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Liga MX Apertura Semifinals: Monterrey and Tigres set up Clasico Regio finale

Photo by Carlos Cuin/Jam Media/Getty Images

Here your five conclusions from the Semifinals of the 2017 Liga MX Apertura.

Tigres the better team against Club America

After 1-0 defeat in the first leg, Miguel Herrera and his Águilas needed to score two goals in the second to have any chance of progressing to the Final. One of the defining characteristics of this Club America team down the stretch was Herrera’s willingness to move away from the 4-4-2 formation. On Saturday, the former Mexico national team had no choice but to go back to two strikers, as América went searching for two goals.

For the most part, while the game was being played at Tigres’ tempo, the Águilas had a decent first half. It was in the second, however, when everything started to dismantle. Carlos Darwin Quintero missed a clear opportunity to pull one back for the visitors, and in much Club América fashion, they started to get desperate by the opposing team’s individual quality. Goals and red cards followed, and before you knew it, the game was already over for Herrera’s side, losing 3-0.

Of course, Club America’s season was far from a disaster, but in truth, they were just never good enough to beat Tigres. If Club America are to challenge next season, they might want to go back to breaking the bank because their players were just no up to par with those of Tigres.

Tigres improved but individualities still made all the difference

One of the bigger criticisms of Tigres in the Quarterfinals was the fact that they depended too much on their individual quality, as oppose to the team-game that Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti preaches so much about. This series against Club América was no different, but there were definitely some improvements. Andre-Pierre Gignac and Enner Valencia showed a level of unselfishness that the team hadn’t shown since the early rounds of the season, and the midfield play saw some improvement.

That said, it was still their individualities which made all the difference against Club América. There is no telling where this tie would have headed if Quintero scored that goal or if Valencia didn’t have that moment of magic in the 56th minute where he took on three players and got Tigres the breakthrough. Make no mistake, Monterrey are a much better side than Club América and León. Tigres might need more than a moment of magic to beat their rivals in the Final.

Rayados punish you

Like Club America against Tigres, Monarcas Morelia went into the second leg needing two goals to have any chance of reaching the Final. Instead of scoring two goals, Monarcas Morelia received a 4-0 thumping from Monterrey.

What else is there to say about Rayados? They are by far the best team in this tournament, and they did to Monarcas Morelia what they have been doing to teams all season. In the second leg, Monterrey took advantage of Morelia’s high pressing, a missed penalty, and a goalkeeping error to wipe away what was left of the Michoacanos. Sure, Morelia’s elimination was a product of their own doing, but Monterrey are deadly. Either you play a near-perfect game or you get punished. It has been like this all season, which is why Monterrey are 180 minutes away from possibly lifting a title.

Rogelio Funes Mori shines

This might be the biggest difference between Tigres and Monterrey. While Tigres depend heavily on the individual talent of Eduardo Vargas, Andre-Pierre Gignac, and Enner Valencia, there is a more of systematic approach to Monterrey’s attack. There is a sense of direction to Dorlan Pabon and Aviles Hurtado’s attacks, and Rogelio Funes Mori is an absolutely monster aerially. The second leg against Monarcas Morelia was a perfect portrait as to how it all comes together. Without putting too much emphasis on Pabon and Hurtado, though, Funes Mori dominated Monarcas Morelia’s defense, and to his credit, the former River Plate man scored a hat-trick.

It is hard to play against Monterrey. If you put too much attention to Funes Mori’s ability to win in the air, you forget about Pabon and Hurtado. If you concentrate too much on the last two, it then becomes as easy as a cross to Funes Mori and it is you who is conceding. Tigres were already warned during the regular season, but a Liga MX final assumes greater proportions, which is why they will need a greater game plan if they want to stop the superlideres from winning.

We finally have our first Clasico Regio Final

Let’s be real. The Clasico Regio is a monumental event in Liga MX, but it pales in comparison to a Clasico Nacional. However, in terms of fútbol quality, that isn’t exactly a bad thing. Often the problem with Clasico Nacional games is that they are chaotic and anarchic. Monterey and Tigres know they have a rivalry on hand, but their final objective this season has always been to win the title.

Obviously, nobody wants to lose a league title against your biggest rival, but there is no way either team will make major changes to cope with the magnitude of this event. Both teams will go out to play their game, and whatever consequences come out of it, they will be dealt with after the game. That is what will ultimately makes this game so appealing. This is a Clasico Regio Final, but it also a final between two teams who are built to win titles.