Pachuca’s German Cano heads the ball alongside America’s Rubens Sambueza at a Mexican soccer league match in Mexico City, Saturday, May 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)
Improbable is a good word to use to describe what happened in Mexico’s Liga MX this past weekend in the first round round of the playoffs, a.k.a, la liguilla.
The fact that no club really took a commanding hold of the league during the regular season– the top 12 teams were separated in the standings by only five points— should have been an indicator that things could get crazy in the playoffs. But no one could have anticipated a Liga MX semifinals without any the top four seeds in the playoffs. None. No Tigres, no Club America, no Veracruz and no Atlas.
Improbable is not bad, though.
I’m certainly not complaining about being witness to some amazing soccer, and one supporters group’s very angry reaction. Passion, which can not be manufactured with clever marketing, was on clear display during the first round of “la liguilla” and I hope it continues to be present in the semifinals.
No. 5 Chivas vs. No. 8 Santos: The safe bet is to pick Chivas to move on to the finals, but don’t overlook Santos– and nothing has been safe, so far, anyway. Santos is 5-1-3, including playoffs, since losing to Club America on March 14. Before Sunday’s 4-1 win over Atlas, Chivas had just one win in its previous seven contests. The first leg of the series is Thursday at Santos’ TSM Corona stadium Thursday at 8 p.m.
No. 6 Chiapas vs. No. 7 Pachuca: While Chiapas’ is not a household brand in the U.S., their roster features a few familiar names– most notably, Brazil’s Ronadinho. Former Vancouver forward Camilo Sanvezzo and ex Chivas USA defender Johnny Bornstein (Los Alamitos H.S.) are also part of the club. Chiapas benefited from a bit of Roanldinho magic, and a goalkeeping error, to beat Veracruz and advance to the semifinals. They’ve only lost once in their last nine games. Pachuca is no stranger to this stage of the tournament, they’re one of the winningest clubs in Mexico of the last two decades, but not many gave them a chance after receiving a seventh seed. They advanced to the semifinals by beating America with an aggregate score of 7-5. The first leg of the semifinals is Thursday at 6 p.m. at Pachuca’s Estadio Miguel Hidalgo.