The final match is set, and the two favorite teams of the semifinals have reached the 2011 Apertura championship. In what was the most exiting series of the semifinal round, Santos earned an aggregate 4-4 draw against Morelia, but advanced due to better positioning in the regular season standings. In the other series, Queretaro practically handed the game to Tigres with a very unlucky own goal in the second game. That single goal was enough for Tigres to advance with a 1-0 total score after two matches.
Both teams took care of business in their own fashion, and now Tigres and Santos face each other in an enticing and evenly-matched final series. If we look at both team's statistics throughout the season, we can see that this match clearly represents a distinct contrast in styles of play. On one side, Santos was the best offense in the league this season. As for Tigres, with their superb but not always spectacular game play, they earned the best defensive record of any team during the Apertura. Moving into the Liguilla, the same styles have continued. Santos has been the best attacking team during the last four games of postseason, with six total goals against Jaguares and Morelia. On the other end, Tigres allowed not a single goal against either Pachuca or Queretaro.
The strategies of both coaches have worked out for their teams this season, and each man is now just one step short of a championship. The defensive style of Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti has been known since his coaching days with Pumas UNAM. Since his arrival to Tigres, Ferretti continued with his defensive mentality, sacrificing at times the excitement of the game but earning the needed results. With Ferretti, Tigres only conceded thirteen goals in seventeen games all season, and as stated before has held its opponents scoreless in the Liguilla.
Comparing both teams defensively, Santos allowed twenty-five goals in seventeen games, giving them a below average defense during the regular season. But what Santos lacks in defense at times, it replaces it with their explosive attack. A large part of this successful strategy came after the release of Diego Cocca as head coach, and is due to the smart hiring of current manager Benjamin Galindo. Galindo took over the team in week 8 of the season, with Santos in 15th place and a mediocre record of two wins, two ties, and three losses. Instantly, Galindo turned the team around, winning the next five consecutive games and ending the season in 4th place. Santos also became the highest scoring team of the season, scoring an impressive twenty-nine goals in seventeen games.
Many have critiqued the style of Tigres in the Liguilla, saying they playing an overly defensive game against Queretaro. On the other hand, many have praised the style Santos has played. The spectacular Santos offense is cheered, even as the team at times has sacrificed defensive play.
Now both teams face each other in the final. On one side, the defensive style of Ferretti. On the other, the offensive style of Galindo. The question here is what team can impose their style of play on the field? Will we have a high scoring final? Will Santos be able to split the defensive gridlock of Tigres? Will Tigres be able to stop the offensive attack of Santos? No matter what the outcome, both Santos and Tigres have earned the right to play for the championship. And while both styles have their advantages, only one team will be left holding the trophy on Sunday night.