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León playoff hopes could be in danger

La Fiera have a hectic month ahead and will have to deal with two competitions at once.

Leon v Mazatlan FC - Torneo Guard1anes 2020 Liga MX Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images

With 12 games gone by in the regular season, León find themselves in wild-card positions and in playoff territory at the moment, as their 14 points have earned them 9th overall in the league table. Both their home and away records are identical, proving their inconsistencies are real and not a matter of what pitch they play on. After a struggling start to the season, having lost 5 of 6 at one point, Ambriz appears to have reestablished order within his squad; they’re currently winners of two straight, having defeated Necaxa at home, followed by an away victory against Santos , who are 3rd overall. But, with their upcoming schedule, is it too little too late?

Once they resume their season next Sunday against Toluca (5th overall), the start of their CONCACAF CL participation follows by hosting Toronto FC in the first lef of the Round of 16 on Wednesday, April 7. The Saturday after that, La Fiera pay the suddenly dangerous Rojinegros del Atlas (6th overall) a visit. The second leg of their CONCACAF CL Round of 16 series will follow the ensuing Wednesday, where they will now visit Toronto FC for the deciding match between these two. The Monday after that, León get a must win game at home against Juárez FC, and just four days later will visit Tomás Boy’s tough Mazatlán squad. And that isn’t the end of it.

If León were to advance to the QF round in the CCL, they would play their first leg matchup midweek following their Mazatlán meeting. They would then close out the regular season at home on May 1 by hosting Querétaro, and would immediately play the QF second leg a couple days later at midweek. You’re talking about them potentially playing 9 matches in 30 days’ time. That’s A LOT of games for a Mexican club.

It’s not that León don’t have enough quality on their club, but it’s just too much wear and tear in too little time for a club. The difference between them and the other three participating Mexican clubs in the CCL (Cruz Azul, América, and Rayados) is that the others occupy the top 4 spots in the league table, meaning they can handle losing points toward the end of the season and still make the playoffs, and with good seeding even. In León’s case, they’re at a big disadvantage when comparing them to the other clubs in the hunt due to their added minutes of play. What could end up saving them is their mediocre strength of schedule, especially during their final three league matches.

With that being said, clubs usually end up settling for one of the two competitions, being forced to play some of their reserves in one competition in order to rest up their starters for the other, simply hoping for the best. And even if Ambriz’s squad did advance in the CONCACAF CL and make the Liga MX playoffs (which they have the talent to do), they’d arrive extremely fatigued and worn out at that point, and would probably be headed for a quick playoff exit. It would be a shame if they had to let one of the two competitions go because of their spectacular style of play we’d be missing out on. But this is the result of inconsistent play and letting winnable games slip earlier in the season.