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Xolos and Rayados to battle for 2020 Copa MX title

It’s a northern Mexican matchup for the one and only Copa MX final this year.

Tijuana v Monterrey - Torneo Apertura 2019 Liga MX Photo by Fausto Vargas/Jam Media/Getty Images

There will only be one Copa MX champion crowned this year and it’s time to find out who. The finalists will be Tijuana and Monterrey, neither of which have enjoyed fruitful spells in league play so far this season, but nonetheless will battle it out for the nation’s cup.

The championship game will be played over two legs just like the knockout rounds. The first leg will be played at Estadio Caliente in Tijuana on April 8. The return leg will be at Estadio BBVA in Monterrey on April 22. Both games will be televised on Fox Deportes (and, presumably, FS2) in the U.S.

Tijuana vs. Toluca

The cup tournament saw the rise of 20-year-old Toluca academy prodigy Kevin Castañeda. The fledgling forward, who has made just 11 all-time appearances in Liga MX, currently leads all scorers in the cup with seven goals. He scored twice against Xolos, the second one a screamer, to agitate Gustavo Quinteros’ team, who came into the second leg holding a 3-0 lead. Javier Güemez added an exhilarating first-time volley off a corner, but unfortunately, Toluca’s defense didn’t enter the game with the same positive intensity.

Los Diablos’ set-piece defending was nonexistent, letting in all four of Tijuana’s goals off of either corner or free kicks. Contrasting to Toluca’s center backs, all of Tijuana’s back three—plus midfielder Christian Rivera—impressed and scored to propel the Aztec Dogs to the championship game.

Monterrey vs. FC Juarez

Toluca almost got the comeback, but Tijuana was there to counter with goals of its own. Not the situation with FC Juarez.

Last year’s runners-up showed up to Monterrey with a 2-0 lead, but couldn’t get it done in the second 90 minutes. Los Bravos fielded a conservative lineup and hardly got involved, offensively speaking, during the entirety of the match.

With one shot on target to Juarez’s name, Monterrey didn’t hold back. Rayados got on the score sheet early through Rogelio Funes Mori and put the pedal to the floor for the second half. Funes Mori scored two more times but got caught offside both times—albeit, controversially. Why is VAR not in this tournament again?—and Nicolas Sanchez scored off a rebound to a missed penalty (also questionable. VAR?!).

The game then went to penalties. Former USMNT youth player Jonathan Gonzalez waffled the first kick and it seemed that Juarez had it in the bag. That is, until, Uruguayan international Diego Rolan felt bold enough to go for a Panenka as the game-winning kick. The risk didn’t pay off.

Rayados keeper Luis Cardenas had no trouble saving it, scored the very next penalty, and watched gleefully as Manuel Viniegra struck the post to give Monterrey passage to the final.

A look ahead to the final

Tijuana Celebrates after Winning Apertura 2012 Championship
Current Monterrey manager Antonio Mohamed won Tijuana its first and only major title: the 2012 Apertura Liga MX.
Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/LatinContent via Getty Images

This will be just Tijuana’s second major final in its 13-year history. Xolos won its only Liga MX title back in 2012—interestingly also in Toluca—with current Monterrey coach Antonio Mohamed on the sidelines.

This will be Monterrey’s third Copa MX final since the competition returned from hiatus in 2012. Rayados prevously defeated Pachuca to win its second-ever Copa title in the 2017 Apertura season. They then lost the championship to Cruz Azul one year later during the 2018 Apertura tournament.

Monterrey v Pachuca - Final Copa MX Apertura 2017
Cesar Montes and Arturo Gonzalez of Monterrey show the winner’s trophy after the Final match between Monterrey and Pachuca as part of the Copa MX Apertura 2017
Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images

Should Monterrey be successful in lifting this cup come April, then that would mean Antonio Mohamed’s team will be the reigning champions in Liga MX, Copa MX and the Concacaf Champions League.

Neither of these two clubs have done well in the league thus far. Monterrey has yet to win a single game after nine weeks and sit dead last on the table with four points and the joint-worst defensive record in the league (16 goals allowed).

Meanwhile, Tijuana began 2020 with a league win over Santos Laguna but haven’t won since. They sit in 16th place (third to last) with seven points.

Both teams will face each other in the league three days after the first leg on April 11 during Week 13 of Liga MX play.

You can follow Antonio on Twitter @antonio1998__