Checking Out The Final Four Heading into the LigaMX Semi-Finals
Cruz Azul deservedly earned a first place finish and thus were rewarded with a fairly easy first-round matchup with Querétaro, that they ended up dominating. Despite their success, I’m still not sold on La Maquina. I don’t see the true team camaraderie that fans love to see from their team. In my opinion, they get the results because of their superior roster and not because of Caixinha’s tactics or their overall teamwork. Will that issue come back to bite them in the end? History suggests that they are going to be up against it.
Monterrey had mixed results throughout the regular season, struggling to find the back of the net week after week. A complete lack of offense during the regular season sounded the alarm for fans and pundits that initially picked them to win a championship. A quarter-final win against defending champion Santos Laguna helped to silence the rumblings of Monterrey blowing an opportunity to capitalize on a roster full of stars. But their issue during the regular season was not for lack of effort. They created dynamic opportunities, but had trouble turning those opportunities into goals. Funes Mori answered the criticism he received after the first leg with Santos (for missing clear-cut chances to score goals), and connected for a jaw-dropping bicycle kick goal that cemented him as the striker Los Rayados have desperately needed.
Pumas finished higher on the table than Tigres, but when the two teams entered their quarter-final matchup Pumas was decidedly the heavy underdog. Who can blame the public and pundits alike for having so much faith in Tigres? Tigres boasts tons of offensive firepower that is tough to ignore when sizing up the rosters on paper. But what was ignored completely was that Pumas has quite the offensive arsenal as well, and they took advantage of Tigres leaky backline. Ultimately Tuca Ferretti’s refusal to make any tactical changes cost Tigres a chance to win their 4th Apertura championship in a row. Am I the only one that’s noticed the calls for Tuca to coach El Tri permanently have faded away?
Club América seems to enjoy making things interesting for all of their fans. So far in their first two playoff games of La Liguilla, América played like both Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Over the course of 180 minutes Las Aguilas went from looking hungry and confident to playing scared. Thankfully, Roger Martinez and Bruno Valdez have stepped up under the bright lights of the playoffs to become huge parts of the offensive attack. But from the outside looking in, it appears there might be deep interpersonal issues affecting their team. (Could Piojo be to blame?)
Now all that’s left is for the remaining teams to show us what they’ve got. Will Cruz Azul continue their strong march for a trophy? Or will the mighty Monterrey send La Maquina home early? Who will reign supreme in the playoff version of El Clasico Capitalino between Club America and Pumas? Will Las Aguilas be able to overcome their Keeping up with the Kardashians-type drama to advance to the championship? One thing appears to be true: the Championship will be settled in Mexico City.
Anthony Garcia is the lead soccer analyst of the El Three Podcast. He lives for the game and is unafraid to share his passion with anyone bold enough to listen.