30
Nov

Liga MX Apertura Liguilla: Quarters Preview - Second Legs

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Liga MX provides higher-seeded teams with a considerable advantage at the quarterfinal stage of the Liguilla. The usual away goals tiebreaker applies first, but the second criterion to separate the sides involves sending the higher seeded side through if both teams remain deadlocked.

The structure places considerable emphasis on strong away performances. Three of the top four seeds — not you, Cruz Azul — delivered by securing two or more goals in those critical first leg affairs. Their exploits leave them in a promising position to book a place in the semifinals. The job isn’t done yet, though.

As an added bonus of the neutrals, the operating principles ensure the open fare from those first legs (18 goals in four matches) should continue. The lower-seeded sides must recover those goals lost at home and snatch an extra one or two to advance to the last four. Expect the goals to flow once more as these eight sides tussle for the right to continue their campaigns for another fortnight:

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23
Nov

Liga MX Liguilla quarterfinals, first leg preview

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The chase to dethrone Club América kicks off in earnest this weekend. Las Aguilas sit atop Liga MX after winning the Liguilla during the Clausura, but seven challengers to the throne emerged during the Apertura in a bid to end their reign over the next few weeks.

The potential usurpers will take heart from the FMF’s decision to adopt America as its de facto national team during the past month or so. The prospect of knocking off the holders increased when coach Miguel Herrera and 10 of his players shifted their focus to El Tri’s World Cup bid.

It is still a mighty assignment to knock them from their perch, though. The first step along the difficult path for the champions and their potential conquerors: navigating through tricky first leg ties this weekend.

(5) Toluca – (4) Cruz Azul (Saturday, 6:00p.m. ET)

Do the Red Devils have one last attacking explosion left in the arsenal? José Cardozo’s side scored three or more goals on five separate occasions during the Apertura. A sixth would place them in good stead ahead of a difficult return trip to Estadio Azul. Anything less could place their hopes of a semifinal place in some doubt given the seasoned opposition.

(6) Morelia – (3) Club León (Saturday, 8:00p.m. ET)

Can Morelia choke off the supply lines to Mauro Boselli? The former Wigan man functions as the only reliable threat in a capable, but somewhat impotent, León side. Morelia isn’t a particular resolute side, but it must use its defensive resources to limit Boselli’s involvement and pile the pressure on the likes of Luis Montes and Carlos Peña to contribute more than approach play from midfield.

imageStop Boselli, and you can stop Leon

(8) Tigres – (1) Club América (Sunday, 6:00p.m. ET)

Are the champions up for the fight? Miguel Herrera and a significant contingent spent much of the past month focused on carrying Mexico to the World Cup. They returned from a trip halfway around the world in midweek before commencing the disjointed preparations for this tricky test against talented, yet underachieving, Tigres. The first leg represents a genuine opportunity for Tigres to snatch a result as Las Aguilas settle back into the domestic scene. The home side must take it in order to fuel its upset bid.

(7) Querétaro – (2) Santos Laguna (Sunday, 8:00p.m. ET)

How will Pedro Caixinha manage Oribe Peralta? Peralta lifted Mexico to the World Cup with his goals over the past week or so. The burden placed upon him internationally and the lingering concerns about his balky knee raise questions about how the clever Santos boss will use him in this first leg. Caixinha can afford to leave Peralta in reserve and play Javier Orozco (a natural target man) in his place at the outset. The one caveat: the rest of the side must lift its level accordingly to ensure that potential selection decision does not place the hopes of a semifinal berth in peril.

imageWill Peralta’s hot form with El Tri translate over to the Liga MX playoffs? (Images: MexSport)

5
Aug

Keeper saves penalty, teammates promptly score own goal

Despite winning the match, Veracruz goalkeeper Edgar Hernandez’s day was almost ruined thanks to a remarkably silly own goal.

After Hernandez clumsily brought down a Cruz Azul player for a penalty, the backstop made the save to seemingly keep his team’s two-goal lead in tact. However, amazingly, the ball rebounded to a Veracruz defender, whose heinous attempt at a clearance ricocheted off a second teammate and past a hapless Hernandez into the net.

Now as a goalkeeper, few things are as exhilarating as stopping a penalty kick. To then have someone else snatch away your mojo like that, now that’s just devastating. The guilty pair of defenders who made this OG possible are more than lucky this didn’t cost them the game.

23
May

Liga MX Liguilla: Cruz Azul take 1-0 lead over Club America

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Photo: Getty Images

By Kyle McCarthy

Cruz Azul claimed a 1-0 victory over bitter rivals Club América in the first leg of the Liguilla final on Thursday night, but the modest margin between the teams leaves both sides with a chance to lift the trophy.

Both sides failed to hit their best in a bland affair hindered by the rainy and slippery conditions at Estadio Azul and tempered by the looming second leg at Estadio Azteca on Sunday night.

América manager Miguel Herrera played his part in removing some of the excitement by naming a conservative side (the usual 5-3-2 setup with the now customary pair of holding midfielders) and telling his players to keep the match as narrow as possible inside their own half. The approach worked for the most part with in-form winger Pablo Barrera only a fleeting influence on the proceedings.

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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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10
Apr

Copa MX Final Preview: Atlante vs. Cruz Azul

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by Kyle McCarthy

1. Is this showpiece fixture a chance to increase the profile of Copa MX?: This beleaguered competition returned after a 15-year absence in time for the Apertura, but it hasn’t captured much attention since its return to the scene. The absence of seven Liga MX clubs – including every entrant in the CONCACAF Champions League and the Copa Libertadores – and the prevalence of reserve and youth team players strips away most of the prestige. All hope is not lost yet, though. The presence of two Liga MX sides in the final offers a stark contrast from the Apertura edition (Dorados beat Correcaminos on penalties after a 2-2 draw) and supplies some hope that this match may provide a boost to the cup in the future.

2. La Máquina attempts to finally end its championship drought: Cruz Azul has not won a title since Victor Manuel Vucetich guided the club to the Invernio title in 1997. This proud Mexico City-based side has fared well enough during the past 16 years, but it has somehow managed to lose in seven finals during that stretch. Another setback at Estadio Andrés Quintana Roo might prove too much to bear.

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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