RECAP: WEEKEND MEXICAN ACTION
Herculez Gomez scored again but couldn't save Santos, Francisco Torres sparked Pachuca's victory over Tigres, and all three Americans saw action in Tijuana's vital draw on the road.
Monterrey 3 - 2 Santos Laguna
Despite scoring late in the game as a second-half sub, Herculez Gomez and Santos were unable to overcome a two-goal deficit and lost in Monterrey.
Perhaps Santos were displaying a bit of fatigue after their CONCACAF Champions League match earlier in the week, but they were overwhelmed by Monterrey 3-2 and lost ground in the scramble for a playoff spot, with only two more matches to go.
Monterrey jumped ahead in the 12th minute when César Delgado caught the Santos defense napping and sent a centering pass into the path of Humberto Suazo who headed the ball past Santos goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez.
Shortly before the end of the half, Oribe Peralta put Santos back in the fray, also on a header, off a free kick from Daniel Emmanuel Ludueña, whose pass reached Oribe as he eluded defenders and deflected the ball into Jonathan Emmanuel Orozco's net.
In the second half, however, Monterrey made quick work of the Santos defense in a span of 4 minutes to take a lead they would not relinquish.
In the 54th minute, Delgado dribbled from across the right flank toward the top of the area, whereupon he turned and fired an unstoppable shot past Sanchez.
Just moments later, Jesus Corona fooled a pair of Santos defenders along the right flank, and lifted his gaze and fired a centering pass to Aldo de Nigris, who took a pair of touches before sending the ball into the back of the net.
This prompted a pair of subs for Santos over the next few minutes but Santos couldn't find the winning combination.
Gomez finally got his chance in the 73rd minute and began to take stabbing runs at the Monterrey back line.
However, it wasn't until the 85th minute that he was able to break through, taking a filtering pass from Rafael Figueroa and shooting the ball between Orozco's legs and into the net.
The loss leaves Santos in a precarious position and they will cannot afford to drop any more points from this point on, if they wish to defend their championship status.
Benji Joya did not play for Santos, who will face Cruz Azul next week.
Pachuca 1 - 0 Tigres UANL
Pachuca kept their slim playoff hopes alive, thanks to an assist from Francisco Torres that led to the only goal in the Tuzo's victory over Tigres UANL.
Pachuca had one of their more solid performances and was able to dominate the middle of the field and made good on one of three clear opportunities to score.
Torres, who started the match and went all the way, looked to link up with the midfield throughout the entire match but were unable to find a successful combination.
After having dominated portions of the first half, Pachuca put their stamp on the game, with a terrific centering pass from Torres that Raúl Meráz headed into the goal past Tigres 'keeper Enrique Palos.
Pachuca increased their dominance as the match continued, despite frantic attacks from Tigres that put a bit of pressure on the Pachuca defense.
At the end of the game, Torres got his name in the scorecard again, drawing a yellow card from the referee.
With the victory, Pachuca has an opportunity to claw their way back into the playoff picture, but it will be an uphill battle and they have no room for mistake, as they face Club America next week.
Morelia 1 - 1 Club Tijuana
All three Yanks saw some action in Club Tijuana's draw with Morelia, which proved to be an exciting match.
Edgar Castillo dispelled any doubts as to who would start, as he reclaimed his spot at right back from Greg Garza.
After both teams threatened early to score, it was the Xoloitzcuintles who bit first, when Duvier Riascos scored his 12th goal of the season. The Colombian international beat the Morelia defense to reach a pass from Alfredo Moreno and hit the ball into the goal.
The goal encouraged the Xolos to push their advantage and increase their lead, but the Morelia defense remained stout and was able to avoid another goal from Tijuana.
Unfortunately, for Tijuana, they were unable to make the goal stand, after giving up a goal on a penalty kick by Miguel Sabah, who beat Cirilo Saucedo to the top right angle of the net. The penalty was awarded by referee Ricardo Arellano in the 19th minute after Tijuana defender Pablo Aguilar pushed Rodrigo Salinas from behind as the Morelia midfielder was about to get by him for a clear scoring chance.
The goal changed the momentum of the match, and Morelia began to look like the more dangerous side, opening up attacks along the flanks and looking for any open attackers in the middle.
In the second half, Tijuana looked to increase their possession by subbing in Joe Corona and Greg Garza, meaning that all three Americans were playing at the same time for the Xolos.
Nevertheless, Morelia maintained the pressure but, ultimately, were unable to solve the Tijuana defense and score the winning goal.
Despite only getting 1 point from the result, Tijuana gleaned on a pair of positives; having taken a point on the road against a difficult squad and reclaiming first place after Toluca was smashed by Cruz Azul, 3-0, just a few hours earlier.
Next week, Tijuana looks to extend their dominance at home and maintain the top spot, as they take on lifeless San Luis at Estadio Caliente.
Puebla 1 - 2 Atlante
DaMarcus Beasley was back in the starting eleven for Puebla but remained a nonfactor, failing to score again as his team was mathematically eliminated from any playoff scenarios in a tough loss at home to Atlante.
It didn't take long for Atlante to impose their brand of soccer, opening up shop in the 3rd minute when Osvaldo Martinez saw Estaban Paredes make a move toward the net and sent a precise past to Paredes, who controlled with his chest and fired a shot past 'keeper Victor Hugo Hernandez.
In the second half, facing elimination and the threat of relegation, a desperate Puebla squad made a pair of substitutions to strengthen the attack.
The change in the strategy worked temporarily, when Diego de Buen sent a corner kick from the left side into the area that found Herminio Miranda, who headed the ball past Atlante 'keeper Jorge Villalpando.
Despite a few wild shots from distance, both teams didn't make any dangerous attacks.
And just when the match looked like it would end in a draw, Atlante's Jerónimo Amione dribbled up the left side and served up a waist-high pass to Esteban Paredes, who, instead of shooting, passed to Francisco Fonseca, who caught the Puebla defense flat-footed and knocked in the winning goal, sending Atlante's bench into a frenzied celebration.
While Beasley and Puebla are clearly eliminated, the victory keeps Atlante's chances alive, in ninth place, just below the final playoff spot.
Next week, Puebla faces Atlas in a battle between two awful teams.
Michael Orozco missed a second consecutive match with San Luis, a dismal 0-0 draw with Queretaro.