Gringo Report preview: Yanks in liguilla scramble
Our American legion of futbolistas continue plying their trade South of the Border during another busy weekend of action. It’s the final week of the regular season in the Mexican Primera División and the playoff drama is at its highest, with many teams on the cusp of either reaching the postseason or falling short. Down a flight in the Liga de Ascenso, the first leg of the liguilla is in the books and teams are preparing for a tough second leg. So fire up that grill, grab a hold of some chips and salsa, sit back, and tune in.
Mexican Primera División
Chivas (6-3-7) vs. Monterrey (6-5-5)
American: Miguel Ángel Ponce (CHI)
Saturday, 8 pm ET, Telemundo
The second liguilla slot in Group 1 comes down to the final game of the regular season. Chivas hold a two-point lead over defending champs Monterrey, so a tie would suffice. Should los Rojiblancos lose, however, they would have to await various results before knowing if they have booked a ticket or not.
Chivas’ offense has sputtered as of late, but with a playoff spot on the line, they’re expected to come out guns blazing. Ponce should man his left back spot, where’ll he have his hands full with Humberto Suazo and a Rayados attack bolstered by their midweek coronation as CONCACAF champions.
Tigres (9-2-5) vs. Atlas (6-5-5)
American: Jonathan Bornstein (TIG)
Saturday, 8 pm ET
Bornstein and Tigres booked a playoff spot a while back, but they’re still in the hunt to finish atop the league table. While that goal may be slightly out of reach, the felines can set new league records for least number of goals conceded and shutouts registered.
Tigres’ tough defense will have a bit of a challenge in front of them as Atlas, currently second in Group 2, will look for a win that will allow them to put both feet firmly inside the playoff picture.
Pachuca (4-7-5) vs. Necaxa (3-8-5)
Americans: Hérculez Gómez, José Francisco Torres (PAC)
Saturday, 8 pm ET, Galavisión
Gómez has finally shown the form that got him noticed in 2010 and gave him a spot in last year’s US World Cup squad. With four goals scored in the last four games, the forward is tied for the team lead in goals. But it was all too little too late, as Pachuca saw their playoff hopes dissipate last week.
Nevertheless, los Tuzos will look to close the season on a high note as they look to rebuild for the 2011 Apertura after two disappointing campaigns.
Across the pitch, Necaxa will also look to make a statement. In their final game in the top flight, los Rayos will look to wave farewell to the Primera División with a win as they prepare for a return to the second division.
Atlante (7-6-3) vs. Toluca (5-5-6)
American: Sonny Guadarrama (ATL)
Saturday, 10 pm ET, Galavisión
Guadarrama has been an active force in helping Atlante into a position to reach the playoffs since the Apertura 2008 season, and with a slight lead atop a tight Group 2, los Potros will look for a victory against Toluca to ensure a return to the big dance.
Although Atlante boast a stronger defense, visiting Toluca will look to play spoilers as a highly improbably dramatic victory coupled with other results in Group 2 could send los Diablos Rojos through to the liguilla in place of the home team.
Liga de Ascenso
Tijuana vs. Cruz Azul Hidalgo
American: Joe Corona (TIJ)
Sunday, 4 pm ET
In the first leg of the Liga de Ascenso quarterfinals on Thursday, the teams drew 2-2.
Corona gave Tijuana a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute with a strike from inside the box. However, the Xoloitzcuitles gave up two goals in the 65th and 69th minutes to Cruz Azul, before finally scoring in the 74th to walk out with a 2-2 draw.
On Sunday, Corona will try to move the defending champs a step closer to the title when Tijuana host the second leg of the series. But if Thursday’s match was any indication, a tough battle awaits the Xolos at home.
Best of the rest:
Mexican Primera: Estudiantes (Daniel Atúnez, Samuel Ochoa) vs. Santos (Adrián Ruelas), Friday, 9 pm ET, Galavisión
Liga Postobón: América de Cali (Diego Restrepo) vs. Boyacá Chicó, Saturday, 4 pm ET
Mexican Primera: Jaguares vs. Querétaro (Isaác Acuña), Saturday, 6 pm ET, ESPN Deportes
Mexican Primera: Puebla (Édgar Castillo) vs. Morelia, Sunday, 1 pm ET, TV Azteca