Liga MX as unpredictable as ever at midway point; Americans flying high
We're on the brink of the midway point of the Liga MX 2017 Clausura regular season and it's time to make some conclusions about what we've seen so far.
Liga MX as unpredictable as ever
Chivas cruising 2-0 up at half-time against relegation-threatened Chiapas and then crashing to a 4-3 loss last Sunday has, in many ways, summed up the whole Clausura to date. It's been almost entirely unpredictable.
The league table right now looks a little like somebody has picked balls out of a pot and slotted them in random spots. How else can we explain 2016 Apertura semifinalist Leon being in last position? Newly strengthened Paco Jemez-led Cruz Azul in 17th place? Atlas and Queretaro both in the playoff places, while reigning champions Tigres sit in 15th with just two wins in eight games and only eight goals scored?
If the first eight matches of the Clausura have taught us anything, it is that parity in Liga MX is thriving as much as ever. Picking a champion is difficult. Club Tijuana, Santos Laguna and Toluca have been the three best sides, but it would hardly be surprising if Tigres, Chivas, Pumas, Club America, Monterrey or Pachuca took the crown.
Castillo the pick of the newcomers
There were a number of notable incomers to Liga MX over the winter transfer window, but the best new signing to date has undoubtedly been Chile international Nicolas Castillo at Pumas. The Pumas faithful have taken an instant liking to the 24-year-old, who has four goals and two assists to his name in seven games.
Fellow La Roja international Eduardo Vargas -- Castillo's direct competitor for a starting spot with the Copa America champion -- is beginning to settle at Tigres, but will need time after his move (the most important of the past transfer window) from Hoffenheim.
Over at Club America, Cecilio Dominguez's start to life in Mexico has been positive, if held back a little by injury. Martin Cauteruccio, Angel Mena and Martin Rodriguez have all struggled to live up to expectations at disastrous Cruz Azul.
On the positive side, young Ghanaian midfielder Clifford Aboagye (Atlas) has shown promise and powerful Peru international Luis Advincula (Tigres) looks like he will shortly become the best right-back in the league if he carries on as he's started.
Americans enjoying success ahead of qualifiers
MLS gets going this weekend and United States national team hopefuls there will be keen to show form ahead of critical FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama later this month. But there is a group of Stars and Stripes potentials in Mexico already in form.
Top of that list is Pachuca's Omar Gonzalez. The towering center-back has been an integral part of Los Tuzos boasting the meanest defense in the Clausura so far, with only five goals conceded. Gonzalez is in some of the best form of his life and has developed into one of the most important center-backs in Liga MX.
Over at league-leading Club Tijuana, Paul Arriola has been making significant strides this season. Although he is less at ease at wing-back compared to further forward on the right wing, the 22-year-old -- who recently completed 100 games for Xolos -- has scored twice and notched two assists in seven starts in the Clausura.
Then there is regular starter Joe Corona, who has taken his opportunity back in the first division under Miguel Herrera with aplomb, and teammate Michael Orozco, another mainstay in a very good Xolos side.
Of the left-backs, Jonathan Bornstein's consistency at Queretaro could see him in the frame and Monterrey's Edgar Castillo is an outside possibility for Bruce Arena's squad.
Morelia, Veracruz immersed in the relegation battle
It generally isn't easy to understand the Liga MX relegation system, but one team will be going down at the end of the Clausura regular season and the chances are high that it will be either Morelia or Veracruz.
Morelia is currently on 103 points over the six short seasons considered for relegation, while Veracruz is two points above on 105 points. Above them are Jaguares on 110 points and the alarm bells are beginning to ring at Cruz Azul, which is on 113.
Veracruz and Morelia are both currently locked on nine points in the Clausura and in difficult situations. Veracruz has lost its last three (without scoring a single goal), while Morelia is being guided at present by interim manager Roberto Hernandez.
Bumper attendance tinged by violence in Veracruz
There has been a very healthy average attendance of 24,614 over the 72 matches so far this Clausura and, as is usually the case in Mexico, there has generally been positive atmospheres at the vast majority of Liga MX venues.
But the violent scenes in Veracruz on Feb. 17 raised concerns again about the safety in stadiums across the league. Veracruz supporters stormed from one end of the Luis "Pirata" Fuente to the other and fighting broke out with Tigres fans, leading to all-round mayhem. The sanction of one game behind closed doors and a fine for home side Veracruz -- coupled with a two-game ban and fine for Tigres manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti -- was widely criticized by the Mexican press for being extremely light.
The episode highlighted recurrent problems with some Liga MX stadiums, which is certainly a shame given that unlike in many countries, rival supporters aren't segregated, aside from the barras bravas.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.