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Queretaro tops Liga MX, Macias continues to impress

Francisco Venegas' stunning goal from beyond the halfway line wouldn't be enough as Mexico fell to Honduras in the Pan American Games.
Diego Simeone discusses how Mexico international and Atletico Madrid newcomer Hector Herrera fits into his plans tactically this season.
Herculez Gomez explains why the new Leagues Cup is a first step toward more direct competition between MLS and Liga MX.

There were 27 Liga MX games the past 20 days, with the 2019 Apertura regular-season table starting to take shape at the international break.

Here's what we've learned over the eight rounds of games so far:

Inconsistency rules

The Liga MX power hierarchy appears to be fairly well set, at least on paper. Mexico's first division -- with its split season format and playoffs -- might be much more amenable than the big European leagues to outsiders making a run at the title, even if the division between haves and have nots has increased over recent years.

That gap hasn't been seen so far this Apertura.

Queretaro is surprisingly in first position, having spent very little in the offseason, but it lost 4-0 at home to Leon just eight days ago and managed only a 1-1 home draw to Puebla on Sunday. Then there is Necaxa in fourth -- a club making a name for itself buying bargains and selling them at a high profit -- while Atlas is in a playoff spot in sixth position after defeating America 3-0 on Friday in Estadio Jalisco.

Results such as FC Juarez defeating Monterrey on Sunday evening and Atletico San Luis beating Pachuca 2-0 on Saturday all fuel the sense of inconsistency in Liga MX this season. Even big-spending Tigres have managed only three wins from their eight games, and America, Monterrey, Cruz Azul and Toluca have all shown flaws.

That said, these are early days. Managers know that the important thing is getting into the postseason, not early-season form, and it'd be truly surprising if one of America, Tigres, Monterrey, Cruz Azul, Leon or Santos Laguna doesn't win the Apertura title.

JJ Macias proving the real deal

The news that Javier Hernandez will be moving from West Ham United to Sevilla dominated the Mexican sporting press this past weekend.

Ahead of that, a lot of the talk surrounded Jose Juan Macias' absence from Gerardo "Tata" Martino's El Tri squad. The 19-year-old Leon striker tops the Liga MX goal-scoring chart with three goals in the past week and six goals so far this season, after being the highest-scoring Mexican player last season, with 10 goals in 18 games.

The comparisons with Hernandez are natural. Both are strikers from Guadalajara, both are well-educated, and both come from families that are comfortable financially and started at Chivas.

The ambitious Macias will be part of El Tri's Under-22 camp over the international break, but right now, he's the striker in pole position to eventually take over from the Hernandez/Raul Jimenez stranglehold in Mexico's forward line.

With regard to the rumor about Macias acquiring a U.S. passport and suiting up for the Stars and Stripes, it is almost certain to remain just that.

Jose Juan Macias
Jose Juan Macias has been one of Liga MX's standout players this season.

Santos Laguna team of season so far

Queretaro's topping the league at this stage is a notable achievement, though given that four of its five wins came against teams playing with 10 players -- the other was against Veracruz -- the jury is still out on how credible a potential title challenge is.

Instead, the team of the tournament so far is second-placed Santos Laguna. Los Guerreros top the expected goals per game chart so far by 0.66 goals per match, averaging 2.50.

Guillermo Almada's team presses high -- a rarity in Mexico -- and isn't overly concerned with dominating the ball. It has had an average of 45% of possession per game and has been averaging 18.43 shots per game so far this season. It also has a game in hand on Queretaro.

Games this past week against Monterrey and Leon have shown that Santos Laguna can match up against the better teams in the league, with the Torreon side earning four out of six points.

Chivas, Cruz Azul struggling

Watching Cruz Azul host Chivas on Saturday in Estadio Azteca was a frustrating experience. Two of Mexico's "big four" produced two of the best goals of the season to date, but a 0-0 draw would've summed up the game nicely.

Neither of these clubs has clicked so far this season. Cruz Azul is down in 11th, with two wins from its eight games, and Chivas are 15th, having two victories from their seven matches.

Cruz Azul appears to have changed into a team that wants the ball more, moving away from the quick transitions that Pedro Caixinha sides are known for and that helped La Maquina to the 2018 final.

As for Chivas, there doesn't seem to be any buzz around coach Tomas Boy, with a fifth consecutive season without the playoffs likely, unless it can start winning away. Chivas' run with victory on the road stretches back 11 games.

Veracruz is in a dark, dark place

If Veracruz were going to win a game this season, its three games in the past 10 days provided an ideal opportunity. It didn't happen. Veracruz fell 2-1 at home to Atletico San Luis, followed by 5-0 defeat to Queretaro and this a 1-0 loss away on Friday to Morelia.

Veracruz has now lost its past six, conceding 19 goals over those matches. The winless run is at 34.

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