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Misery continues for Club Leon

Action photo during the game of Santos vs Leon
Club Leon have turned into Clausura bottom feeders this season in Liga MX.
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Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy writes about the beautiful game for FOX Soccer, the Boston Herald and several other publications. Follow him on Twitter.

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Communications magnate Carlos Slim did not fund an expensive December shopping spree to watch Club León stumble out of the gate in January.

Instead of building on the breakthrough from the fall after the arrivals of Nery Castillo and Rafa Márquez, the Apertura darlings have turned into Clausura bottom feeders. A haul of one point from four matches leaves one of the expected contenders for the Liguilla languishing with the likes of Atlante, Jaguares and San Luis in the lower reaches of the table.

The domestic struggles extended to a fairly straightforward Copa Libertadores first round tie with unheralded Chilean side Deportes Iquique on Tuesday. In a match León should have won comfortably at the Camp Nou, it conceded a fourth minute goal to Rodrigo Díaz from a quick set piece and squandered several chances before Nelson Maz salvaged an unsatisfying draw two minutes from time.

Iquique's unexpected draw and the subsequent 2-0 defeat to Santos Laguna on Friday night exposed the frailties behind León's current poor run of form. The great entertainers from the Apertura have lost their sharpness in the final third and watched as opposing sides exploit their desire to attack at all times.

A return of three goals from four matches stands in stark contrast to the prolific side that averaged two goals per game during the Apertura. Most of the trouble starts when León attempts to transition from its acceptable work in possession to create opportunities in front of goal. Opposing teams set out their stall wisely and stop León from playing through them as easily as they did during the Apertura.

Even when León manages to conjure up opportunities, they often float away without reward. León mustered exactly zero shots on goal from 16 attempts on frame during the defeat to Santos. Other matches have yielded more flattering statistics, but the underlying problem remains all too clear. There just isn't enough of an end product at the moment.

The paucity of goals heaps pressure on a defense currently incapable of producing the performances necessary of grinding out results. Iquique highlighted the tendency to lapse at inopportune times on Tuesday. Santos and Toluca revealed a susceptibility to crosses. Querétaro showed how to succeed on the counter. And every opponent found a way to slice through a rickety central defense that included Márquez until he injured his left leg against Iquique.

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León manager Gustavo Matosas must find a way to address the problems and slide his side back on track quickly. The return leg in Iquique on Tuesday night presents the first hurdle to overcome and the first turning point to navigate. Iquique's rather limited road performance indicates León travels to Chile with a decent chance to book a place in the group stage if it can take its chances in front of goal.

Success in the Copa Libertadores could provide the necessary impetus to reverse the poor domestic form and start repaying Slim for the faith he showed to bankroll the arrivals of Castillo and Márquez last month. Otherwise, his generous investment in the transfer market could turn into money poorly spent.

Around Liga MX – Jornada 4

Transfer talk captured most of the attention heading into the weekend with the European transfer window poised to close on Thursday. Pachuca midfielder Héctor Herrera confirmed he will join Diego Reyes at FC Porto during the summer. Monterrey also planned for the future by agreeing to purchase Parma striker Dorlan Pabón in June after clearing the necessary room for him in its foreign contingent.

The current group of Rayados celebrated the news of Pabón's delayed arrival with a 3-2 victory over San Luis. Jesús Zavala decided the affair after 77 minutes after the visitors responded twice after the interval to equalize.

Current leaders Club Tijuana and Tigres suffered no such indignities as they protected their unblemished records. Alfredo Moreno opened the scoring from the spot after 58 minutes and Raul Arambula sealed the points five minutes from time to guarantee the Xolos' 2-0 home win over Pachuca. Emanuel Villa tallied his league-leading fifth goal of the Clausura and provided the assist on Danilinho's late strike to notch an identical result at Querétaro.

Atlas grasped the opportunity afforded by Querétaro's defeat and vanquished Club América from the ranks of the unbeaten with a surprising 2-1 victory in Guadalajara. Omar Bravo tempted Aquivaldo Mosquera into conceding a penalty and tucked away the winner from the spot after 74 minutes to move Atlas two points clear in the relegation battle.

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Morelia striker Joao Rojas scored moments before the final whistle to claim a 1-1 draw and dash CD Guadalajara's bid to secure a first victory over the season. Cruz Azul ensured no late drama occurred in its affair by brushing aside Puebla 4-0 at Estadio Azul. Javier Cortés adopted a similar approach when he handed Pumas a 1-0 victory at Toluca with his goal shortly before the interval.

Atlante and Jaguares served up a potential match of the season in Cancún to cap the weekend. Diego Ordaz and Luis Venegas scored for the home side in second-half stoppage time against the nine-man visitors to snatch a 4-3 victory at the death.

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