The Big Four: Pumas, April 22, 2013


With this being my first post for Soccer Mexicana, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Stephen Eastepp and I go by the name “Ordinary Orange Fan” in the soccer writing community. Now your first question might be what does orange have to do with the beautiful combination that blue and gold make? Well, nothing I guess. My affection with the color orange stems from my home team, an MLS soccer club – the Houston Dynamo.

I am the Managing Editor of Dynamo Theory, which provides some of the best web based content on the orange that you can find. As it relates to this article and my subsequent ones, that’s where the orange ends. On that site, however, I also write up some Liga MX recaps when possible and follow the wonderful world of Mexican futbol regularly.

Personally, I happen to be an avid supporter of the Azul y Oro. I have been for many years, even before the Dynamo moved to the city of Houston. That’s where this column comes in. I hope to give you a unique perspective on Pumas from every angle possible.

I guess there is no better time to start than now – well, things could a bit better had I been able to start this column after a win.

The good news is with two weeks left in the Clausura, Los Pumas are in position to make the liguilla. How far they get, though, is another question to ponder. This past weekend, Pumas travelled into the always dangerous Estadio Azteca to face their biggest rivals, Las Aguilas del America.

Clasico Capitalino – What could have been

The Clasico Capitalino match not only provided the backdrop for one of Mexico’s biggest rivalries (with 80k in attendance), but more importantly playoff positioning. Entering the match, America had been a staple near the top of the Liga MX table, while Pumas have been on the fringe of the final playoff spots.

Saturday night’s match was one that Pumas won’t want to relive – particularly because it was a game about lost points. When the final whistle blew, America claimed the win with an early goal from Christian “Chucho” Benitez in the 23rd minute. Eleven minutes later, the game became overshadowed by two players letting emotions (and stupidity) get to them, leading up to a controversial red card ejection for one of Pumas most valuable assets. In the 34th minute, Pumas’ Martin Bravo and America’s Rubens Sambueza were locked in a race for a ball when Sambueza appeared to hit Bravo in the mouth. Bravo retaliated and was sent off immediately. After Sambueza got off the ground (from a nice acting job), he was also provided discipline – just not the expected red card. Sambueza was given a yellow instead, leaving the Pumas playing with less men and the bad taste of inconsistent refereeing in their mouth.

Robin Ramirez – One Goal? Seriously?

Even with a man advantage, America couldn’t find the back of the net to put the match completely out of reach. Pumas had a number of chances – both to go down and go up. The biggest opportunity for an equalizer came from a late chance from this year’s biggest addition (and supposed goal scorer) Robin Ramirez. Ramirez missed a clear chance that was practically put on a platter for the Paraguayan striker in the final moments of the match.  Through 15 games, Ramirez has tallied only one goal – needless to say, most Pumas fans are through with this experiment. Finishing has not been his strong point to say the least.

Enough with the match because it’s not fun discussing a loss to America. Let’s talk about the liguilla and chances of Pumas hoisting the trophy. Liga MX has two weeks left, and based on opponent alone Pumas have a solid chance of picking up six of six points. Their final two opponents occupy two of the bottom four in the current Liga MX table.

Controlled Fate

Next week, Pumas will host Jaguares (3-7-5, 14 points) who sit in 15th in the table. Jaguares shouldn’t be considered a light opponent as they are unbeaten in their last three matches. Pumas will round out the Clausura on May 5 in Cancun against Atlante (4-10-1, 13 points). Atlante has been a doormat for much of the year, but could try and play spoiler if given the opportunity.

Azul y Oro confidence scale from 1-10: 7

Justification: I’m basing this off chances to make the liguilla alone, because that’s the first step. If we were talking about the championship, that number would be lower at this time. For Pumas, the worry around finalizing a ticket to the liguilla rests solely in their hands. While the likes of Monterrey and Pachuca are only three points behind them in the standings, winning out against their final two opponents is all they really need to accomplish. Once we get there, we’ll worry about the first round opponent. Goya, Goya!