The faster one realizes that the Liguilla is not an extension of a tournament, but a new one altogether, then the results shouldn’t be as surprising.
It’s a small consolation for the legions of Tigres fans that filled their stadium only to see their beloved team fall victim to the top seed curse.
Or the fans of Rayados, their cross-town rivals whose team looked invinsible in the first leg of their playoff vs. Pumas. The score should have been more lop-sided than the 3-1 beat down, leaving an air vent in Pumas’ coffin. Pumas dug out of its 2 goal deficit to shock Monterrey and advance.
Tigres came close to digging themselves out of their 3-1 hole, but Chivas’ keeper, Luis Michel kept smashing their fingers with the shovel as soon as they reached the top. His outstanding performance makes one wonder why he was not included on the Gold Cup’s preliminary roster. And when Chivas scored, literally by accident, it was all over for the #1 seed. Again.
If Pumas were to have any chance at all, they needed to get an early score at CU. They took the field with 4 forwards to try and do just that, but it was a defender who got the landed the first blow, five minutes into the game. It would take them another 70 minutes before they breeched Rayados’ nets again. Another defender off a corner kick; their first off a set play this season.
Pumas now face Chivas, a battle of the two best youth academies in the league. Cruz Azul made it through as well, leaving the Riviera Maya with a goalless draw. 3 of the 4 grandes were in. Would America join them?
They also needed to win by two goals to advance over Morelia. Just like in CU earlier in the day, America got that vital early goal. There was hope in the realm of the Amercanismo.
It didn’t last long. It could be that their hectic schedule over the past few weeks finally caught up to them. Or that their roster, is at best, mediocre. Their defense? Well, it was awful all season, and last night was different. Club America started the week very much alive in both the Libertadores and the Liguilla. By 10 o’clock Sunday night, the body language said it all. The coach was lashing out at the ref.
The decision makers sat stone-faced with their arms crossed in the owner’s box. Earlier in the week, Michel Bauer described to the press a trophy case with two spots reserved for the trophies they would be winning soon. The reality is another year ends without any hardware, which has been emblematic of the Bauer era.
So far in his tenure, Bauer has tried to prove that he is the smartest guy in the room instead of trying to build a championship team. Coaches have come and gone, he has brought in a truck load of players, seemingly every season, and has yet to hit the jackpot on one of his imports.
At some point, patience should wear thin with him, but he is company man, so maybe, maybe not. And it is not as if they have had to renovate their trophy room because of the onslaught of hardware they have collected over the years. They have only bagged two league trophies since 1990.
Lost in the shuffle, of course, is the fact that Morelia is a really good team. Their front office has done an excellent job of acquiring players, both foreign and domestic who fit together well. Ecuadorian Joao Rojas as been a terrific pick up and superstar in the making, midfielder Elias Hernandez, is rumored to be headed off to the Continent this summer.
Amazingly, Mexican futbol will survive without America in the liguilla. One pairing pits teams whose youth academies have propelled them to this point. The other will see Cruz Azul, a team desperate to shed its label of loser, play Morelia, a team looking to make the big leap forward.
As Morelia coach, Tomas Boy, put it, “son tres grandes y un supergrande.”