Gringo Report preview: Ponce, Chivas eye liguilla
Our American legion of futbolistas continue plying their trade South of the Border during another busy weekend of action. With just two fixtures left in the Mexican Primera División, teams are jostling to secure a playoff spot. Down a flight in the Liga de Ascenso, the final match of the regular season looms as the liguilla picture is starting to look clearer. So fire up that grill, grab a hold of some chips and salsa, sit back and tune in.
MEXICAN PRIMERA DIVISIÓN
Querétaro (4-8-3) vs. Pachuca (4-7-4)
Americans: Isaác Acuña (QUE); José Francisco Torres, Hérculez Gómez (PAC)
Saturday, 6 pm ET, TeleFutura
With two matches left in the season, and coming off two straight losses, Pachuca are looking for a vital bounce-back win to keep their slim chance of making the playoffs alive. While Querétaro are out of the postseason picture, a win in their final home game of the season would go a long way in the percentage table to stay in the top flight for 2012-13.
Querétaro’s Acuña has played just the first half of the past two games as he makes his comeback from injury. The trend is likely to continue in a relatively meaningless game so as not to rush him too quickly.
As for Pachuca, Gómez is still the player with the hot foot and will likely line up from the start. Accompanying him, but in the midfield, will be fellow US international Torres.
Cruz Azul (7-5-3) vs. Chivas de Guadalajara (6-3-6)
Americans Miguel Ángel Ponce (CHI)
Saturday, 6 pm ET, ESPN Deportes
After stumbling last weekend and failing to earn the three points that they needed to secure a spot in the liguilla, Chivas now face the tough task of looking for a win in their visit to Estadio Azul, where Cruz Azul have lost just once in eight games this season. On top of that, the home side is also looking to bounce back with a win that would also qualify them into the postseason.
With a tough battle lying ahead, Ponce, who has gotten two starts in three games since returning from injury, will likely take his usual spot in the left side of the defense.
Morelia (8-3-4) vs. Tigres UANL (8-2-5)
American: Jonathan Bornstein (TIG)
Sunday, 1 pm ET, TV Azteca
Standing at the top of Group 1 with 29 points, Tigres have already qualified to the playoffs. However, at just three points from league-leaders Pumas UNAM, Tigres are still looking to mount a late rally in the home stretch to take over the top spot. But a tough test awaits them as Morelia, currently a point behind Tigres in the general table, also seek the league lead.
Bornstein slipped out of Tigres’ 18 last week, casting some shadow on whether or not he’ll be called to dress for the match.
MEXICAN LIGA DE ASCENSO
Irapuato (10-2-3) vs. León (9-2-4)
American: Marco Vidal (LEO)
Saturday, 8 pm ET
With a playoff spot long ago secured, León are out to defeat Irapuato for bragging rights. At just two points behind former MLSer Cuauhtémoc Blanco & Co., León will seek the crucial away victory to dethrone the league-leaders in the final week of the regular season.
Vidal has been a vital cog in los Esmeraldas’ midfield in his first season there, and it’ll be up to him to keep Blanco from using his veteran know-how to crack León’s defense.
Veracruz (6-4-5) vs. Club Tijuana (7-3-5)
American: Joe Corona (TIJ)
Saturday, 8 pm ET
In third place and without the possibility of climbing any spots, Tijuana enter the match looking for a win that will keep them in third going into the playoffs. Veracruz, on the other hand, have yet to claim a spot in the postseason, and should prove a dangerous opponent for a Xolos squad that wants to close the regular season strong.
Last week, Corona sparked Tijuana to victory as a second-half sub. Against Veracruz on Saturday, the San Diego native should slot in at midfield from the start.
Best of the Rest:
Colombian Liga Postobón: Independiente vs. América de Cali (Diego Restrepo), Saturday, 4 pm ET
Mexican Primera: Monterrey vs. Puebla (Édgar Castillo), Saturday, 8 pm ET, Telemundo
Mexican Primera: Santos (Adrián Ruelas) vs. San Luis, Saturday, 8 pm ET, TeleFutura
Mexican Primera: Toluca vs. Estudiantes (Daniel Atúnez, Samuel Ochoa), Sunday, 1 pm ET, Telemundo
Mexican Primera: América vs. Atlante (Sonny Guadarrama), Sunday, 6 pm ET, TeleFutura