Despite having scored a penalty kick in the 15th minute, Oribe Peralta appeared upset at himself shortly after the halftime whistle blew for last Saturday's game between America and Toluca at the Estadio Azteca. The 32-year-old Peralta had missed three clear and close opportunities in the final minutes of the half, and America entered halftime tied 1-1.
The historic club will soon be celebrating its 100-year anniversary, and anything less than a title during the 2016 Apertura would be seen as a disappointment to Las Aguilas' supporters and ownership. The organization perceives itself as not only the best in the country but also one of the most well-known and popular clubs in the Western Hemisphere.
A 1-1 draw at home against Los Diablos Rojos, one of the least exciting teams in the competition, would stunt hopes for a championship this season.
But four minutes after halftime, Peralta responded with a well-timed header off a corner that gave America a narrow 2-1 lead. Later, during the 65th minute, the veteran took advantage of an unexpected pass that bounced over Toluca backup goalkeeper, Miguel Angel Centeno. With just the goal in front of him, Peralta easily pushed the ball into the back of the net.
After a few unlucky moments with his finishing, the striker eventually ended up with his first-ever America hat trick in the 3-1 victory.
Peralta's last hat trick happened all the way back in the 2012 Clausura. Then playing for Santos Laguna, Peralta scored four goals for Los Guerreros during a 5-2 home win against San Luis on March 3, 2012.
Thanks to an impressive season, and an ensuing Clausura title for his club, Peralta was selected as one of the three over-age options for Mexico during the 2012 Olympics. Peralta was a key member of the squad, but he didn't truly leave his mark until the final game of the tournament. Peralta scored both goals in the 2-1 victory over Brazil in the gold-medal match on August 11th.
Now, four years later, Peralta has once again been selected as one of Mexico's three over-age players for the Summer Games. Following his hat trick in the Estadio Azteca for America, Peralta now begins training with the rest of El Tri's Olympic roster, which will leave for Brazil on Saturday.
Although many fans instead preferred the likes of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who admitted the decision was not entirely his to make during an interview in April, Peralta has the talent and experience to lead Mexico to another spot at the podium in August. With arguably one of his best America performances now behind him, the aging Liga MX star will now set his sights on defending Mexico's gold medal during next month's competition.
If Peralta is able to continue his momentum for club and country, 2016 could prove to be a memorable and historic year for the striker.
Notes from Week 2 of the 2016 Apertura
- Current title-holders Pachuca collected two late goals that secured a 2-0 away victory against Chiapas. The big question now is if Los Tuzos will continue to find success during the Olympics. Pachuca will be sending five players to Mexico's Olympic roster, more than any other Liga MX team.
- Saturday's crosstown rivalry match between Mexico City's Cruz Azul and Pumas finished with a dull 0-0 result. Pumas goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios was fantastic in net while Los Cementeros' Joffre Guerron struggled with his finishing. The silver lining for both sides is that neither has allowed a goal in the Apertura.
- Even with Andre Pierre-Gignac back in the starting XI, Tigres couldn't find a way to score on Atlas during the 0-0 draw at home. Atlas goalkeeper Oscar Ustari finished the match with eight saves. Manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's squad has yet to allow or score a goal this season.
- Chivas scraped past Monterrey with a narrow but significant 1-0 home victory on Saturday night. The match also marked the beginning of Chivas TV, the club's new online streaming program, which presents home games on mobile devices or computers. The service has been criticized for high pricing and low streaming quality.
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