After their commanding 4-1 win over Tigres UANL to start InterLiga Group B play, Puebla clinched a spot in one of the two finals next Wednesday in California with a 1-0 win over Jaguares Wednesday night at Robertson Stadium.
Nicolas Olivera netted a goal in the 67th minute, and Puebla held on from there to improve to six points with a game left in group play and seal at least a second-place finish in Group B.
"We go step by step, game by game, knowing that up next we face the defending Mexican champion in Monterrey, but having played two good games and reached the finals really motivates us," Puebla midfielder Carlos Ruiz said.
Despite out-shooting Puebla 12-11, Jaguares couldn't find the back of the net for a second straight game and moved to 0-1-1 with one point. Jaguares, however, still has a chance to advance with one game remaining.
Olivera made up for missed opportunities in the first half with a goal in the 67th minute. Ruiz broke free of his defender on the left side and crossed one into the middle box where Olivera headed it from the penalty spot into the upper left corner for the goal.
"It was a difficult game. We're pleased with how the team reacted," Olivera said.
Olivera missed two chances in the first half, shooting high from about 20 yards out in the middle in the sixth minute and firing a bullet from almost the same spot high in the 30th minute.
Puebla's Luis Miguel Orozco had his shot from 20 yards out in the middle saved by Jaguares goalkeeper Edgar Hernandez in the 13th minute.
Jaguares' best chance in the first half came in the 38th minute, but Ezequiel Orozco saw his low liner from the left side go wide of the far post.
Gilberto Mora nearly opened the second half with a goal, missing a header from eight yards out in the middle box high. Danilo Veron couldn't get Jaguares on the board in the 54th minute, having his shot from 14 yards out on the left box deflected, then saved by Puebla's Jorge Villalpando.
Ruiz had his chance to break the scoreless tie in the 57th minute, but Ruiz had his free kick from about 23 yards out in the middle saved by a diving Hernandez.
Jaguares missed a perfect opportunity to tie the score in the 86th minute as Antonio Salazar had his shot from the penalty spot saved by Villalpando. Veron tried to tap it in on the far post, but Villalpando wisely batted it out before Salazar could get a foot on it.
Jaguares followed that with another excellent opportunity in the 89th minute, but Salazar had his header from the right box batted above the crossbar by Villalpando.
Salazar had another chance in second-half stoppage time, but he had his shot from about eight yards out on the right saved by Villalpando. The rebound attempt by Veron was batted out by Villalpando, who came off his line for the clear to seal the win for Puebla.
"We came in looking for a win, knowing it would lock us at least a spot in the finals, and we accomplished it," Puebla defender Alejandro Acosta said. "It got complicated, but we pulled through."
Puebla plays Monterrey in the final game of Group B play Sunday at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., following Jaguares' final match of group play against Tigres.
Jeremy Rakes is a contributor to InterLiga.com.