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Liga MX roundup: Puebla, Tigres, León walk out winners

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Liga MX action continued this weekend with a handful of entertaining games, which were played behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic. There was plenty of movement made, with León shooting to the top of the table following a convincing win against Pumas. Here’s a closer look into some of Saturday’s action.

Atlético San Luis 0-1 Puebla

Juan Reynoso’s Puebla continue on a path that is headed towards liguilla (playoffs), earning a crucial three points against San Luis on the back of goalkeeper’s Nicolas Vikonis’ penalty save. 

The win is Puebla’s third in their last four league games, placing them only a goal away from eighth-place Monarcas Morelia, who played on Friday with fans at Estadio Morelos. It’s still too early to assume that Puebla will clinch a liguilla spot, especially with six of their next seven opponents currently above the red line. But with a strong backline and semi-effective attack, they’re managing to squeeze out wins. That formula can, potentially, keep them on the path to the big party. 

Tigres 3-2 Juárez

After an unusual slow start under Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti, all things point to Tigres being back in its natural habitat. With goals from Luis Quiñones, Andre Pierre-Gignac and Eduardo Vargas, Tigres edged a valiant Juárez 3-2 in an empty Estadio Universitario.

A bout with plenty of goals, Gignac’s sequence with the head official a handful of minutes into the second half stole the show. The Frenchman was shown a straight red card for a foul on a Juarez player. Shortly after, the official – with the assistance of VAR – decided to void the red card and showed Gignac a yellow. Less than two minutes later, Tigres’ all-time leading scorer gave his team the lead.

Chile international Eduardo Vargas added a third in 76th minute, giving Tigres a game-winning goal.

León 3-1 Pumas

For now, with 21 points after 10 games, León are leaders of Liga MX. La Fiera are bouncing back in strong fashion following a low-blow Concacaf Champions League exit in the hands of LAFC and league loss to Chivas with back-to-back wins.

Staple and key players Fernando Navarro, Angel Mena and Ismael Sosa all scored in a high-tempo win against Pumas, who after starting off the season as the league’s best, are winless in their last four.

Towards the final 10 minutes of the game, former Real Salt Lake winger Sebastian Saucedo was handed his first red card as a Pumas player – a perfect illustration of the type of night it was for Míchel’s men.

Saucedo denied USMNT call-up by Pumas, eyes Olympic qualifying

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There were three non-MLS players on the USMNT roster for last month’s friendly win over Costa Rica, but it could have been there.

That’s the story of Pumas playmaker Sebastian Saucedo, according to Goal.com, who hopes the federation won’t forget about him when it comes to Olympic qualifying.

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Saucedo, 23, was not released by his Liga MX side because of a Feb. 2 visit to Santos Laguna. The winger played 71 minutes in his fourth appearance for the club during the Clausura.

He’s represented both Mexico and the United States at youth levels, but the Costa Rica match could’ve been his first senior cap.

For now, he’s looking to representing the U.S. at the U-23 level.

“For Olympic qualification, there’s the FIFA date. I imagine the club will deal with that when it comes to letting us go or not. I’d like to go. It would be a dream to qualify for the Olympics.”

In 90 matches with Real Salt Lake, Saucedo scored six goals with 12 assists. Saucedo is an RSL Academy product, but did have a loan to Veracruz for almost all of 2016.

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

Mexican soccer team refuses to carry anti-drug gang banner

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Players from Mexican soccer team Pumas refused a request to carry an anti-drug gang banner onto the pitch during a weekend game.

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The Pumas are based at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, known as the UNAM.

Two non-students were shot to death on the campus last week and prosecutors say the killings were apparently part of a dispute involving drug dealers who operate openly at the university.

University Rector Enrique Graue told local media Tuesday that university officials had asked the players to carry a banner reading “Narcos out of the UNAM” at a Sunday match against the Chivas of Guadalajara.

The sports newspaper Record says several players balked, citing fears for their security.

The university instead projected the message on the scoreboard.

Erick “Cubo” Torres leaves Houston for Pumas

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Welcome to your new home, Erick. Hope it goes a little better than your last stop.

Once among the most desired recruits on the Major League Soccer circuit after scoring 15 goals for lowly Chivas USA in 2014, Erick Torres is leaving the league to join Pumas UNAM.

He’ll head home to Mexico to rebuild an international career which stalled at four caps until this summer’s Gold Cup moved Torres to seven El Tri appearances.

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The move is somewhat of a surprise given the Houston Chronicle headline Tuesday: “Erick Torres says he intends to fulfill his Dynamo contract.”

Torres scored 14 goals in 27 matches for Houston last season, raising his value after not scoring an MLS goal in 2015 and 2016 combined (22 matches). Five of his goals, however, were penalty kicks.