Skip to content

Finalists Toluca, Tijuana hope surprise Liga MX campaigns end with title

Nov 26, 2012, 7:06 PM EDT

Liga_MX_logo

Club Tijuana made life difficult on themselves, bringing a 2-0 deficit to León back to Estadio Caliente ahead of Sunday’s final leg of their Liga MX semifinal. Thankfully for the league’s Cinderella story — a fairy tale that’s evolved over the last two years — it only took 68 minutes for Fidel Martínez and Dubier Riascos to put them back on course. When substitute Ricard Ruiz put the tie out of reach with a late goal, Tijuana was in their first Primera Division final.

The weight of the occasion wasn’t lost on Xolos.

“It’s really a great feeling for the group,” striker Alfredo Moreno said after the game. “We wanted it. We wanted to be in the final, and it showed in the game. We’re very happy.”

“[T]hey played a superior match from beginning to end,” head coach Antonio Mohamed said of his players. “[It] was 3-0, but it would have been five or six.”

The only misgiving for fans of the league was seeing the league’s northern-most club, in only their third tournament since being promoted last summer, had to go through another recently elevated squad to make the final. León, the five-time league champions who had spent 10 years in the second division moving up this summer, saw their Cinderella story end within sight of the border.

That they, along with Tijuana, spent the season at the top of the table made the Apertura as an indictment of Mexico’s promotion-relegation policies. Each summer, only one team is promoted into the 18-team first division, and since the Ascenso uses a spring playoff to decide the new Liga MX club, there’s no guaranteed that the best team will move up. Club León had to go through five failed playoffs before winning their return to the Primera, and the team that won this season’s second division Apertura (Necaxa, by seven points), was eliminated Cuauhtémoc Blanco’s Dorado in that Liguilla’s semifinals.

Had Tijuana met León in the Primera’s final, it would have been vindication for all the second division clubs struggling to make it through Mexico’s bottleneck. Instead Toluca, the qualification stage champions, made it though, holding off a ferocious América comeback on Sunday to win 3-2, reaffirmed the surprise nature of this season’s opening tournament.

In recent seasons, the Apertura has been the more difficult to Mexico’s two tournaments, and in that sense, it’s also been more predictable. Teams at full strength coming off of a summer’s rebuilding came concentrate on the domestic competition. Come the Clausura, teams will devote attentions to CONCACAF’s Champions League and Copa Libertadores, often merely trying to survive the qualification stage with the hopes of being able to concentrate on the Liguilla. Monterrey, two-time defending confederation champions, have won two of the last three Aperturas but, as they’ve driven toward their CONCACAF titles, have been unable to win a Clausura.

That Toluca, who had not been a factor since Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre was in charge, finished first was a surprise, albeit one fans had 17 rounds to get used to. Under Chepo, Toluca won two titles from 2008-2010 before losing their coach to Mexican national team. De la Torre’s successors — Sergio Lugo, Héctor Eugui, and Wilson Graniolatti — had failed to return Toluca to the postseason, let alone significance. Though the Diablos Rojos have won 10 league titles, few thought they’d get their chance at a record-tying 11th this soon.

It took another of Liga MX’s most renown coaches, Enrique Meza, to get the Red Devils back on track. In two previous spells with Toluca, Meza won three of his four career titles. More recently, Meza spent six tournaments at Cruz Azul but failed to make a final, something he achieved in his first tournament back in Toluca.

“I do not play, I just run the team,” Meza said, asked if his experience will be an advantage against Tijuana after his team eliminated América.

His team, however, retains 10 players who won at least one title under de la Torre. Sinha, the team’s captain, has been with the club since Meza’s first tenure in Toluca. And let’s not forget those 10 titles. While both finalists qualify as surprises, one team has certainly been here before. Tijuana still carries the aura of upstarts.

Come Sunday, that upstarts’ aura could be gone. Then, Xolos will be at Toluca, having hosted the Red Devils in Thursday’s first leg at Estadio Caliente. If they show the same focus that brought them back from two down to León, Mexico will have a new, first-time Champion. If not, Toluca will tie Chivas for the most titles in Mexican history.

Latest Posts
  1. Portland, DC United both win in CONCACAF Champions League play

    Sep 16, 2014, 11:57 PM EDT

    Urruti AP

    Maxi Urruti and Fabian Espindola both snatched braces as MLS sides went atop their groups.

  2. Iran manager Carlos Queiroz agrees to contract extension, vows to win Asia Cup

    Sep 16, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    Queiroz Getty Images

    Despite saying in June he would step down after the World Cup, the former Real Madrid manager has made a U-turn.

  3. Captain Clint fires Seattle Sounders to US Open Cup crown in 3-1 extra time win over Philadelphia

    Sep 16, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT

    Dempsey AP

    USMNT captain Clint Dempsey was Seattle’s savior in extra time as he delivered the winner in a 3-1 win and lifted his first-ever club trophy.

  4. Michael Bradley disagrees with president’s shot at Toronto roster

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:06 PM EDT

    Bradley AP

    President of Toronto’s ownership group, Tim Leiweke had harsh words for the Toronto FC locker room. Michael Bradley disagrees.

  5. Report: FA to overhaul work permit rules to cut down on non-EU players

    Sep 16, 2014, 8:23 PM EDT

    Dyke Getty Images

    Insanely strict new rules proposed by FA chairman Greg Dyke would eliminate non-EU players from the lower leagues completely and slash the amount in the Premier League by around 50%.

  6. Newcastle winger Jonas Gutierrez reveals he has cancer

    Sep 16, 2014, 7:46 PM EDT

    Gutierrez AP

    We now know why Jonas Gutierrez has barely featured for Newcastle in the last year or so.

  7. Jack Wilshere injured yet again to compound Arsenal’s woes

    Sep 16, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT

    Wilshere AP

    The man who can’t stay on the pitch has tweaked a very problematic part of his body.

  8. VIDEO: Real Madrid make history, notch 1000th goal in European competition

    Sep 16, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT

    Karim Benzema AP

    Benzema bags Real’s fifth goal on Tuesday, which turned out to be their 1000th goal in continental competitions. Wowza.

  9. Steven Gerrard saves Liverpool’s blushes; but should fans be worried?

    Sep 16, 2014, 5:59 PM EDT

    Liverpool FC v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Gerrard scores last-gasp winner, but Liverpool under-performed again in narrow win.

  10. Arteta: Arsenal “didn’t perform well enough” at Borussia Dortmund

    Sep 16, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT

    mikel_arteta_ciro_immobile

    Arsenal’s captain notes the danger of falling behind at BVB, while Klopp calls his teams performance “nearly perfection.”

  11. UEFA Champions League roundup: Liverpool win late; Real Madrid, Dortmund victorious

    Sep 16, 2014, 5:13 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    Contrasting fortunes for PL sides, as eight games kick off the new UCL season. Find out what happened, right here.

  12. Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Arsenal: Gunners outclassed by BVB

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    ciro_immobile AP

    A dominant performance from the 2012-13 finalists made easy work of the visiting Gunners.

  13. Liverpool 2-1 Ludogorets: Gerrard grabs last-gasp winner after scare

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Liverpool FC v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Dramatic finale at Anfield as Liverpool leave it late to beat Bulgarian minnows.

  14. Premier League player of month on pace for 67 goals (video)

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT

    Chelsea Training & Press Conference Getty Images

    Okay, so it’s 66.5 goals but you know the rules of rounding and Diego Costa is your proverbial example of being on fire.

  15. LIVE – Champions League half time update: Real Madrid flying, Arsenal losing

    Sep 16, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    Marek Suchy AP

    Real fly out of the traps, while Arsenal are caught on their heels. Updates on all eight games, right here.

  16. When Frank Lampard met Men In Blazers

    Sep 16, 2014, 3:08 PM EDT

    Source: New York City FC Source: New York City FC

    Remember that time Jose Mourinho told Frank Lampard he was the best player in the world … in the shower? No? Oh, right. That’s because you have to watch this.

  17. Orlando City announces retention of 7 players for first MLS season

    Sep 16, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    OrlandoCitySC.com OrlandoCitySC.com

    Kaka was obvious, but who else is making the move from USL PRO to Major League Soccer next season?

  18. Open Cup final preview: Is a championship coming to Philly tonight?

    Sep 16, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT

    Brad Evans, Maurice Edu AP

    The fairly-even history between Philadelphia and Seattle meets at a momentous crossroads tonight at PPL Park in Chester.

  19. AP Global 10 poll hails Atletico as Champions League group stage opens

    Sep 16, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT

    Diego Simeone AP

    Manchester United, Aston Villa leap up the list after impressive wins on the weekend.

  20. From the Bundesliga to the WWE? How fan furor made GK a bodybuilder

    Sep 16, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT

    wiese1

    The jacked-up keeper was released by Hoffenheim last season as his body became too muscular to stand between the sticks (at least according to the club).

Featured video

Week 4: Saturday recap