I was able to speak again with former Liga MX left back and current FOX Deportes analyst Mariano Trujillo about the Liguilla, looking back briefly at the quarterfinal round before talking about the upcoming semifinal round. Mariano will be covering the Clásico Regio in Monterrey, so I spoke with him briefly over the phone.
I started by asking who was the biggest surprise of the quarterfinal round, and why. “Nothing really surprised me to be honest,” he said. “León played really well, and I gave a chance to Xolos but obviously on the field they were unable to (come through and win the series). León on is having a great moment on and off the field.” As for Cruz Azul and América, he said “like I said the last time I believed América had the mental edge.”
He went on to say that “even thought (América) didn’t play their best soccer in the series it was still enough and I think they still have a little room to improve. In the other two series, from Tigres and Monterrey I was expecting a little bit more from them in terms of performance. They didn’t perform the way they were expected to, but even with that they did enough to win, they did enough to advance and they have the quality both of them.”
I then asked who the biggest disappointment was from the quarterfinal round. “That’s a tough one. Probably Necaxa due to the lack of a compliment at the number nine and I’m talking specifically about Brian Fernández, now a Portland Timbers player.” “
Necaxa had a slight chance against Rayados if Brian Fernández was on the field,” he continued. “Now obviously because of the transaction and Brian going to MLS, Necaxa did what they could. I will say they should not be disappointed in terms of their performance on the field , but I think with Brian Fernández on the field it would have been a little bit different. Probably they could have had a better chance to move forward.”
I then asked him to tell me the one thing that would determine the winner of León vs. América series, and he said “I think that will be an exciting (series). León defeated América in the regular season 3-0, but I think América wasn’t at their peak at that specific moment.”
“I believe América,” he said. “Like I said, even though they didn’t play well against Cruz Azul in the series they have a lot of room to improve. León is playing really good as a team and their individuals are also performing really well. So I think it’s going to be an even match but again the experience of being in the playoffs, the experience of being in the Liguilla, I think that’s América’s advantage. It remains to be seen, but I would put my trust in América.”
Finally I asked him to tell me the one thing that would determine the winner of the Clásico Regio. “Actually we’re here in Monterrey right now and I asked the same question to Nico Sánchez and it’ll be the small details,” he said. “They have played so many games lately with the Concacaf Champions League, and they know each other very well so (it will be) the little details. The mental aspect, you know being focused and (able to) concentrate, because I believe on the field they both have quality they know how to play they know their strengths and weaknesses. I believe that difference will be a huge part, a key part, and actually Monterrey is better than Tigres in that aspect of the game.”
The Monterrey vs. Tigres UANL series kicks off tonight at 10:00 PM Eastern / 7:00 PM Pacific and will be broadcast in the United States on FOX Deportes and FOX Sports in Mexico. The León vs. Club América series will start on Thursday at 9:30 PM Eastern / 6:30 PM Pacific and will be broadcast on Univision Deportes in the United States and Televisa and TV Azteca in Mexico.