Nov 25, 2007

La Liguilla: Sizing Up The Semifinals

Mexico's Apertura season completed another turn this weekend, as the quarterfinals of the Liguilla (playoffs) wrapped up. There was one notable upset, with seventh-seeded UNAM Pumas ousting the second seed Toluca. With the Diablos Rojos' early exit, its coach Jose Pekerman (if you recognize him but can't place him it's because he was Argentina's coach at last summer's world cup in Germany) is now seen as a top candidate for the managerial vacancy at River Plate, according to this ESPNDeportes story (at least I think that's what it says. By all means please correct me if I'm wrong). For more on the quarterfinals match-ups, please consult the lengthy primer I wrote on the subject.

Pumas will now face top-seeded Santos Laguna, with the first leg taking place in Mexico City Thursday. The return leg will follow at Santos' Estadio Corona Sunday. Obviously, Santos will be heavily-favored, but so too was Toluca. Santos is looking very strong; their only Apertura loss came Oct. 12 and their star forward, Argentine Daniel LudueƱa has scored in each of the team's last three games. Speaking of scoring, expect there to be a lot of it: Santos led the league with 40 regular season goals scored. Pumas were tied for second with 32. The one time they played during the regular season, a 3-2 Santos victory Oct. 7, the teams traded punches before Christian Benitez netted the winner six minutes from time.

The other semifinal pits Guadelajara's Chivas and Cancun's Atlante. Neither team had major problems with its quarterfinal opponent, dismissing Cruz Azul (Atlante) and San Luis (Chivas). The first game is at Chivas' Estadio Jalisco Wednesday night, followed by the return leg in Cancun Saturday. The teams tied their regular season encounter 1-1 back on Oct. 20. Atlante's Venezuelan striker Giancarlo Maldonado is a beast, having scored 16 times in 17 games this season (including the Liguilla). It will be interesting to see how Chivas' young defense (Mexico's U20 captain Patricio Araujo, Edgar Meija and fellow 19 year old Omar Esparza are regular starters) handle Maldonado. Think the European scouts will be watching this one?

No comments:

Post a Comment