May 1, 2012, 5:01 PM EST
The two clubs that contested CONCACAF’s championship finished at the top of Mexico’s standings. Santos Laguna, who lost Champions League to Monterrey last week, finished four points clear of the Rayados, earning the Liguilla’s top seed.
In Mexico, that seeding’s particularly important, for four reasons:
- Like most playoff formats, the top seed gets matched against the highest seed in the playoffs; however,
- Since Mexico re-draws their bracket in the semifinals (pairing the lowest surviving seed with the highest), the qualification stage’s winner always has the easiest road to the final.
- The lowest seed always gets the second leg (in each round’s two-legged matchup) at home, and
- If a matchup ends tied after both legs, the lower seed advances (until the final).
But even with all those advantages, it would surprise no one if Santos bowed out early.
#1 Santos Laguna (36 points, 17 games) vs. #8 Jaguares (27 points)
Though this is a rematch of the Apertura’s playoffs (won by Santos), a different kind of history is leaning on this matchup.
The fall of 2009 was the last time a top seed (superlider) advanced beyond the quarterfinals. Even then, it was only via a tiebreaker.
|Year||Tournament||Superlider||Quarterfinal Result||Champion (Seed)|
|2011||Apertura||Chivas||lost to Querétaro, 1-2||Tigres (3)|
|Clausura||Tigres||lost to Chivas, 2-4||Pumas (2)|
|2010||Apertura||Cruz Azul||lost to Pumas, 3-2||Monterrey (2)|
|Clausura||Monterrey||lost to Pachuca, 1-3, quarterfinals||Toluca (3)|
|2009||Apertura||Toluca||defeated San Luis, 1-1||Monterrey (5)|
The last time a superlider won a Liguilla was the 2007 Clausura (Pachuca).
Beyond the premature exits for one seeds, there’s another pattern in there: Superliders have won the subsequent competition in their off the last four tournament (presumably motived by defeat). That won’t happen this time. Chivas was so motivated by their loss to Querétaro that they didn’t qualify for the Liguilla. Copa Lib may have had something to do with that.
Back to Santos. There’s no reason to believe there’s an actual superlider curse. Since people have come to think the qualification stage as something completely separate from the playoffs (and only slightly predictive), there’s no real pressure on the number one seed.
A more likely explanation for the curse: Teams that finish top in the regular season aren’t necessarily the best teams. They’re just the ones that tried harder during the regular season.
With Santos balancing CONCACAF Champions League’s knockout stages throughout the Clausura, that reason doesn’t hold up as well this tournament. Regardless, they finished number one, they have to debunk the curse, and in truth, they probably aren’t the tournament’s best team.
Quarterfinal matches: Thursday, at Jaguares, 8:00 p.m. ET; Sunday, at Santos, 7:00 p.m. ET
Recent meetings: Santos 1-0 Jaguares (Jan. 2012), Santos 1-2 Jaguares (Nov. 2011), Jaguares 2-2 Santos (Nov. 2011), Jaguares 3-2 Santos (Sep. 2011), Jaguares 1-2 Santos (Jan. 2011)
#2 Monterrey (32 points) vs. #7 Tijuana (28 points)
Most would contend Monterrey is the best team in this tournament. Long regarded as the most talented team in Mexico, the Rayados just completed their second-straight CONCACAF Champions League triumph. If there was any fear that result would cause them to flick it in neutral for league, it was alleviated by their second place finish.
They’ve got an easy first round matchup. Tijuana started the Clausura strong but evened out through the last half of qualification. They finished with the league’s best defense (allowing only 11 goals in 17 matches), but their 18 goals scored are four less than any other Liguilla qualifier.
This being their first postseason, it’s difficult to see them getting past a team of Monterrey’s pedigree, but talent won’t be enough. After all, Cruz Azul – also regarded as one of the league’s most talented squads – didn’t even make the playoffs.
Quarterfinal matches: Wednesday, at Tijuana, 10:30 p.m. ET; Saturday, at Monterrey, 9:00 p.m. ET
Recent meetings: Tijuana 1-0 Monterrey (Jan. 2012), Monterrey 4-2 Tijuana (Aug. 2011)
#3 Club América (32 points) vs. #6 Pachuca (28 points)
Club América blew a two goal lead on their final match to lose the second seed. As a result, they face Pachuca instead of Tijuana, an opponent few would prefer.
But as evidenced on Sunday, América has a trump card. Christian Benítez might be the best attacker in the region. In this weekend’s Clasico Joven, he scored twice within the first 13 minutes (though missed what would have been a game-winning penalty kick). His double left him with a league-leading 14 goals.
Unfortunately, he was bit of a one-man gang. While he led the league in goals, the rest of his team only scored 16.
It’s difficult to see Pachuca winning if they can’t slow down Chucho.
Quarterfinal matches: Wednesday, at Pachuca, 9:30 p.m. ET; Saturday, at América, 7:00 p.m. ET
Recent meetings: América 1-0 Pachuca (Feb. 2012), Pachuca 2-0 América (Aug. 2011), América 0-2 Pachuca (Jan. 2011)
#4 Morelia (31 points) vs. #5 Tigres (31 points)
Tigres rode incredible defending to win the Apertura, allowing only 1 goal through the Liguilla. It would be a mistake to doubt the resourcefulness of Morelia’s Miguel Sabah and Rafael Marquez Lugo, though Monarcas’ defense will need to make every goal count.
Just like superliders, Tigres have history to defy. The last time a team won consecutive tournaments was 2004 when Pumas won the calendar year’s Clausura and Apertura. No team has won both tournaments within a single season since the two short tournament-format was adopted 16 years ago.
Quarterfinal matches: Thursday, at Tigres, 10:00 p.m. ET; Sunday, at Morelia, 9:00 p.m. ET
Recent meetings: Tigres 4-1 Morelia (Mar. 2012), Morelia 2-0 Tigres (Oct. 2011), Morelia 0-3 Tigres (Apr. 2011)
Nov 23, 2014, 7:14 PM EST
The Galaxy find themselves just 90 minutes from the third MLS Cup final in four years after a narrow victory over the Sounders.
Halftime, MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders in 0-0 Western Conference Championship stalemate
Nov 23, 2014, 6:05 PM EST
Zeroes on the scoresheet, but plenty of action in the first half. Sounders very patient, but Galaxy getting close.
Nov 23, 2014, 5:32 PM EST
He’s only ever done it twice in his MLS career, but with the season — and maybe his career — on the line, Thierry Henry will play on artificial turf next week.
Nov 23, 2014, 4:50 PM EST
The Spurs manager wouldn’t be drawn into talk about the winner from Christian Eriksen or the red card to Gaston Ramirez, instead discussing how he was just delighted to get three points any way he can.
Lineups, MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy host Seattle Sounders in Western Conference Championship, leg 1
Nov 23, 2014, 4:25 PM EST
Lineups are in for the Galaxy and Sounders’ Western Conference Championship first leg matchup. Two massive omissions leave Seattle shorthanded.
Nov 23, 2014, 4:07 PM EST
The Eastern Conference Championship first leg finished Red Bulls 1-2 Revolution, putting Jay Heaps’ side in full control of the series.
Nov 23, 2014, 3:10 PM EST
Steve Bruce challenged the decision to give Gaston Ramirez a straight red card, and criticized Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen for going down too easily.
Halftime, MLS Cup Playoffs: New York Red Bulls 1-1 New England Revolution after thrilling first half
Nov 23, 2014, 2:52 PM EST
The first 45 at Red Bull Arena was wild. Take a deep breath and relive the thrilling actions, goals and all.
Nov 23, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
New England is undefeated in 11 straight matches with Jermaine Jones in the lineup.
Nov 23, 2014, 1:29 PM EST
Brendan Rodgers was quite downtrodden following Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace, the club’s third defeat in a row.
Nov 23, 2014, 12:55 PM EST
Hull led inside 10 minutes and looked solid on both ends, but a straight red to Gaston Ramirez for a kick at Jan Vertonghen, and Christian Eriksen completes the Spurs comeback a minute before full time.
Nov 23, 2014, 11:50 AM EST
Fastest ever red card? It certainly has a shout after Australian completes an ugly tackle straight after coming on.
Nov 23, 2014, 10:48 AM EST
Mauricio Pochettino has called on Ben Davies and five others to fix things for Spurs, as both sides make a whopping six changes to their lineups from last weekend.
Nov 23, 2014, 10:26 AM EST
Yannick Bolasie was a force down both flanks as Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace pulls out of the relegation zone.
Nov 23, 2014, 10:01 AM EST
David Moyes began his tenure in Spain with a 0-0 draw, but there was more to it than that.
Nov 23, 2014, 8:19 AM EST
After missing the World Cup while rehabbing a serious ankle injury, Marco Reus is faced with yet another long road back.
Nov 23, 2014, 7:48 AM EST
With Daniel Sturridge shelved for weeks and Mario Balotelli unable to get past a groin knock, Liverpool turns to Rickie Lambert to produce goals at Selhurst Park.
Nov 22, 2014, 11:59 PM EST
On Sunday, AC Milan will play host to rivals Inter Milan in “derby della Madonnina”, and Roberto Mancini is back.
Premier League Saturday highlights: Manchester United skirts by Arsenal, Newcastle gets fifth straight win
Nov 22, 2014, 10:41 PM EST
Watch Premier League highlights from all of Saturday’s Round 12 games.
Nov 22, 2014, 9:47 PM EST
New York Red Bulls’ Designated Player Tim Cahill is far from doubting his team’s capabilities against the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Championship on Sunday.
- Recap: LA Galaxy grab 1-0 lead over Seattle Sounders in Western Conference Championship 0
- Despite artificial turf, New York Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry says he’ll play next week at New England 0
- Recap: New England Revolution snatch 2-1 lead, two away goals from New York Red Bulls 4
- Video: Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool needs to “become a team” 0
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- Report: Marco Reus is out for rest of 2014 with torn ankle ligament 3