Here your five conclusions from Week 17 of the 2017 Liga MX Clausura.
Tigres and Gignac peaking at the right time
At one point in this season, it looked like Tigres were not going to be defending their 2016 Liga MX Apertura title. But as we progressed to the business end of the season, so persistent was Tigres that it became evident that there was no way they were going to miss out on the Liguilla. On Saturday, Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s men sealed the deal, thrashing Queretaro 5-1 to advance to the “Fiesta Grande” as the seventh seed.
Few things are more satisfying to watch in Liga MX than a Tigres side that is in form. They will enter the Liguilla in remarkable form, four wins out of their last five, and undoubtedly as one of the favorites to win it all.
And Andre-Pierre Gignac, you wonder? He scored a hat-trick over the weekend. Time and time again he has shown he is one of the most complete players in the league, and when he is hot, there is no stopping Tigres.
Club America complete capitulation
In some respects, you have to give Club America some credit. For years, they have been the standard of consistency in the league and qualifying to 10 straight Liguillas is easier said than done. But there is no excuse for what happened to las Aguilas in the last three weeks of the season. To put it simply, you don’t deserve to be in the Liguilla when all you needed was a single point from your last three matches and you failed.
If ever there was a game when America needed to show something special, it was against Pachuca on Saturday, but like in previous games this season, they created nothing from nothing. Not even super sub Manuel Perez, who scored two goals in three minutes, could stop las Aguilas from losing 3-2 to Tuzos.
Sure, there were some limitations this season (injuries, suspensions, and more injuries), but in truth, coach Ricardo La Volpe never looked comfortable with las Aguilas, an accusation often redoubled by America fans on social media. The Argentine manager has officially stepped down, and the feeling now is that the team is entering rebuilding mode. The worry here is rebuilding has never exactly been Club America’s forte, but with Televisa cutting down on spending, they might have no choice but to take the rebuilding process more seriously. Evidently, there are more questions than answers at the moment, but one thing is for certain, the Liguilla won’t be the same without las Aguilas.
Last game from Hirving Lozano in Liga MX?
Fitting that the Estadio Azteca was the stage where Hirving Lozano first made headlines and the place where he might have played his last game for Pachuca in Liga MX. It’s difficult to think of a more “Europe-made” Mexican player in Liga MX, and you have to assume a team from Europe will come knocking on Pachuca’s door this summer.
Lozano was arguably the best player on the field on Saturday, and for the avid Liga MX fan, watching him grow has been one of the most satisfying things in recent seasons. Of course, Lozano is by no means a perfect player. He still needs to work to be smarter without the ball, and as he showed that forgetful Copa America Centenario quarterfinal, he needs to do better recognizing when to track back and help his fullback.
All things considered, though, at 21 years old, he will only get better. He has all the potential to be one of the top Mexican footballers for years to come. If this, in fact, was his last game with Pachuca, it was a pleasure watching him play.
Monarcas Morelia miracle
No-one could have predicted what happened at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer on Saturday. Let’s just say life comes at you fast. With the score tied at 1-1, Monarcas Morelia were needing a win to avoid the drop. With the clock ticking and with all hope seemed lost, Raul Ruidiaz forever engraved his name in Monarcas Morelia history.
Now, if you are to believe the rumor mill, Ruidiaz shouldn’t even be playing this match. Just a few weeks ago, the Peruvian player allegedly was caught having a little too much to drink, prompting the manager to bench arguably his best attacking player. All of this, in the middle of a relegation dogfight. When it became evident the team needed him, the manager changed course, and it might have been the best decision made in club history.
In the 92nd minute, Ruidiaz scored the winner, the goal that meant a franchise. A goal that preserved Liga MX football in the state of Michoacan. A goal that meant Monarcas Morelia will be in the Liguilla. A goal that meant the scoring title for Ruidiaz (and a contract extension!). A goal that not only changed the complexion of this season, but for future seasons to come. This goal was massive. This goal was consequential. Club America were eliminated because of this goal. This was peak Liga MX.
This Liguilla promises to be another exciting one
As previously mentioned, you suspect the absence of Club America will hurt ratings one way or another, but make no mistake, there are some fascinating matchups in this season’s Liguilla. Obviously, many will tune in to watch the Clasico Tapatio between Chivas and Atlas and the Clasico Regio between Monterrey and Tigres, but you can’t sleep on the other four teams. Xolos de Tijuana finished top of the league for a reason, Toluca have at times looked like title contenders, and Monarcas Morelia will, no doubt, inspire confidence after what happened on Saturday night. Finally, Santos Laguna has quietly been one of the best worked teams in the whole league. Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre is no stranger to making championship runs, and there isn’t perhaps a team with a more solid style of play in this Liguilla than Santos Laguna.