Liga MX Tres Puntos: America finishes first, but Liguilla success not a given
The Liga MX regular season is in the books and Club America, which sat atop the league table for a majority of the Apertura, finished in the No. 1 spot. Whether that is a blessing or a curse remains to be seen – only three regular-season winners have gone on to win a Liguilla title in the past decade.
America remained in the top spot, despite a 2-1 loss to Atlas in the regular-season finale. Atlas captured the win, three points and third-place thanks to a 68th minute goal from Juan Medina.
To kick off the final Matchday of the Apertura 2014, Chivas Guadalajara managed to end a miserable season with an ugly win over last-place Morelia. Tijuana upended Leon on the same night, 3-2, after Dario Benedetto scored an 88th minute winner on a night when each team surrendered an own goal. The loss bounced Leon, the defending Apertura and Clausura champions, from the postseason race.
A busy Saturday saw a 3-3 draw between Puebla and Santos Laguna and a 1-1 draw between Leones Negros and Cruz Azul.
Tigres UANL earned a 2-1 win over Toluca, thanks to a goal from Damian Alvarez in the final minutes of stoppage time. Joffre Guerron, who recorded the first goal of the match for Tigres, made the assist on the game-winner. Pachuca also benefitted from a late goal on Saturday, when Aviles Hurtado found the back of the net in the 93rd minute. Tigres, Toluca and Pachuca all qualified for Liguilla.
Queretaro, meanwhile, fell to Chiapas, 2-1, in a loss that cost them a shot of advancing to the postseason.
In the final match of the regular season, Pumas UNAM was able to secure an impressive 4-2 victory over Monterrey with the help of a brace from Eduardo Herrera.
The playoff field is now set and the quarterfinals are ready to begin. Here are Tres Puntos from the latest league action in Mexico:
Liguilla Field Set
After 17 weeks, the Liguilla field is finally set, with Club America, Tigres UANL, Atlas, Toluca, Jaguares de Chiapas, Monterrey, Pachuca and Pumas UNAM qualifying for the playoffs.
Leon's loss to Tijuana on Friday night cost La Fiera an opportunity to defend the Liga MX title, despite finishing the Apertura with the best attack in the tournament - 29 goals to America's 28. Leon's loss left the door open for the final Liguilla spot to a number of teams, and Pumas jumped at the opportunity with a 4-2 win over Monterrey in the final match of the tournament to claim the final spot.
Pumas will now face top-seeded America in the quarterfinals, with Tigres vs. Pachuca, Atlas vs. Monterrey and Toluca vs. Chiapas as the other quarterfinal matchups.
Boselli (Leon), Sanvezzo (Queretaro) Share Golden Boot
Mauro Boselli and Camilo Sanvezzo finished the Apertura with 12 goals apiece. The Leon and Queretaro goal scorers earned a share of the Golden Boot as Liga MX's leading goal scorers, while Dorlan Pabon, who served a suspension in the final matchday, finished one goal behind with 11.
Boselli scored his 12 goals in 16 appearances and Sanvezzo scored 12 in 17 matches. Both men pulled ahead of Pabon in the final minutes of their matches on Saturday.
Boselli's goal came one minute into the final stoppage time in Leon's 3-2 loss to Tijuana, while Sanvezzo finished a scoring chance with an assist from Ronaldinho in the 89th minute of Los Gallos Blancos' 2-1 loss to Chiapas.
For Sanvezzo, it is his second Golden Boot award in as many seasons in as many leagues.
Sanvezzo finished the 2013 MLS season with a hat trick and won the scoring title as a member of Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Sanvezzo's relationship then soured with Vancouver as he forced his way to Queretaro in the offseason.
Tight Relegation Race Will Carry Over To Clausura 2015
The Apertura is in the books, but teams will still have an opportunity to dig themselves out of the bottom of the Tabla de Cociente (Relegation Zone) in next year's Clausura 2015.
Thanks to a regular-season finale win for Chivas, they were able to find themselves in better position than three other Liga MX teams - Puebla, Leones Negros and Veracruz - entering next year's tournament.
Following the Clausura, the team with the lowest points-per-game average will be sent down to Ascenso MX. The average is based on the past three tournaments, while recently promoted clubs have just one season to avoid last place.
To fill the spot vacated by the relegated club, the Ascenso MX Apertura and Clausura winners will face off in a playoff to determine who will be promoted.
Player of the Week: Eduardo Herrera, Pumas UNAM
Herrera netted a brace in Pumas' win, sending the club through to the Liguilla. Herrera's two goals where the final scores of the regular season for Pumas and also the most important of the year.
In the 16th minute, Herrera scored his first goal of the match to put Pumas ahead, 3-1. His finish came on a corner kick from Dante Lopez and ultimately turned out to be the game-winner. Herrera added some insurance for Pumas after Los Rayados pulled within one goal, when he put away a penalty shot in the 65th minute which was conceded after a handball in the box from Monterrey's Diego Pacheco.
In a touching moment, Herrera celebrated his goals with a tribute to the 43 students who went missing in Ayotzinapa weeks ago.
Pumas will now face America in the quarterfinals.
Paul Arriola (Tijuana) - Arriola came off the bench in the 73rd minute of Tijuana's 3-2 win over Leon.
Edgar Castillo (Atlas) - Castillo played all 90 minutes for Atlas in its 2-1 win over Club America. Castillo was pushing forward from his left back position throughout the match, with multiple shots on goal. The 28-year-old defender picked up a yellow card in the 76th minute and finished the Apertura having played every minute for Los Rojinegros.
Hérculez Gómez (Tigres UANL) - Gomez was subbed onto the pitch in the 82nd minute and was on the field for Tigres' game-winning goal vs. Toluca.
Michael Orozco (Puebla) - Did not play and was not on the matchday roster for the 3-3 draw with Santos.
José Francisco Torres (Tigres UANL) - Torres played all 90 minutes for Tigres in its 2-1 win over Toluca. Torres was active in the midfield and created multiple scoring chances for Tigres throughout the match.
Mexico Odds and Ends
Images of what is reportedly El Tri's away kit for Copa America 2015 leaked over the weekend ... Mexico drew Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia in Group A for next summer's Copa America ... A good year for the national team came to a bitter end, with a 3-2 upset loss to Belarus ... Miguel Herrera hinted a friendly between Mexico and the United States is in the works for April 2015 ... Herrera also urged Mexican players to impress overseas in European league play.