Los Angeles Soccer: Apertura
Monterrey needed every bit of its home-field advantage to claim its fourth Mexican Primera Division championship Sunday. The big winners: Chilean forward Humberto Suazo and coach Victor Manuel Vucetich.
Suazo netted his 14th and 15th goals of the Apertura as the Rayados romped, 3-0, past Santos Laguna in the second leg of the final. Vucetich won his 10th trophy and his fifth title in the top-tier league.
Monterrey, which also won the fall Apertura last year, posted a 5-3 aggregate triumph, rallying after Santos pulled out a 3-2 victory at home in Thursday's first leg on a late Duilio Davino own goal.
“Monterrey is a great club” Vucetich, who sandwiched last January's InterLiga title at Home Depot Center and the best regular-season record in last spring's “Bicentenario” Clausura tournament between the Apertura titles, declared to the Mexican media afterward. “It is an institution that in the last 10 years has countless achievements.”
Club Tijuana also won a trophy Sunday, claiming the second-tier Liga de Ascenso title with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Veracruz.
Pachuca's in, Toluca and Guadalajara are out, and Pumas UNAM scored a big victory to claim the final berth in the Mexican Primera Division's playoffs.
Pachuca, with three Americans, struck early to beat Necaxa, 2-1, on Friday night, then waited 24 hours -- through five games -- to celebrate, clinching a top-eight spot when Atlas rallied to tie UANL Tigres on Saturday night.
It was a wild final regular-season weekend in the Apertura, featuring four late comebacks -- two of them playing decisive roles in the playoff race -- and Guadalajara's finest moment of the campaign, which was far too little for one of Mexico's two most popular clubs.
A quick rundown:
WHO'S IN: Jaguares (6-4-7), Pachuca (7-6-4) and Pumas (7-6-4) won the three available berths, all finishing one point ahead of Tigres (6-5-6), which saw its playoff hopes die on two penalty kicks.
Jaguares clinched with a 1-1 draw at Gallos Blancos, with Jorge Rodriguez's 81st minute equalizer providing the Chiapas club the required goal. Queretaro had gone ahead just two minutes earlier on a tremendous Sergio Oreteman drive to the upper-left corner.
America is peaking at the best possible time. Toluca is crumbling when it counts. The impact on the Mexican Primera Division's Apertura campaign is massive.
The Aguilas clinched a berth in the eight-team playoff Liguilla with a 1-0 victory at Atlante, courtesy of Matias Vuoso's eighth goal of the season, and head into their final regular-season outing -- against Mexico City rival Pumas UNAM -- with three-game winning and six-game unbeaten streaks.
Pavel Pardo converted a stoppage-time penalty kick against Atlante, but referee Paul Delgadillo ordered a retake for encroachment, and Potros goalkeeper Moises Muñoz saved Pardo's second attempt.
America, which is atop Group 2 and fourth overall, behind Santos Laguna on goal difference (plus-8 to plus-7), appears to have shored up its defensive problems, and the relationship among Vuoso, playmaker Daniel Montenegro and former Toluca star Vicente Sanchez has solidified just when it most matters.
“We're there, and we were able to get there,” America coach Manuel Lapuente said after Saturday night's victory, according to Reforma. “We're playing well … we've finished the league well, although we have a game against Pumas to play, and we cannot lose at home. We're going to put a lot of effort into that game. This isn't over until it's over, and we're going to fight to climb one spot higher.”