17
May

América, Cruz Azul in control as Liguilla semifinal second legs beckon

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By: Kyle McCarthy

Mexico will once again turn its attention toward the capital as the Liguilla semifinals conclude over the weekend.

If everything unfolds according to plan, then the attention will remain there through the conclusion of the final next weekend. Club América (2-2 at Monterrey on Wednesday) and Cruz Azul (3-0 at Santos Laguna on Thursday) submitted assured displays away from home to place themselves into position to progress with similar performances in the second leg.

América faces the trickier of the two challenges with Monterrey still in the tie after the stalemate at Estadio Tecnológico. It isn’t beyond Victor Manuel Vucetich’s side to engineer the required victory (or a draw of 3-3 or greater, though that result hardly seems likely) in this decisive affair, nor is it out of the realm of possibility for América to buckle under the weight of the heavy expectations.

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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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22
Apr

Five points from Liga MX: Atlas’ magic; Tijuana on the brink

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1. Atlas continues its magical run with derby win over Chivas: Rodrigo Millar decided the latest edition of the Clásico Tapatio in favor of the title chasers when he turned home Amaury Ponce’s cross on the half-hour. The latest step forward for the second side in Guadalajara came with an additional benefit: the triumph essentially placed Benjamin Galindo’s side in a position where it must win both of its remaining games to maintain its Liguilla hopes.

Chivas will likely have to accomplish that task without Erick Torres. The lively striker suffered a graphic injury to his left elbow after a clumsy tackle by Luis Robles in the 79th minute. Immediate calls for the medical staff – plus the quick attention paid by several Atlas players, including goalkeeper Miguel Pinto – underscored the severity of the situation.
 
2. Cruz Azul puts one foot in the Liguilla by eliminating Toluca: One win from their final two matches – admittedly difficult affairs against Santos Laguna and Monterrey, mind you – should prove enough for La Máquina to claim a place in the top eight after a 2-0 victory at La Bombonera on Sunday.

Christian Giménez (with the aid of neat buildup work from Gerardo Torrado and Teofilo Gutierrez) and Luis Perea (from a Pablo Barrera corner kick) ended the Red Devils’ remote playoff hopes and prolonged Cruz Azul’s recent run of form. No team will relish drawing this group in the playoffs.

3. Tijuana on the brink after Morelia defeat: Héctor Mancilla showed the difference an extra touch of class can provide when he scored twice – including a truly stunning bit of skill to equalize – to hand Morelia a 2-1 victory at Estadio Caliente. Consider the Apertura defense just about concluded for Tijuana at this point with a Copa Libertadores round of 16 tie against Palmeiras on tap starting next week and a three-point gap to close with two games left to play.

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8
Apr

FIVE POINTS: LIGA MX (JORNADA 13)

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Franco Arizala, Jaguares (Action Images)

1. Where were all the goals?: This particular weekend did not offer up much for the neutrals: eight games on Saturday and Sunday produced 10 combined goals. Three of those affairs ended in scoreless draws. And the one shootout of the weekend – the five-goal thriller on Friday night – leaned on a unique set of circumstances to generate all of that action in the final third…

2. Injuries threaten to sidetrack Chivas’ Liguilla push: Guadalajara manager Benjamin Galindo once again turned to a raft of reserves to carry his tattered side through a match. Unlike the Súper Clásico defeat to Club América last weekend, Chivas still looked capable of handling a visit to Jaguares on Friday. The shoddy back four – once again stripped of Héctor Reynoso (hamstring) – disagreed as it somehow squandered the advantages created by a pair of Rafael Márquez Lugo goals and an ample share of the ball. Franco Arizala’s winner nine minutes from time incited celebrations in Chiapas and left tattered Chivas two points off the pace in the playoff race.

3. Tigres spurns yet another chance to pull clear at the top: Ricardo Ferretti’s side wasted a glorious opening to compile a genuine cushion over second-place Atlas (0-0 draw with Morelia) and third-place Club América (1-1 draw with Puebla) with a victory against lowly Club León. The resulting 0-0 draw instead maintained the modest two-point advantage over Atlas heading into the final four weeks of the season. Ferretti and his players have yet to taste defeat in 13 Clausura matches, but they must take care of business to ensure they do not somehow allow Atlas or América (two points further back) to overtake them in the next few weeks.

4. So much for potential distractions for La Máquina: Cruz Azul could have turned its attentions to Wednesday’s Copa MX final against Atlante a few days early with a first title since 1997 on the horizon. Instead of dropping its guard ahead of the trip to Querétaro, Guillermo Vázquez’s side erased the deficit created by Diego de la Torre’s early marker and secured three valuable points in the battle for a Liguilla place. A similar triumph in Cancún in midweek would end the lengthy drought and strengthen Vázquez’s tenuous position significantly.

5. Home slip leaves Gallos Blancos with a relegation mountain to climb: De la Torre’s early goal provided hope of a critical result in the battle against relegation. Victory against Cruz Azul – plus the expected away defeat for then-bottom side San Luis in Cancún – would have drawn Querétaro within three points of safety with four matches to go.

No such luck for the bottom feeders on this weekend, though. Nicolás Bertolo and Javier Orozco snatched the points for Cruz Azul in the second half on Saturday night. And then Luis Rodriguez struck with a quarter of an hour to play at Estadio Andres Quintana Roo on Sunday night to give San Luis its first road victory of the season.

The unfortunate sequence of events left Querétaro seven points behind Atlante in the race to avoid relegation. Barring some sort of miracle over the next few weeks, Gallos Blancos will spend next season in Ascenso MX.

Results: Jaguares 3 – Chivas 2 (Friday); América 1 – Puebla 1,  Querétaro 1 – Cruz Azul 2, Pachuca 1 – Pumas 2, Tigres 0 – León 0, Atlas 0 – Morelia 0, Tijuana 0 – Santos 0 (Saturday); Toluca 1 – Monterrey 0, Atlante 0 – San Luis 1 (Sunday).

— By Kyle McCarthy