Skip to content

Mexico down to four as América, León, Santos, Toluca advance in playoffs

Dec 2, 2013, 12:50 AM EDT

Raul Jimenez, Carlos Salcido AP

Regular season champions Club América came into the Mexico’s Liguilla as favorites to win a second straight title, and after taking a 2-2 result out of Nuevo León last week, Miguel Herrera’s team was on track to make another semifinal. All they needed to do was hold serve today at Estadio Azteca, so when Mexican international Raul Jimenez’s diving header gave the Aguilas a lead in Sunday’s second half, everything was playing out as expected – even more so when Tigres’ defender Hugo Ayala was dismissed three minutes in the 55th minute. Up a man and a goal with just over half an hour to go, the team that cruised to the tournament’s top seed seemed destined to ease through the playoff’s quarterfinal round.

Yet three minutes after going down a man, Tigres were back in the match, a lightning counter attack down their left leaving Alan Pulido to beat Moises Muñóz from near the spot, making it 3-3. América’s better seed meant they had the tiebreaker, but with 32 minutes to play, Tigres had hope. One more counter, a set piece, or just randomness would see them past the superliders.

But just as often as we see goals like Pulido’s build momentum, we see then serve as wakeup calls. On Sunday, having been draw back into a tie with Tigres, the Aguilas  woke up and eventually killed off the bulk of the mach’s final 32 minutes. Still, 10 minutes from time, the favorites were still nearly seen out of the tournament, with Emmanuel Villa’s potential winner nailing the bottom of Muñóz’s post before staying out.

América should have put the match away long before. In the first half, they had their chances to go up through Rubens Sambueza and Jimenez and couldn’t convert. Before Villa threatened to snatch the tie from them, they could have restored their lead yet took the 3-3 scoreline into the final minutes, and beyond the chances, they are just a much better team. Few would have predicted the defending champions would come this close to a quarterfinal exit.

In the semifinals, the competition won’t be as forgiving, but just as Pulido’s goal may have served as a wakeup call, this tie may have opened the Aguilas’ eyes to what lies ahead. With only Muñóz’s woodwork saving them from an unlikely elimination, América may now realize how hard it will be to win back-to-back titles.

Elsewhere

Santos Laguna 3 (6), Querétaro 1 (3)

The Guerreros were given reason to fear last week when two late Isaac Romo goals reduced their three-goal lead to one, but although Romo would add a third in the second half in Torreon, Querétaro would never get back to even footing with second seed. Carlos Darwin Quintero, who scored twice in leg one, added late brace on Sunday, with Oribe Peralta’s opener ensuring Santos held the lead throughout Sunday’s second leg.

León 4 (7), Morelia 0 (3)

The drama Monarcas restored with two late goals in leg one had dissipated by the middle of Saturday’s second half, with three goals in a 13-minute span building on Hernan Burbano’s first half opener to give León the four-goal lead they’d carry until the final whistle.

Whereas León’s defense had been crucial throughout the team’s qualification stage, their goals allowed (14) second to only América’s, Gustavo Matosas’s team found goalscoring depth they never saw in the regular season. While Mauro Boselli’s two goals added to the 13 he found before the playoffs, Léon also got goals from Luis Montes, Elias Hernández (both last Saturday), Burbano, Matías Britos, and José Vázquez.

Set to face Santos in the semifinals, those scoring options will come in handy, should their defense prove as generous as it was in leg one against Morelia.

Toluca 3 (4), Cruz Azul 1 (1)

The lower (fifth) seed, Toluca all but sealed their victory last week, going up 3-0 in leg one. On Saturday, Christian Giménez’s 33rd minute penalty conversion brought La Machina within two, but Guillermo Vazquez’s team never got any closer. Despite finishing the season with four straight looses, Toluca eased into the semifinals, Pablo Velazquez’s 78th minute goal eliminating any doubt the Diablos Rojos would be caught late.

Now the league’s best regular season attack (33 goals ) meets the league’s best defense, though América’s defense will have to return to form if they’re to keep their hopes of repeating alive.

Latest Posts
  1. Liverpool plays to compact 1-0 win over Olympiacos

    Jul 27, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT

    LiverpoolOlympiacos AP

    Liverpool looks focused on improving its shape heading into the upcoming Premier League season.

  2. MLS Roundup: Dallas pulls out heroic draw, Valeri gives Timbers late win

    Jul 27, 2014, 10:17 PM EDT

    Fernandez Getty Images

    Raul Fernandez held Vancouver to a draw while Portland won a 3-2 barnburner with Montreal.

  3. Petr Cech says he won’t back down at Chelsea anytime soon

    Jul 27, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT

    Cech Getty Images

    With Thibaut Courtois hot on his trail, Petr Cech isn’t about to let the youngster’s hype get in the way of his 11-year Chelsea career.

  4. VIDEO: Mario Balotelli takes amazing selfie with two pitch invaders

    Jul 27, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    Source, Twitter: @NA_B27 Source, Twitter: @NA_B27

    AC Milan got hosed, but Mario Balotelli had some fun as a second-half substitute.

  5. Martinez tells Everton fans “of course we’ll get” Lukaku

    Jul 27, 2014, 6:26 PM EDT

    MartinezLukaku Getty Images

    It may have been in jest, but Roberto Martinez has set rumors alight.

  6. Teams confirm Dejan Lovren completes transfer from Southampton to Liverpool

    Jul 27, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT

    Lovren Getty Images

    Lovern becomes the third Southampton player to move to Liverpool this summer.

  7. Four thoughts from Manchester City vs. AC Milan (including Balotelli’s on-field selfie!)

    Jul 27, 2014, 4:56 PM EDT

    20140727-181926.jpg

    AC Milan got thumped for the second straight US preseason friendly. What does it mean?

  8. Premier League return for Van der Vaart? His old manager Redknapp hopes so

    Jul 27, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT

    VanderVaart AP

    Having played under Redknapp for 2 years at Spurs, the QPR boss wants him back.

  9. Jan Vertonghen says Spurs have offered him a new 5-year contract

    Jul 27, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    Vertonghen Getty Images

    With a good World Cup, Spurs has affirmed the importance of Jan Vertonghen’s presence to their back line.

  10. Carlo Tavecchio in racism row after calling African players “banana eaters”

    Jul 27, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    Closed stands at the Stadio Olimpico reflect Roma fans' punishment for 'territorially discriminatory' chants aimed at Napoli fans. Closed stands at the Stadio Olimpico reflect Roma fans' punishment for 'territorially discriminatory' chants aimed at Napoli fans.

    What Italy needs is an FIGC president that works to prevent racism, not one that uses racist terms when referring to players from elsewhere.

  11. Cuauhtémoc Blanco is back in the top division of Mexican soccer

    Jul 27, 2014, 2:19 PM EDT

    blanco AP

    At 41 years of age, the forward has made a return with Puebla, although he was unable to help his new side break a goalless draw.

  12. Michael Bradley was none too pleased with officials in Toronto’s loss to Kansas City

    Jul 27, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    michael_bradley Getty Images

    The referee handed out eight yellows and sent a Kansas City player off, although they still came back to take all three points.

  13. Pep Guardiola has a job for life at Bayern Munich

    Jul 27, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT

    Germany Soccer Champions League AP

    The manager can stop worrying — he doesn’t need to keep bringing in multiple trophies to keep his job with the Bavarian giants.

  14. Thierry Henry evades questions on retirement

    Jul 27, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    Thierry Henry, Oriol Rosell, Soony Saad AP

    The New York Red Bulls star and former France international is adopting a wait-and-see approach to the end of his playing career.

  15. Loïc Rémy fails medical, move to Liverpool is off

    Jul 27, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT

    Newcastle United's Remy celebrates his goal against Tottenham Hotspur during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane in London Reuters

    It’s back to QPR for the forward, while Brendan Rodgers will need to seek other options to help compensate for the loss of Luis Suárez.

  16. Arsenal confirm signing of Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina

    Jul 27, 2014, 9:54 AM EDT

    ospina AP

    It’s official! The Colombia goalkeeper joins the Gunners on a long-term contract, and is expected to make his first appearance next month.

  17. Inter consider swapping Fredy Guarín for Manchester United’s Chicharito

    Jul 27, 2014, 8:59 AM EDT

    guarin Getty Images

    Internazionale need more firepower up top. United need more depth in midfield. This switch seems like an ideal solution.

  18. Carlo Ancelotti expects Ángel di María back for preseason training

    Jul 27, 2014, 8:06 AM EDT

    angel_di_maria Getty Images

    The Real Madrid manager seems to enjoy destroying the hopes of players, clubs and fans by putting to rest rumors of summer transfers.