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Liga MX wrap: Mozo magic helps Pumas win thriller vs. Necaxa (video)

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Week Two of the Apertura is nearly complete, and the soccer authorities deemed us worthy of a thriller at Olympic Stadium.

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Pumas 5-3 Necaxa

This game was bonkers, and featured one of the slickest nutmegs we’ve seen in some time.

More on that later, but a 1-1 halftime deadlock gave way to a half-dozen markers in a frenzied second half.

Necaxa’s Matias Fernandez saw his 53rd minute goal answered two minutes later by Carlos Gonzalez. Martin Rodriguez and Alan Mozo made it 4-2 by the 76th, but Necaxa again had a quick fire answer in the 78th through Victor Davila’s second of the night.

Gonzalez bagged his second in the 81st to effectively put the match to bed, but what a game.

Mozo’s goal was legitimately smooth.

Club America 3-0 Atlas

Guido Rodriguez’s double made sure Week 1 was just a stumble, as America came back with an inspired performance to move to 1W-1L on the Apertura.

Elsewhere
Tigres 0-0 Tijuana
Guadalajara 0-1 Cruz Azul
Morelia 3-1 Santos Laguna
Puebla 2-1 Toluca
Queretaro 1-0 Pachuca
Lobos BUAP 2-0 Veracruz
Leon 0-2 Monterrey

USMNT’s Gonzalez: “I think that we’re in good hands”

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Omar Gonzalez might’ve planned to be doing promotional duty ahead of this summer’s World Cup, but not solely as an observer of the biggest tournament in the world.

But Gonzalez, 29, and his United States men’s national teammates fell short in their World Cup qualifying bid, losing in Trinidad and Tobago when a draw would’ve done the trick.

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Despite his own goal and a still bewildered disappointment in his voice, the Liga MX center back says he’ll be watching and cheering for fellow CONCACAF nations when the tournament starts next week in Russia.

“I am Mexican, I’ve lived there now for three years and I have friends on the team, some of my teammates are on the team,” said Gonzalez, who was born in Texas to Mexican parents.

“I have a friend who plays for Costa Rica, so I’m definitely not bitter. I’ll be cheering them on and I hope they represent CONCACAF well. I’m looking forward to seeing Mexico hopefully get past the group stage and see how far they can go. My teammate Erick Gutierrez and my former teammate Chucky Lozano, I’m really pulling for them and I hope they have a good tournament.”

Gonzalez was speaking to ProSoccerTalk on behalf of Clamato and their promotion of a michelada, a drink made when the tomato and clam juice drink is mixed with beer and spices (Gonzalez suggests hot sauce).

Like many of his veteran USMNT teammates, Gonzalez has not been called into national team camp since that fateful night at Ato Boldon Stadium. That evening saw him produce an own goal and the United States end a seven tournament run as World Cup participants.

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That also loss cued up a number of big changes for U.S. Soccer. Bruce Arena resigned his post, and president Sunil Gulati did not run for another term. Carlos Cordeiro is now in charge of the federation, and the USSF has hired team centurion Earnie Stewart to help find its new manager.

Gonzalez is hoping things calm down a bit around the team.

“I think that we’re in good hands,” he said of the Stewart hire. “Everyone knows that change was needed. Change has happened, and now it’s about moving forward.”

As for his hopes of returning to the team — 29 is not old for a center back — Gonzalez looks forward to a chance for redemption, but is not expecting anything. What he would like to see is a little more organization, hunger, and commitment from the men who are called into the team.

“I just like for things to be running smoothly and when guys go into camps, they are there for the team, to wear their jersey with pride and get along with everyone. It doesn’t happen all the time, but knowing what’s happened with not qualifying and all the things that went wrong, it’s in everyone’s best interest to put everything behind themselves. When they do get together, it has to be all about the team and how they can come together to get the results they need to get.

“I’m liking the changes that are happening with the GM, and looking forward to a new coach, and seeing the direction they takes. I’m happy they are giving these young guys opportunity. I’m think they are moving in the right direction and I’m interested in seeing how it all comes to fruition, and I hope to still be a part of the group and do what I can to help the program and help the young guys if that’s what I have to do, just whatever it takes.”

Is he hopeful of a return to national team duty? Yes, but he’s not necessarily expecting it.

“I’m at the point where I’m just hoping it does come at some point, but if it doesn’t, I’m totally fine with that. I have to focus on my club play and get better every day. If I do happen to get a call-up, I’ll be super excited and ready to go in and join the team. Until it happens, it’s not going through my mind.”

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It so happened that our conversation took place hours after a reported agreement to send Gonzalez from Pachuca to Atlas. Gonzalez says “nothing’s done yet” regarding the proposed transfer.

“It’s been all over the Internet, but either I’m going or I’m staying at Pachuca. Nothing is official.”

(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

A product of Maryland, Gonzalez was the third overall pick of the LA Galaxy in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. He was Rookie of the Year, won three MLS Cups and two Supporters Shields, and was in the league’s Best XI in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014.

He transferred to Pachuca in 2016, winning the Clausura in his first season and then the CONCACAF Champions League in 2017.

The split season is the biggest difference between MLS and Liga MX, Gonzalez says, adding that the desperation is consistent.

“Both leagues are very competitive but the biggest difference for me is that every game is really tough,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes in MLS, the season is long and there are some games, you hate to say, but that don’t really matter. You hit that period in May and April and the games just aren’t that interesting. For Liga MX, there are two short seasons, two playoffs, you only have 17 games, and there’s that stress that goes along with losing a couple of games and feeling the pressure from everywhere. Every game matters, and every game is a big game.”

Would he like to see that in MLS?

“It could be fun to have that implemented but it’s difficult because how big the U.S. is and the differences in how cold it can get and how hot it can get.”

As for the World Cup, Gonzalez thinks the winner won’t be coming from UEFA for the first time in more than a decade.

“I’ve been saying I want Brazil to win it. I feel really bad the way it ended in Brazil in 2014. They have a great team, and I think they can make a final and maybe finish this one off.”

Mexico star Marquez back at Atlas after US drug sanctions

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexican soccer star Rafael Marquez is back with his club more than a month after the U.S. Treasury Department named him on a sanctions list for alleged drug trafficking ties.

Atlas said Monday that the 38-year-old defender is practicing with the team again.

In August, Marquez was among 22 people sanctioned by the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. He was accused of acting as a frontman for the Raul Flores Hernandez drug trafficking organization.

Marquez has denied any wrongdoing and said he will work to clear his name. He is not known to face any criminal charges in the United States or Mexico.

Atlas says Marquez will continue his legal fight while at the team.

Marquez has played internationally with AS Monaco, Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls.

Atlas hopes Marquez can ‘rejoin team’ after US allegations

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexico’s national soccer team and club Atlas have issued cautious statements backing embattled star Rafael Marquez but also apparently distancing themselves somewhat after he was among 22 people sanctioned by the U.S. government for alleged drug trafficking ties.

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Atlas calls Marquez an “exemplary” player and wishes him well. It says it hopes for “a resolution that allows our captain to rejoin the team,” but does not give further details.

Marquez did not practice with the club for a second straight day Thursday.

The national team said Marquez has represented “El Tri” in a dignified fashion for two decades and it trusts “he will clear up his situation with authorities.”

The 38-year-old is a former defender for Barcelona and New York Red Bulls. On Wednesday he denied having any drug ties.

Mexico’s Marquez linked to drug trafficking ring

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In terms of bombshell stories, this is one for the ages.

Atlas defender and Mexican soccer legend Rafa Marquez is one of 22 people sanctioned by the United States Treasury as part of a drug trafficking ring.

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The former Barcelona, New York Red Bulls, and Monaco defender is linked to Raul Flores Hernandez, who himself “has links to two major Mexican drug cartels” according to Bloomberg.

U.S. officials allege that Marquez and Mexican singer Julion Alvarez have longstanding relationships with Flores Hernandez and provided fronts for him and his drug organization.

Serious business, to be sure. The sanctions mean frozen American assets for Marquez and the others, and certainly could just be the tip of a disciplinary iceberg.

Marquez is Juan Carlos Osorio’s captain with the Mexican national team, and has 143 caps. Surely there’s plenty to come in this eyebrow-raising news story.