun to watch, but in an engrossing and unpredictable league like Liga MX, the entertainment doesn’t need to be provided or determined by the officiating.
Chivas’ Vega downs a chela in six-goal Tapatio thriller
When thinking of the on-field occurrences of Guadalajara’s Clasico Tapatio, narrow and close results between Chivas and Atlas usually come to mind. Typically played with the intensity of a playoff match, the century-old crosstown rivalry is often a tense chess-like battle with either side prioritizing their best efforts in not making an error.
On Saturday, that seemed to be tossed out the window with six goals in the first 57 minutes of an eventual 3-3 draw in Atlas’ Estadio Jalisco. Due in part to some questionable defending and goalkeeping throughout the first few stages of the game, the match was a surprisingly open one with both attacks capitalizing on frail backlines. By the second half, goalkeepers Camilo Vargas (Atlas) and Miguel “Wacho” Jimenez (Chivas), stood their ground and emerged as vital factors in avoiding losses.
It was brilliant to watch the spectacle, which included Chivas forward Alexis Vega drinking a beer that was thrown at him after scoring in the second half, but the result will be a bittersweet one for the two Guadalajara clubs.
For 12th place Atlas, who currently have a dismal 2W-7D-4L record in their first season with new manager Benjamin Mora, the draw is seen as a missed opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum at home, especially after testing Chivas’ Jimenez a number of times in the second half. Looking at Chivas, their own momentum is slipping with three consecutive games without a win. Once in third place and looking like title-contenders just a few weeks ago, the Rojiblancos are now in sixth in the table.
“We’re disappointed because I think we finished the game well, with plenty of dangerous opportunities,” said Chivas manager Veljko Paunovic after the final whistle. “That leaves you with a bittersweet taste.”
Hopefully both teams will be hungry for more later this season. After what was one of the most attack-minded versions of the Clasico Tapatio in years, fans should keep their fingers crossed that the two will meet once again in the start of next month’s playoffs.
Monterrey extend lead and undefeated streak
Lost in the intense focus and headlines involved in Club America vs. Leon and the Clasico Tapatio, league-leaders Monterrey went under-the-radar in the Mexican soccer world after their 4-0 thrashing of Club Tijuana.
Usually regarded as only a popular team in the northern part of the country and not a member of the centrally-located traditional “Big Four” (Club America, Chivas, Pumas and Cruz Azul), Monterrey have carved their own path in recent years and emerged as one of the wealthy vanguards of modern Mexican soccer in the 21st century.
Owned by FEMSA, a massive multi-national company that specializes in beverages, money has been pumped into building Rayados their new Estadio BBVA stadium (that’ll host games in the 2026 World Cup) and a deep roster that could compete with any team on the continent.
Over the weekend at the Estadio BBVA, Club Tijuana could barely keep up. Monterrey were up 3-0 by the 32nd minute and had no issues with cruising to an easy and straightforward 4-0 win. Led by braces from Rodrigo Aguirre and German Berterame, Rayados now have a whopping nine-point cushion over second place and a 12-game undefeated streak.
Led by veteran manager Victor Manuel Vucetich and a long list of talented options, Monterrey will soon have a chance to steal the spotlight from the Big Four once the playoffs roll around in May.
– Elsewhere in Week 13: Necaxa and Santos Laguna finished in a scoreless draw, Puebla scored twice in the second half during a 2-0 away win over FC Juarez, Cruz Azul defeated current champions Pachuca in a 2-0 away result, Toluca sneaked past 10-man Tigres with a 3-2 victory, Angel Zaldivar scored the game-winner in Atletico San Luis’ 2-1 victory against Mazatlan, and Queretaro defeated Pumas 1-0.
– Due to “disturbing the peace” in the stands, 16 Liga MX attendees were ejected from stadiums over the weekend, including six at Queretaro’s Estadio Corregidora. Queretaro recently reopened their venue to the public last month after a yearlong ban due to fan riots in March of 2022.
– The cartoonist for El Universal Deportes has given his own take on Hernandez’s aggression against Leon’s Romero. Note the UFC-inspired outfit for the referee.
– Speaking of drawings, we’ll close things out with the “ArtButMakeItSports” Twitter account, who have pointed out comparisons between the early 17th century painting The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, and Larcamon’s ripped shirt during Club America vs. Leon.