8
Nov

Preview: Liga MX final weekend

Chiapas and Querétaro faced uncertain futures in top-flight football at the conclusion of the Clausura. It took a typically circuitous solution from the oligarchy behind Liga MX to provide a solution and rescue both clubs from insolvency and irrelevancy.

The franchise swapping started in earnest when Querétaro finished the campaign at the bottom of the relegation table and slid out of the top flight. Instead of accepting its fate and trying to secure promotion out of Ascenso MX after a year in purgatory, the ownership group in Querétaro constructed a workaround: it purchased the license of Jaguares de Chiapas to retain a place in the first division and promptly moved the club to Querétaro (yet somehow kept many of the old players from the relegated side).

Querétaro’s machinations created an opportunity for San Luis to fill the void in Chiapas. The owners in San Luis opted to close their club – a going, if never wildly successful, concern since 1957 – and shift their operations to Chiapas. The people of Chiapas retained their side, though the new entity currently boasts a roster primarily comprised of loan players (as do many other sides in Mexico, it must be said).

The merry-go-round also included the unseemly dissolution of La Piedad after earning a spot in Liga MX and the virtual promotion of Veracruz, but the Tiburones Rojos – rather appropriately despite a bright start, it must be said – aren’t in the postseason discussions heading into the final round of the Apertura. Chiapas and Querétaro, however, enter the final weekend in position to qualify for the eight-team playoffs.

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Chiapas needs only a point at bottom side Atlante – a decent side in Cancún (2-3-3) given the abject home displays from most sides mired near the bottom – to confirm its Liguilla place. Querétaro likely requires a win at Pachuca to prevent ninth-place Tigres (away to Copa MX runners-up Atlas) and tenth-place Club Tijuana (away to already-qualified Club León) from overtaking them with a victory.

For both sides, there is plenty of work still to do to snatch a postseason berth few expected at the start of this campaign. And given the plight both clubs faced at the end of May, the achievement would prove rather remarkable indeed.

1
Aug

Liga MX: Five points from the mid-week games

 

by Kyle McCarthy

The scheduling demands imposed by the split season and the upcoming World Cup qualifiers forced most Mexican teams to cope with fixtures in midweek. It is not an ideal situation by any means, but these sides understand how to adjust appropriately and sidestep any potential effects.

Those efforts, however, are not always successful. A couple of intriguing results dotted the landscape as this round – complete with five points to accompany it – wound to a close on Wednesday night:

1. Perhaps the expectations of a revival in Guadalajara were misplaced: Benjamin Galindo’s side suffered a 2-0 defeat to league leaders Veracruz at Estadio Omnilife on Wednesday. Chivas conceded a stellar opener to Cristian Marrugo after five minutes and watched the in-form Angel Reyna (now joint top scorer with five goals) seal the points just short of full time. The defeat prompted Galindo to ask more from Marco Fabián and Rafael Márquez Lugo in order to slide this always wayward ship back on track.

 

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30
May

Club Tijuana leave Copa Libertadores with heads held high

By Kyle McCarthy

Duvier Riascos found a berth in the Copa Libertadores semifinals placed directly at his feet in Club Tijuana’s 1-1 draw at Atlético Mineiro on Thursday night.

Tijuana could not have asked for a better man to take the potentially decisive penalty kick in second half stoppage time. He took his first half opener – dipped in controversy after a pair of potential fouls at the other end went uncalled and dispatched in style at the end of an incisive counter – with the precision expected from a player of his caliber. And Leo Silva presented him with the chance for his second after he scythed makeshift forward Pablo Aguilar to the ground to halt a prototypical route one move with the seconds ticking away.

Riascos assumed responsibility for success or failure when he stepped up to the spot. He embarked on a lengthy run-up from outside the penalty area and thumped the ball straight down the middle with Mineiro goalkeeper Victor leaning to his right.

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30
May

Copa Libertadores Preview: Atletico Mineiro vs. Club Tijuana

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By Kyle McCarthy

Club Tijuana coach Antonio Mohamed must produce one last miracle to conclude his tenure in style and send the Xolors through the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores.

He must devise a way to end Atlético Mineiro’s staggering record of success in Belo Horizonte.

It is not an easy brief to fulfill. Mineiro has not dropped a point at home during this calendar year. It has not lost at home during this edition of the competition. It has not suffered a home defeat since a 2-1 setback to Cruzeiro on Aug. 28, 2011.

Mineiro’s formidable home form exacerbates the problems created by Tijuana’s inability to protect a two-goal lead at Estadio Caliente a week ago. The 2-2 draw in Mexico hands Mineiro a significant advantage ahead of the second leg and means Tijuana must secure either an outright victory or a tie that includes at least three goals scored to go through at full time.

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23
May

Copa Libertadores Quarterfinal: Club Tijuana 2, Atletico Mineiro 2

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Photo Credit: Francisco Vega

By Kyle McCarthy

Everything proceeded according to plan for Club Tijuana for the opening hour of the 2-2 home draw with Atlético Mineiro in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores quarterfinal tie.

Xolos manager Antonio Mohamed watched his side expose and unsettle a Mineiro side visibly uncomfortable with the unique task presented at Estadio Caliente. The home side asserted control over the proceedings early in the match (Mohamed’s unexpected switch to a 3-4-3 at the outset and the subsequent return to the normal 4-3-3 after 25 minutes or so helped a great deal) and piled the pressure on the visitors.

It eventually told. Duvier Riascos handed Tijuana a deserved opener after 32 minutes. Fidel Martínez doubled the lead at the back post inside the first 10 minutes at the second half. And the Xolos looked like they would take a comfortable and ultimately necessary advantage to Brazil ahead of the second leg.

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15
May

Palmeiras vs. Club Tijuana: Xolos make history

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Photo: Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

By Kyle McCarthy

1. The fairytale continues: Tijuana played its first match less than a decade ago. It reached the Mexican first division in 2011. It won its first title in 2012. And now it has advanced to the quarterfinals of the Copa Bridgestone Libertadores by registering the fourth Mexican victory on Brazilian soil.

In stark contrast to the two other Mexican clubs – Club América and C.D. Guadalajara – to win an away match in Brazil, Tijuana operates on a relatively modest budget and relies on a small squad of players to achieve laudable results. This triumph isn’t a fluke: it is the product of a cohesive unit of dedicated and savvy operators capable of winning against any opponent in North or South America on the right day. Antonio Mohamed has worked wonders to lift this club into a quarterfinal tie against Atlético Minero.

2. Credit Tijuana’s victory to a stout defensive shape: Tijuana prefers to play a counterattacking style well suited for continental play and Mohamed astutely adhered to it for this match. The game plan – retain the necessary structure and then wait for the opportune moment to break forward with pace – made perfect sense for this tie against a Palmeiras side that had scored just five goals in seven Libertadores matches coming into this match. Mohamed and his players dared Palmeiras to carve them open and win the tie. The Brazilians tried their best to do so (particularly in the second half), but they failed to come to terms with Tijuana’s resolute line (offside time and time again), lacked the quality to score from the run of play and suffered the consequences of their defensive lapses.

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4
May

Liga MX Clausura 2013, Jornada 17: Five Things to Watch

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By Kyle McCarthy

1. Forget about final day drama: it’s all about final weekend drama in Liga MX: All of the key matches are spread out over two days to maximize viewing pleasure. If the events break in a certain way (more on that potential sequence of events in a moment), the final game of the Clausura (Pumas’ visit to Atlante on Sunday night) could determine the composition of the Liguilla field. Moral of the story: clear off the calendar on Saturday and Sunday to keep careful track of the events as they unfold.

2. Two teams, one regular-season title at stake at the Azteca: Club América hosts Tigres in a virtual playoff for top spot in the Liguilla on Saturday night. The two combatants – plus surprise package Atlas – enter the weekend tied on 32 points. If either side emerges victorious from this tense affair, then it will secure the first seed due to its vastly superior goal difference (America: +17, Tigres: +14, Atlas: +8). If the match ends in a draw, then Atlas can vault both of them with a home victory over Club León.

One other point to monitor in this match: Ecuadorian striker Christian Benítez (12 goals) could win his third consecutive scoring title (a first since Mexico switched to the split-season format in 1996) if he maintains his two-goal edge over Morelia’s Héctor Mancilla (10 goals) through the weekend.

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29
Apr

Five points: Liga MX, Jornada 16

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By Kyle McCarthy

1. Six teams avoid final day drama: Cruz Azul and Morelia increased the number of confirmed Liguilla participants to six after emerging with victories this weekend. They join co-leaders Club América, Atlas and Tigres and current fourth-place side Santos Laguna with assured places in the postseason. The only drama left for these outfits: confirming their final place in the pecking order.

One match to monitor closely as these sides jostle for position: co-leaders América and Tigres meet on Saturday at Estadio Azteca. América will secure top spot with a victory even if Atlas – the third and final side situated on 32 points heading into the weekend – defeats Club León at home based on its superior goal difference.

2. And three sides vie for the last two slots: Pumas UNAM (26 points), Querétaro (24 points) and Monterrey (23 points) enter the last weekend as the candidates to fill the final two Liguilla places (barring some heavy Cruz Azul defeat). Monterrey will know exactly what outcome it requires when it hosts Cruz Azul on Saturday night with Querétaro poised to play earlier in the day (more on that game in a moment). Pumas plays at Atlante on Sunday night in the final game of the Clausura with its mobility – upwards or downwards – clearly outlined.

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