The plummeting Pumas take center stage while El Tri is on hold

Alan Mozo (left) played at star level for the Pumas, winning plaudits as the best right-back in Liga MX today. (Photo by Daniel Santana/Jam Media/Getty Images)

Liga MX make-up game serves as bridge to El Tri game

As Mexican soccer fans worry about the fate of El Tri, there’s a Liga MX make-up game to distract us.

OK, maybe the Pumas-Mazatlán match won’t lessen the anxiety ahead of Sunday’s game against Honduras in San Pedro Sula, but that’s all we have. So let’s take a look…

The 13th-placed Pumas welcome last-placed Cañoneros to the UNAM campus in Mexico City, both looking for their first league victory since mid-February. Pumas had success in the Concacaf Champions League – going 2-1-1 to advance to the CCL semi-finals – but the club’s last Liga MX win came on February 13, a 2-1 triumph over León.

Today’s contest is one of three Matchday 9 matches that were called off due to the big brawl at La Corregidora stadium in Querétaro the night before.

With a win – the Pumas are a modest 2-1-2 at CU this season – UNAM can climb to 8th place. And Mazatlán happens to be the worst road team in Liga MX (0-0-5 and outclassed 14-5), so maybe “The Felinos” can win one for their absent manager (coach Andrés Lillini is serving the second of his two sideline suspension games earned for insulting the referee in the team’s 2-1 loss at Cruz Azul).

Mazatlán can come out of the basement (7 points in 10 games) with a win while a draw would elevate ‘The Purple Gang’ above FC Juárez on goal differential. I guess 17th place is better than 18th.

New coach Gabriel Caballero is also aware that the Cañoneros are flirting with relegation penalties. Mazatlán FC are currently in 15th place in the demotion table, just one place from the financial penalty area (the bottom three teams in the “relegation table” must pay a fine to stay in Liga MX).

Caballero will play his second match as Mazatlán’s head coach. His debut was a tough 2-1 home loss to León. the The Cañoneros’ last victory came at home against América on February 16, the club followed up that historic win – their first-ever against the Aguilas – by going 0-1-4 since.

Meanwhile, in Central America…

Mexico must win against last-placed Honduras or risk a nerve-wracking final at the Estadio Azteca against the still scrappy Salvadorans.

It won’t be easy. In three recent encounters against Honduras, Mexico’s head coach was sacked during the qualifying campaign: Enrique Meza was fired after losing 3-1 at San Pedro Sula; Sven-Goran Eriksson started after losing 3-1 to Catrachos in the same city; and José Manuel de la Torre, driven out of town after Honduras won at the Estadio Azteca.

If El Tri succumbs to ‘The H’ on Sunday, at least Gerardo Martino won’t have to witness it in person, although he might have to pack his bags anyway. “Tata” was unable to make the trip to Honduras due to a retinal detachment that prevents him from flying.

A win for Mexico combined with a draw or loss for Costa Rica earns El Tri a ticket to Qatar. If the Greens-Whites-and-Reds lose on Sunday and Costa Rica beats El Salvador, Mexico will play for its life in the World Cup on Wednesday against El Salvador.

The drama continues… one thing that may work in Mexico’s favor is that FIFA has ordered Sunday’s clash to be played behind closed doors. The Honduran federation was penalized for the misbehavior of the fans in the previous home game against El Salvador. So there is not that…