The Liga MX Apertura 2022 regular season has come to an end. With the Repechaje matchups set to take place this upcoming weekend, the postseason phase is officially in effect and all 12 teams involved (out of 18 - yes, I know it sounds silly) are set to begin their run for the title. And you know that phrase that’s repeated a lot during the playoffs in any sport, the one that goes, “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” You know that one? Yeah, well let me expand on that for a second.
Since the playoffs are all about winning championships, the main focus here has to be defense. After the completion of all 17 regular season matches, the two best defenses in the league belonged to both Rayados de Monterrey and Tigres de la UANL. Vucetich’s squad was 1st overall in this category, allowing just 13 goals, while Herrera’s came in 2nd, giving up just one more than their city rivals.
In a sense, this comes as no surprise with Rayados, as we know Vucetich has always been a coach who prioritizes defense and tactical order over everything. He hasn’t always produced the top defensive team but the fact he did so this season isn’t surprising. The interesting part is he did so without a single new signing for this season. He took the exact same defense that he took over midway last season and converted it into the least scored upon. Not only did Rayados average 0.76 goals allowed per match, but owned a whopping 9 clean sheets (6 - Esteban Andrada, 3 - Luis Cárdenas). Even more interestingly, thinking back to the fact they allowed 6 goals over their first two matches of the season (Santos - 4, América - 2), that means they only allowed 7 goals over the last 15 matches. SUPERB.
Tigres on the other hand, despite being known for their good defensive units under Ferretti, have been much more error-prone on that side of the pitch under Herrera. While the offense has flourished and looked explosive (which is what we know Herrera can do), the defense has looked vulnerable at times. The difference with Tigres, however, is the man they have standing under the goalposts. Nahuel Guzmán, love him or hate him, is a unique talent that comes around once in a generation at best in Liga MX. He’s proven his dependability time and time again and continues to impress with breathtaking stops every game. He’s in large part responsible for Tigres only having allowed 14 goals this season (0.82 average per game). Herrera’s squad achieved an impressive 8 clean sheets this season, and more impressively had a 4 consecutive game clean sheet streak at the beginning of the season.
As we all know, this isn’t enough to win championships. Teams must have an acceptable offense at the very least to get themselves through the playoffs, seeing it’s impossible to keep every rival scoreless. And that’s something both of these teams have. Rayados have Rodrigo Aguirre, Sergio Berterame, Ponchito González, Maxi Meza, and even Rogelio Funes Mori if he can regain the level we know he’s capable of. This group accounted for 29 goals scored (3rd best).
Tigres have a quality offense themselves, even though it wouldn’t appear that way on the statline, scoring just 24 goals this season (9th best), with Gignac leading the pack, followed by ‘Diente’ López, Caicedo, Córdova, and Thauvin if he can stay focused. But we know they can score when it counts most. They’re no scrubs.
These two clubs are in prime position to not only contend for a title, but to actually win it. Along with América, the three are by default the top favorites to become Apertura 2022 champions.