Going in to week 16, four teams had already qualified for the playoffs. After week 16, still only four teams have punched their tickets to the Liguilla. Thus, this final week should be interesting. The final four playoff spots are still up for grabs with nine teams still capable of finding their way in (seven teams have realistic chances). Meanwhile, the top four are in a furious competition for Copa Libertadores qualification. It's going to be loco this weekend. You might even say "sea horse carrying a sandwich" loco. That's about as crazy as it gets.
Chiapas 3 - 0 Pumas ... Apparently firing Mario Carillo and slotting Tito Villa back in the starting lineup didn't cure all that ails Pumas. I'm shocked. This wasn't a great performance from Pikolin, either.
Santos 2 - 1 Cruz Azul ... This was a very exciting game with both keepers having great matches. Santos needed this home win and got it.
America 4 - 0 Pachuca ... Strangely, Miguel Herrera came out and said if Hugo Sanchez was named Hugo Rodriguez he would have been fired already. I'm joking of course, but in a different way, if his name wasn't Hugo Sanchez he likely would've been out of a job by now. I should also mention that Chucho Benitez had a hat-trick.
Queretaro 0 - 1 Chivas ... Chivas held on to their playoff hopes with a late Marco Fabian winner. Now they just need to knock off the Xolos in their final match. That's all.
Monterrey 0 - 1 Tigres ... A tightly contested match between these two neighbors was only separated by an Alan Pulido goal coming on a defensive lapse from Monterrey.
Tijuana 0 - 0 San Luis ... Xolos had more chances to score, but the best chance belonged to a man from San Luis. More on that later.
Toluca 0 - 0 Morelia ... Both teams were exceptionally strong in the back and a bit punchless up front. Hence, the scoreless draw.
Atlas 2- 2 Puebla ... This was an absolute stomach punch draw for Atlas. Puebla got the equalizer in the 95th minute.
Atlante 2 - 3 Leon ... Atlante had more possession, more shots, more corners, but ... less goals. Leon scored on 75% of their shots.
Who's the big winner?: Santos Laguna
Yes, I know Chucho Benitez netted a hat-trick against Pachuca, but two of his goals came in the final ten minutes of an already decided contest. These were 'garbage time' goals. It was still impressive, but Chucho is not our winner this week.
This week we're giving it to a team that not only won, but won with a statement. Santos have been suffering from an extensive championship hangover. Their lackluster performances this season hardly typified the team that won the trophy in the spring. They haven't scored at the same pace and their defense has been in shambles. Yet, they came out this weekend and played like a champion against Cruz Azul. They put continual pressure on Cruz Azul that resulted in two goals, but probably should have been a few more, if not for the great efforts of Jesus Corona. Santos also demonstrated a stout defensive game with a great performance from Oswaldo Sanchez. These things looked impossible only a few weeks ago.
Now, Santos control their own destiny this final weekend. If they win, they are in. This match gave off the impression of a team finally turning it on. If that is the case, it could spell trouble for any team that stands in their path.
There are certain fan bases that garner sympathy from fans across the spectrum. Fans of Ohio professional sports are generally sympathetic in the eyes of most fans. They just lose too much. For me and my somewhat shortsighted view of professional Mexican soccer, San Luis is kind of sad. They continue to work on a shoestring budget. Their primary accomplishment and goal is avoiding relegation. Nothing too exciting happens nor nothing too devastating. They just float along.
Occasionally, as has been the case this season, they have great games (or more truthfully .. half-games) that give off an impression of a strong and competent team. However, they are never able to string these together in to any kind of success. A month ago they outplayed Club America only to let the game slip through their hands while possessing a man advantage. This weekend they traveled to Tijuana to face the league leading Xolos. It's pretty safe to say that no one gave them a chance. Yet, they shutout Tijuana and came away with a point. The Xolos had a plethora of scoring chances, but San Luis could have netted a few as well. In fact, Wilmer Aguirre should have scored. He found himself two yards in front of an empty net with a perfect delivery to tap it in. Instead of tapping it in, though, Aguirre committed himself to some sort of diving stab that resulted in the ball rolling safely away from the goal and toward the Tijuana defense that finally caught up. Horrendous.
When a team is placed in a financial position to be a massive underdog every season, expectations need to be tempered. Yes, avoiding relegation is primary, but getting your fans reasons to continue to support the club is vital. San Luis is a team that possesses the ability to play well and pull the upset, they jut don't know how.
Goal of the Week: Gregorio Torres, Atlas
Atlas supporters, your team had their first win since July ripped away from them in the final seconds of stoppage time. Don't worry though, there's a silver lining. Gregorio Torres is being awarded the goal of the week. I bet that makes everything better.
Torres approached a loose ball off of a corner kick with what looked like little menace. Anything from a ricocheting ball of the nearest defender's shin to a poor lob pass to no one in particular seemed imminent. Yet, Torres plastered the ball with such force that it gave Victor Hernandez, Puebla's keeper, no chance of catching up. The accuracy and the power of this one makes the choice easy. Well done, Mr. Torres.
I am a golden god: Miguel Herrera
Mere months earlier than America's match against Pachuca, the Aguilas were viewed as a strong team but one in slight disarray. There was talk of dysfunction in the locker room, and the pressure to produce was falling squarely on the shoulders of manager, Miguel Herrera. On Saturday, Herrera's America squad picked apart the Tuzos until there was nothing left. America's run of form has punched their ticket to the Liguilla and has them in line for a potential Copa Libertadores qualification.
Herrera has built a squad that is incredibly stout in defense. They've only allowed, a league low, fourteen goals through sixteen matches. But unfortunately for the rest of Liga MX, they know how to score as well. America's back line is so strong that they need not commit many men to limiting the threat from the opposition. Their collection of goal scorers can count on solid service, and they certainly have the men to finish those chances. They may just be the most well rounded team in the league right now.
If America is finally able to break through and attain the lofty heights their fan base expects, Herrera experiencing his 'Almost Famous moment' from the top of the Azteca is within the realm of possibility. Soy un dios dorado! That being said, if they get bounced in the quarterfinals, Herrera could also be out of a job.
Predictions: Jornada 17 Schedule and Predictions
** The last of the Jornada 13 postponed matches will finally be made up this week. It's about time, guys.**
Wednesday, November 7
9:30 ET - Monterrey v Toluca ... Monterrey needs this one more than Toluca does. They win this 2-1.
Friday, November 9
10:30 ET - Leon v Atlas ... Leon should have no problem with Atlas at home. Leon wins 3-0.
10:30 ET - Morelia v Santos ... Basically a play in game with these two. I like how Santos played this past week. I think they find a way past Morelia. Santos wins 3-2.
Saturday, November 10
6:00 ET - Cruz Azul v Monterrey ... This has a 1-1 draw written all over it. I hope. I think ... ugh.
8:00 ET - Tigres v America ... America is gunning for a Libertadores spot, while Tigres are clinging to faint Liguilla hopes. Neither will happen. 0-0 draw.
8:00 ET - Pachuca v Chiapas ... Chiapas hasn't won on the road all season ... until now. Chiapas wins 2-0.
10:00 ET - San Luis v Toluca ... Toluca takes care of business and wins 2-0. Sorry, San Luis.
Sunday, November 11
1:00 ET - Puebla v Queretaro ... Queretaro is winless through sixteen matches. Let's make it a perfect 17. 1-1 draw.
1:00 ET - Pumas v Atlante ... Atlante looked decent against Leon this week. Pumas looked like a train wreck in the middle of a house fire. Atlante win 2-1.
6:00 ET - Chivas v Tijuana ... Hard to imagine many goals here. I say Tijuana gets one late as Chivas are pushing for the winner. Xolos win 1-0.