Pumas players (pictured) acknowledge their fans after a draw at Cruz Azul on July 23, 2016, in Mexico City. (Photo: Mexsport)
MEXICO CITY – Nine of 18 teams remain unbeaten after the first two rounds of the 2016 Liga MX Apertura. Fifth-place Pumas (1W-1D-0L, 4 points), under new head coach Juan Francisco Palencia, is one of those sides.
UNAM began with a 1-0 win over visiting Guadalajara thanks to an own-goal and followed it up with a scoreless draw on Saturday at Cruz Azul.
Although pleased by the early returns, Palencia acknowledges that there’s much left to do if his team is to return to the playoffs after missing out last season.
“We have four points and I think we are on the right road,” said the 43-year-old, a former Mexico international, who finished his distinguished playing career with the club in 2011. “We are not totally together. The team set itself well, but we need more work.”
The workload will increase shortly. Pumas hosts Leon on Sunday and then travels to Trinidad & Tobago for its 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League opener against DirecTV W Connection on August 3.
With four SCCL and 11 Liga MX matches to be contested in less than three months, Palencia expects to see his squad find a rhythm soon.
“You have to practice and train,” he commented. “I think by the fourth or fifth week we are going to see a different Pumas.”
That’s not to say the current version hasn’t impressed. Quite the contrary. If the offense can catch up with the defense, the three-time CONCACAF champion will be a difficult proposition for any opponent.
“I think the quality of the matches that took place is good,” goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios finished. “We are calm because they were two very difficult matches and they were not lost. We also kept clean sheets. You have to improve and, with work, we will.”