Returnees make a mark, Sand sinks El Rojo

There were highs aplenty in this weekend’s action across the major leagues in the Americas, including eagerly-awaited returns in Brazil, the Avellaneda clásico in Argentina and the end of a nightmare run for Mexican giants Chivas Guadalajara. In our weekly feature, FIFA.com brings you the pick of what went on around the continent.

Argentina: Goals flowing again
On the back of a week full of rain in Argentina, the country’s football fans at least had something to cheer about in the form of a goal-packed Matchday 3 in the Torneo Inicial. After nets bulged just 11 times in the previous round, the current matchday has already supplied 20 goals with three encounters still to play.

Making a contribution to that tally was Racing Club striker Jose Sand, who had gone four matches without scoring – including two missed penalties – since joining La Academia. He could hardly have picked a better time to break his duck, however, than scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Independiente in el clásico de Avellaneda, a result which put Luis Zubeldia’s side joint top of the table at this early stage.

Followers of El Rojo, who have not found the net in their opening three games, must be sick of the sight of the No9. Indeed, Sand has now scored ten times against Independiente over the course of his career, more than against any other team.

The matchday was also notable for wins for River Plate, Boca Juniors and Estudiantes La Plata, all of whom move to within a point of leading trio Racing Club, Godoy Cruz and Colon Santa Fe. The latter dropped their first points of the campaign, when they were held 2-2 by Atletico Belgrano.

Brazil: Returning stars make a splash
The penultimate matchday in the first half of the 2012 Brasileirao was sprinkled with a clutch of returning performers, with the most decisive contribution coming from Atletico-MG’s Neto Berola. Having been sidelined for three months due to a stress fracture of the hip, the striker made the most of his 14-minute cameo to score the winner in O Galo’s 3-2 success over a Botafogo team featuring Clarence Seedorf.

“When I got injured, I said I’d play again and get back among the goals,” said Berola, whose clinching goal ensured Ronaldinho and Co will reach the season’s halfway point in top spot. “I’m so emotional I can hardly speak.”

Another returnee on the scoresheet was Sao Paulo starlet Lucas, who struck his side’s second in their 3-0 win over Ponte Preta in his first game back since appearing for A Seleção at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament. Santos newboy Andre, for his part, netted twice in his first match at O Peixe’s Vila Belmiro home, thus playing a key role in the 3-2 win against local rivals Corinthians.

In the day’s other clássico, Flamengo beat fellow Carioca outfit Vasco da Gama thanks to a solitary strike from Vagner Love, who thus moved alongside Fluminense’s Fred at the top of the scorers’ charts.

Mexico: Toluca running hot
Soaring clear of the pack in the Mexican general standings are Toluca, whose 1-0 victory over Pachuca – courtesy of an injury-time winner from Paraguay’s Edgar Benitez – made it five wins from five to match their previous best ever start from back in 1961/62. The matchday also witnessed the end of a nightmare run for Guadalajara, with youngster Carlos Fierro’s solitary late goal securing three points away to Real San Luis and ending a 12-game winless streak. Las Chivas were thus just one game away from their longest ever winless sequence, a 13-match run in 1955/56.

There was more good news for supporters of Mexico’s traditional heavyweights, with Pumas UNAM and CF America also winning on their respective visits to Santos Laguna (2-1) and Queretaro (4-0). The only member of the big five that failed to win were Cruz Azul, held to a 1-1 draw by CD Leon.

Elsewhere
In Paraguay, where Guarani are three points clear after four matchdays thanks to a 1-0 win over Sportivo Luqueno, the biggest news are the travails of reigning champions Cerro Porteno. Yet to win so far this campaign, El Ciclón’s latest stumble was a 1-1 draw away to Sportivo Carapegua.

Turning to Colombia, unbeaten Millonarios are still setting the pace and, despite a 0-0 draw against Atletico Nacional, are a point clear in first spot with ten points from four matches. Also yet to taste defeat are Universidad de Chile, 2-1 victors over Audax Italiano thanks to an 88th-minute effort from Guillermo Marino. Though they currently lie a point behind Rangers in the Chilean standings, they have played two games fewer.

Last but not least, mention must be made of Sporting Kansas City, who remain top of the Eastern Conference of the United States’ Major League Soccer after a late Kaiansu Kamara goal earned a 1-0 win at Toronto FC. New York Red Bulls stay hot on their heels following a 3-2 comeback win over Portland Timbers, in which new boy Tim Cahill grabbed the Red Bulls’ second. Over in the west, San Jose Earthquakes are in front despite a 3-1 away loss to Impact Montreal. The Earthquakes’ reply came via a spot-kick from Chris Wondolowski, which was his 18th goal of the campaign.