After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to two enormous defensive blunders by Mazatlán FC, León appeared to be well on their way to a season-high sixth consecutive victory. Even a couple minutes after the second goal, Luis Montes had another perfectly set ball from inside the half-circle which went whistling by the top left corner of the post which would’ve put them up three. It was utter dominance by the reigning champs and Mazatlán didn’t look to stand any sort of chance en route to a blowout.
Then came Michael Rangel’s wide open header that found its way to the back of the net before the half. León then had a shot to the crossbar in stoppage time which would’ve again extended their lead. But ten minutes into the second half, a blizzard fell upon Ambriz and company. They allowed four goals in 18 minutes (one of which was barely disallowed). All of a sudden, León forgot how to take the ball and find its way to the rival’s goal. They also forgot how to defend, as Mazatlán’s attackers did as they pleased inside León’s penalty box. This marked the first time they’ve allowed 4 goals in a single match all season. Not to mention, they’ve gone from the league’s best defense last season (allowing just 14 total goals), to allowing 22 (only six teams have conceded more times).
This has been a common denominator for León all season. In their losses early in the season, it was their defense that found different ways to keep messing it up, which would force León fall behind early, making it tough for the offense with reduced spaces the rest of the match. Despite their latest winning streak, they’ve only accomplished three clean sheets in the 16 games they’ve played thus far; a big drop compared to last season’s seven. In my mind, this result doesn’t raise many questions about this squad. It’s never a good thing to see something like this happen, but I don’t doubt their capacity of going all the way and repeating.
But, what exactly did this Mazatlán comeback victory do to the league table and how did it affect others’ situations? For one, it allowed Rayados to stay in the direct QF positions for at least a couple more days despite their horrendous 3-game losing skid, although they could still be kicked out of it tonight if Santos defeat Pachuca. León would currently be in 4th had they held on to that lead, with a chance to finish 3rd ahead of Puebla next week. It also allowed Toluca (@ FC Juárez) and Atlas (@ Necaxa) to remain within striking distance; if both win their very winnable last match and León fail to defeat Gallos Blancos, they will drop to at least 9th, and possibly further. Had they held on to the lead on Friday, the lowest they could’ve gone was 6th, ensuring them of playing a home wild-card match, as well as having a much higher percentage of finishing in the top 4. Instead, they find themselves in the thick of things and must defeat Querétaro at home if they wish to even have a shot at those top 4, as they now heavily depend on other results.
Not to mention, they gave 3rd placed Puebla a huge break, as they now only require a draw to clinch a top 4 spot. And if they have to go through the wild-card round to reach the QF, they will face a much tougher team much earlier on than they should’ve. In the end, however, it’s just numbers that are affected. We know this team is capable of defeating any other team in the league, so that’s why I expect them to be a real threat to repeat for the title. With all of that being said, they should put things back together on Saturday against still winless on the road Querétaro, but the chances of them landing a top 4 spot have all but vanished.