I am not going to lie. This is the time of year where it is the hardest for me to follow footie as I am deeply immersed in college football. I travel every weekend to different parts of the country to work on TV broadcasts, and most of the time, the games I work are on at the same time as Liga MX. Or I am in a part of the country where Spanish TV stations didn't make the hotel room TV cut and high speed internet means 56k modem. It would be disingenuous of me to write about something that I didn't see, so I haven't written much.
I did, however, get to see the Liga MX quarterfinals, and I was not surprised in the least not only with the teams that advanced, but how they did it.
Club America was the first to punch their ticket Saturday afternoon, gasping and wheezing their way through over a Plucky Morelia team who had the upset in their grasp, only to have it fall harmlessly away. Club America would have an excellent home field advantage, were it not for their extremely cynical and demanding fans who expect nothing less than golizas at every game. When Estadio Azteca should be fortress, it is nothing more than a sand castle. And don't think the brass hasn't noticed. They are offering every seat for $100 MXN (about 8 bucks) for their playoff game on Thursday.
Conversely, Leon, despite only being back in Liga MX for three months, has quickly become one of the hardest places to play in the Hemisphere. The crowds at the Estadio Leon have been beyond impressive, and the players clearly feed off the craziness as much as the opposing team is bothered by it. That was quite palpable Saturday night as La Fiera jumped all over Cruz Azul early with 2 quick first half goals.
Cruz Azul never had a chance. And they played like it. Even when coach Memo Vazquez put 3 additional forwards on the pitch, the offense sputtered. They could not wait fast enough for the game to end while Leon and their fans danced the night away after a 3-0 win. Regardless of what happens in this Liguilla, Leon's upcoming participation in the Libertadores is gonna be fun.
Fun may not be the best way to describe how Xolos plays. Some might use "boring." I would use "effective." They were very effective in their tie with Monterrey, where they secured a 1-0 win away at the Tec, and were effective in stifling Rayados' high powered offense again at the Caliente. Suazo and company rarely threatened Xolos' goal, and when they finally did score, a 93rd minute de Nigris goal, it was too late.
Xolos, who has the best defense in Liga MX, will now face Leon, who has the best offense. Set your DVRs.
Has there been a more low-profile top seed than Toluca? They barely broke a sweat systematically taking apart the up-and-down Chivas in both ties. And when it was over, all anyone could talk about was what moves Guadalajara would be making next. Never mind that the top seed, who normally struggles to survive this round, emphatically crushed their opponents.
It has been like that for all season for Toluca. They did not complain when they lost their starting striker to an arrhythmia at the beginning of the season. While Leon and Xolos have captured headlines for their terrific seasons, and Chivas and Pumas' toils sold extra papers and got extra clicks, the Red Devils quietly went about the business of winning games. Coach Enrique Meza won a dumptruck full of trophies when he was at the Toluca helm last decade. There is no reason to believe he won't be adding another piece of hardware to the pile.
The semis are set. In one tie, two recently promoted teams: one bursting with history and tradition, the other trying to make their own. The other tie will pit two teams with over 20 titles between them. Should be fun.
Thursday America - Toluca 7:00 pm CT (noon Sunday) Leon - Dolos 9:00 pm CT (4:30 Sunday)