When fans of the beautiful game ask why on earth Mexico has had a post-season system for the past 40+ years, the pro-liguillistas can point to this past weekend.
The first round included 2 heated derbies; while the other two match-ups pitted one team looking for redemption against one looking for respect, and a side that had surprised everyone (including its own fans) went up against a team that had made 4 finals over the past two years.
The quarterfinals gave us some compelling soccer, and in the end, 4 worthy teams: Club América, Monterrey, Cruz Azul, and Santos Laguna will fight for the right to lift the Liga MX trophy.
Some winners and losers from the quarterfinal ties.
Winner: Chucho Benítez. The América striker got the goals when the team needed them most. Sure, he missed a few, what striker doesn't? The most expensive transfer in Liga MX history is more than proving his worth.
Loser: Miguel Herrera's jittery performance in the second leg is exhibit A as to why Americanista's are nervous about their legitimate chances to win the league title.
Winner: Victor Manuel Vucetich. Here is a coach that knows how to get his team to sit on a lead, and, moreover, exudes an air of calmness and complete control from the bench. Now the winner of 13 finals in 14 tries is one step away from another one.
Loser: For a team that has such a great home atmosphere, it is just bizarre that Tigres has such a poor home record. The Volcán should be a citadel, but for some reason, Tigres only won 3 times at home this season.
Winner: Our own Martín Del Palacio correctly picked all four semi-finalists.
Loser: Yours truly, who whiffed on the the first two but saved face by hitting the next two.
Winner: South American Promoters who saw their products score 14 of the 18 goals scored in the semi-final round.
Loser: Tomás Boy was a great player, an all-time great. Nevertheless, he couldn't handle losing as a player, and has been even more petulant as a coach. His behavior at the end of the match Sunday night was reprehensible (he pushed Santos coach, Pedro Caixinha). It is why he will never rise above the coaching pile.
Winner: Cruz Azul's fans have plenty of reasons to believe that this could finally be their year. They may be without Argentine Striker Mariano Pavone, but if you ask some fans, that might not be such a bad thing.
Loser: Facundo Erpen. Next time the Atlas defender heads the back to his keeper, you can bet he'll make sure the ball will reach the keeper in the box. Erpen's weak header caused Atlas' keeper Miguel Angel Pinto to handle the ball outside the box, and was red carded when he poked the ball away from Darwin Quintero. Already forced to chase the game at 1-1, 10-man Atlas left too many spaces for a lethal team to exploit. Santos was only too happy to oblige in their 3-1 win.
Winner: Barra 51. The Atlas supporters group (named after the last year their beloved rojinegros won a league title) gave their players a rousing ovation as they left the Jalisco pitch in defeat. They paid their respects to the game. Tomás Boy should learn to do the same.
Loser: Israel Jimenez. The Tigres defender's slicing own goal looked more at home at on a YSO field or off my driver than a Clásico Regio in the liguilla. Hideous.
Winner: Carlos Darwin Quintero. The Goal Scientist keeps scoring big goals for Santos. Quintero-Falcao next summer? I can't wait.
Loser: Pumas Ultras. Clashes with police, racist taunts. Enough! It's not about you.
Winner: In his first season in Mexico, Portuguese coach Pedro Caixinha has acquitted himself quite well. And he has turned a team whose best defense was their ability to outscore teams into a very stingy side.
Loser: Liga MX if it stands idly by without sanctioning the awful racist taunts lobbed toward Chucho Benítez.
Winner: The fans got to see some high quality futbol with hopes that continues in the next two rounds.