Los Angeles Soccer: Pachuca
Club Tijuana came into the Mexican Primera Division's spring championship aiming for survival. They claimed more than that Sunday, nailing down their first postseason berth in the country's top league.
The Xolos, who would have qualified had Pachuca or Jaguares failed to win their games Saturday, needed at least a draw Sunday afternoon against visiting Pumas UNAM -- and pulled out a 1-1 tie, going ahead on Duvier Riascos' goal 12 minutes into the second half and holding on after Javier Cortes equalized in the 89th minute.
Tijuana (7-3-7) finished seventh among 18 clubs and will face second-seeded Monterrey (9-3-5) in the quarterfinals, opening at home Wednesday and playing away Saturday.
Tijuana was promoted from the second-tier Liga de Ascenso last year and finished 15th in the fall Apertura. One team is relegated every year, and the Xoloitzcuintles were at the bottom of the “percentages table” -- points per game over three years -- heading into the Clausura. They lost just once in their first 10 games to reach safe ground, and finished 3-1-2 to snare their berth.
Santos Laguna (11-3-3), runner-up to UANL Tigres in the Apertura and three times in the last four championships, is the top seed and will open against Jaguares de Chiapas. No. 1 isn't the most advantageous position: Regular-season champions have lost in their playoff openers the last four seasons, in seven of the last nine championships and 13 of the last 20.
The best bets, if history holds: Monterrey (second seeds have won six of the past 20 titles) or No. 3 America (third seeds have won eight times).
A quick rundown of the Clausura campaign:
- WHO'S IN
Santos closed with seven wins in its last eight games to hold off Monterrey (9-3-5), America (9-3-5), fourth-seeded Morelia (9-4-4) and fifth-seeded Tigres (9-4-4) for the top spot, clinching as Oribe Peralta scored his eighth and ninth goals in a 3-1 victory at Atlas. L.A.-born former Galaxy star Herculez Gomez netted five goals in just 417 minutes, plus another six to send the Torreon-based club to the CONCACAF Champions League final, which was won by Monterrey.
The club from suburban Monterrey is back atop the Apertura after crushing previous leader Pumas UNAM on the weekend, scoring four first-half goals en route to a 4-1 decision.
Tigres (5-1-6) is even on points with Cruz Azul (6-3-3), which was denied two should-be penalty kicks before Javier Orozco netted two second-half goals in a 2-0 win over Puebla.
Jaguares (5-3-4), which was ahead two weeks ago, fell from second to sixth with a 1-0 loss at Pachuca (6-4-2), which climbed to fourth, just one point off the lead, after its third win (with a tie) in four games since the 5-0 disaster Sept. 10 at Tigres.
Santos (6-3-2), still with a game in hand over everybody except Morelia, and Pumas (6-4-2) also are two points back.
The biggest surge forward this week was made by Monterrey (5-5-2), which won in league for the first time since August -- early goals from Neri Cardozo and Dario Carreño starting the Rayados toward a 3-2 victory at Estudiantes Tecos -- to jump from 13th to eighth, into the playoff zone.
- THE TOP 3
Local hero Jonathan Bornstein's time in his mother's native land isn't going as planned. He's an afterthought at Tigres -- and given the club's success, who can say Ferretti is wrong -- with not one minute of league time since the Apertura began in July.
Bornstein (Los Alamitos/Los Alamitos HS and UCLA), the former Chivas USA captain, has made Tigres' 18-player game roster just once, at the end of August, and has seen action only in three games with the club's under-20 side.
“It's definitely frustrating,” he told Major League Soccer's website. “I keep plugging away in training and doing the work, and, hopefully, when the times comes, I'll get the opportunity.”
Baja futbol fans enjoyed a historic couple of hours Saturday night at Estadio Caliente: The debut of top-flight soccer in Mexico's forgotten metropolis.
Tijuana, the country's third-largest city (with 1.65 million residents, in the 2010 census), has resided outside Mexico's sporting consciousness, all because it has lacked a Primera Division soccer team -- or the deep pockets willing to spend what's necessary to play with the big boys.
Enter Jorge Hank, the controversial former Tijuana mayor and self-proclaimed billionaire, who in 2007 formed Club Tijuana, which became more than successor to a lengthy line of lower-division failures. The goal, professed from the start, was to play in the top league, and it happened Saturday night, when the newly promotos Xoloitzcuintles debuted in an Apertura opener against Morelia, the runner-up in last spring's Clausura tournament.
A full, festive crowd at Caliente, a short drive south of the border, watched their heroes go down, 2-1, on a late, questionable penalty kick.
San Diego's Joe Corona scored the Xolos' goal with a rebound, and good thing. Of three attackers near the ricocheting ball, Corona was the only one clearly onside.
Joao Rojas drew the penalty kick in the 81st minute, clipped from behind by Tijuana backline leader Javier Gandolfi -- or so it looked. Replays indicated Gandolfi expertly twisted around Rojas and poked the ball away before there was contact.
Miguel Sabah was precise from the spot, and the Monarcas spoiled the party, but the Xolos' supporters saw something they hadn't in more than a year: a home defeat.
- THE TOP 3
1. PA-CHOKE-APachuca is the popular pick to zoom back into the title-game picture and steal the prize, product of nice makeover that has Tuzos fans thinking about an 11th major trophy (a sixth league title, to go with five CONCACAF Champions League and a Copa Sudamericana triumph) since 1999.
Mexico's Primera Division kicks off the first of its twin 2011-12 seasons Friday night, and fans in this region have a new dog to cheer for. Literally.
The Xoloitzcuintles of Club Tijuana, who take their name and mascot from semi-mythical Aztec hounds that, more or less, have descended into Mexican short-hairs, bring the best league south of the border right to the border -- and soon, perhaps, into San Diego.
The Xolos were the best team in the second-tier Liga de Ascenso last season and won promotion to the Primera in May, and Mexico's third-largest city isn't the only winner. The opportunity for soccer fans in Southern California to see the region's best league -- and storied clubs such as America, Guadalajara and reigning champion Pumas UNAM, in real competition -- is unprecedented, although tickets will be scarce.
Tijuana's Apertura opener Saturday night against Morelia, another club with a large So Cal following, is sold out. There are plans, not the least formalized, to bring games against Guadalajara and America -- the two biggest clubs in Mexico -- to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, but that appears at least a year off, provided the Xolos survive their first year in the Primera. We've seen so many times the promoted club relegated after just one Apertura/Clausura cycle, including Necaxa last season.
There are several Southern Californians in the league, too, including Los Alamitos' Jonathan Bornstein (the former Chivas USA captain) at UANL Tigres, L.A.-born Herculez Gomez (the former Galaxy star) at Estudiantes Tecos, Orange's Michael Orozco Fiscal at San Luis, Calexico's Isaac Acuña at America and rising Tijuana winger Joe Corona, from National City.
A newcomer to the league is fading U.S. national-teamer DaMarcus Beasley, at Puebla.
The big change this year: No divisions. The two-season approach, with the fall Apertura and spring Clausura, remain, but now a single table will be used, with the top eight teams advancing to the postseason.
As always, every game, every team, will be televised in the L.A. area by Univision (KMEX/Channel 34), TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46), Telemundo (KVEA/Channel 52), Azteca America (KAZA/Channel 54), Galavision and, not quite as often, on ESPN Deportes and Fox Deportes. Select Liga de Ascenso games, usually involving Veracruz, also will be aired.
Here's a quick look at the Primera Division as the Apertura kicks off:
- 7 BETS TO WIN THE APERTURA
It has not been easy. The Los Angeles-born, Las Vegas-raised forward, who emerged as team MVP when the Galaxy won the 2005 MLS Cup title, has struggled to make an impact off Pachuca's bench after scoring 10 goals, most of them as a substitute, in last year's Clausura, or spring, tournament.
Gomez, whose exploits at Puebla led to a roster spot for the U.S. at last year's World Cup, scored just once during the fall Apertura and had been held without a goal this Clausura as the Tuzos slumped near the bottom of the standings. Until last weekend.
The 29-year-old forward came off the bench, naturally, to score twice and set up a third goal as Pachuca (4-5-4) routed last-place Jaguares, 3-0, to vault from 16th to 12th overall and within three points of the playoff zone.
Gomez came on in the 63rd minute for Edgar Benitez, gave Pachuca a 70th-minute lead on a near-post header, then struck a sensational free kick for a 2-0 advantage in the 78th. A minute later, he assisted Franco Arizala.
“Thanks for never loosing [sic] faith,” Gomez tweeted after the game. “I know this is just the beginning for us. Feels great to score but it feels even better to win at home.”
This does seem familiar. Pachuca, which has won five Primera Division titles since 1999 and last year claimed its third CONCACAF Champions League titles in four years and fourth since 2002, won its final three regular-season games to get into the Apertura playoffs, exiting after holding to-be-champion Monterrey to two draws.
The schedule is pliable. The Tuzos, still last in Group 2, have a real test Wednesday night at Group 1 leader UANL Tigres, but their final three foes (Atlas, Gallos Blancos and Necaxa) are minnows in unremarkable form.
A FEW ANSWERS: Gomez celebrated his big day by holding a Q&A with fans on his Facebook page. A few highlights:
Q: Do you have a pregame pump-up song?
A: Journey, “Don't Stop Believin'.”
Q: Which comes first, the U.S. national team or your club team?
A: My club pays me, but my country made me.
Michael Orozco Fiscal's status remains uncertain after his odd departure from Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union, with the defender from Orange apparently back with San Luis.
The Mexican club hasn't placed Orozco on the roster on its website, but Union coach Peter Nowak said in a news conference last week that Orozco had returned to Mexico.
It was a strange announcement by the second-year MLS club's coach. Orozco (Magnolia HS in Anaheim) arrived in Philadelphia on loan last season, started 29 of 30 games, was No. 2 on the team in minutes played, and was instrumental in tightening the Union backline after moving to the middle for the final eight matches.
Orozco was in camp with the Union and played in preseason matches during the team's camp in Orlando, Fla., and assistant coach John Hackworth had reported that the club was on the verge of a new agreement to keep him with the team in 2011.
The MLS' roster-compliance date arrived, and Orozco was gone. No word, no nothing, until Nowak -- a former Polish national-teamer, Chicago Fire icon, title-winning D.C. United coach and 2008 Olympic team manager -- finally admitted the defender had left the team.
“Why do we need to announce it? End of story, he's back in Mexico,” Nowak said. “Simply, his loan was up, and it seemed like this stuff was already done. There is no need to explain anything about Michael Orozco Fiscal.”
Orozco, who last year began using Fiscal as part of his name (in the Latin fashion) to honor his mother, hadn't been part of the team since Jan. 1, but he also hasn't been with San Luis, which is sixth overall in the Primera Division Clausura standings with a 3-2-5 mark and at the bottom of its Copa Libertadores group at 0-2-1. No indication he will be any time soon.
BIG SCORE, BIG GAME: Morelia's electric form took it roaring past host Toluca, 6-1, in one of the more stunning scorelines of the season, boosting the Monarcas to second overall (and in Group 3) with their fourth successive victory and extending their unbeaten streak to eight games since that 5-0 loss to Atlas in the Clausura opener.
Rafael Marquez Lugo netted a second-half hat trick for Morelia (5-1-3), which has a showdown this week at home against Pumas UNAM (6-0-3), the overall leader. Marquez Lugo is the top Clausura scorer with six goals.
Acuña, 21, scored in his first start in Mexico's top league to lead Gallos Blancos de Queretaro (2-4-1), who started the week at the bottom of the Clausura standings, to a stunning 2-0 triumph at Santos Laguna (3-3-1).
Acuña scored in the third minute -- he took a pass from Eder Borelli as he slipped past the backline, dribbled past goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez and knocked the ball into the open net -- and fed Carlos Bueno for the second goal just before halftime.
“His behavior went against the values that the club stands for and promotes, which is why the decision was taken to end our working relationship with immediate effect,” the club said in an announcement on its Web site. Said club president Alejandro Irarragorri: “This is a deeply hurtful decision, but we must be consistent with our values and responsibility as a model team. Ruben reacted negatively to pressure from the fans, and that's something we can't cover up.”
Fellow Argentine Diego Cocca, 38, was hired to replace Romano. Cocca, a former right back who counts Atlas, Veracruz and Gallos Blancos among the nearly dozen clubs for which he toiled, previously has managed three Argentine clubs, most recently La Plata's Gimnasia y Esgrima.
Acuña, who is with Queretaro on loan from America, played 35 minutes in a 5-0 loss Feb. 12 to Toluca. He made his debut last April 10, playing five minutes for America in a victory over Jaguares.
SINCE 5-0: The most alarming result of the Clausura occurred in week one, when Atlas, the worst team in the fall Apertura, throttled a decent (or so we thought) Morelia side, 5-0. After three games, Atlas had matched its fall win total and sat atop the overall table.
America has righted things in a hurry, reeling off two more wins in the past week to leap into the overall top five and all but push the horrid-by-club-standards 0-2-1 start out of mind.Matias Vuoso scored three goals as the Aguilas (3-2-1) routed San Luis, 3-0, and dominated Gallos Blancos de Queretaro, 3-1, to push Chilean coach Carlos Reinoso's mark to 3-0 in his third stint in charge of the Mexico City giant.
"We've gotten good results, but we've been at this just 10 days," Reinoso told media as America began preparations for Friday's match at last-place Necaxa. "Suddenly, people are asking us to be more offensive ... but we're improving little by little, and what makes me happy is that the players have received [my] message."
The Aguilas dismissed Manuel Lapuente in a panic after sandwiching home losses to Pachuca and UANL Tigres around a draw with Jaguares, but the move worked as well as hoped. America responded to the firing with a 2-0 victory over previously perfect Atlas on Jan. 29, and it was more impressive in Wednesday's win over San Luis, a forward makeup -- the match was initially scheduled for April 13.
Vuoso converted two penalty kicks against San Luis and scored the second goal, just before halftime, against Gallos Blancos. Sunday's win wasn't assured until Aquivaldo Mosquera's 86th-minute goal.
"We went back to basics," Vuoso, who has five Clausura goals and 15 for the fall/spring season, explained to the Mexican media. "[Lapuente] had nothing to do with [the poor start] -- it was us, the players. We had forgotten the basics, forgotten to play as before, as we usually do. ... It was the fault of the players, not the fault of other people."
IN MONTERREY: Los Alamitos' Jonathan Bornstein, making his third start of the season for Group 1 leader UANL Tigres (3-1-1), set up Hector Mancilla's eighth-minute opener in a 2-0 victory at Santos Laguna. The home side was without top scorer Christian Benitez, who has an ankle injury.
Tigres' crosstown rival Monterrey (2-3-0) also posted a 2-0 victory, over Pachuca on Aldo de Nigris and Neri Cardozo goals, to vault to 11th in the overall standings. The Rayados have shutouts in four of their past five home games. Pachuca turned to former Galaxy forward Herculez Gomez and fellow U.S. World Cup pick Jose Francisco Torres, giving each his first Clausura start, but the Tuzos (1-2-2) fell to the bottom of Group 2 after failing to score for the third time in four games.
Atlas, the worst team in the fall, opened the second half of the Mexican Primera Division season with a stunning romp that underscores coach Benjamin Galindo's savvy eye for talent.
The Guadalajara-based club, which made several major additions to its roster during the winter break, opened the spring Clausura on Saturday with a 5-0 domination of visiting Morelia.
Gerardo Espinoza matched his Apertura goals total, scoring twice, to lead the Zorros. Former Chicago Fire defender Wilman Conde scored in his Mexican League debut, and 19-year-old Christian Diaz (in his first top-tier game in more than a year) and Daniel Osorno (with his first of the season) also tallied.
“I congratulated the guys in the locker room because [there was] not a single player who did not have a good performance. It speaks well of the commitment that exists with the team,” Galindo told reporters afterward.
“It's a good win which gives us confidence, but that's all. What we have to do is keep working with the same commitment that we had during the preseason.”
Atlas went through three coaches in a 3-10-4 fall campaign, but Galindo, a former Mexican national-teamer, went shopping in four countries to strengthen the club. Conde, Brazilian midfielder Lucio Flavio (from Botafogo) and midfielder Lucas Ayala (from UANL Tigres) contributed to the win Saturday.
BIG BOYS BEATEN: America got robbed. Monterrey got jobbed.
America, a sure title contender, saw two perfectly good goals erased on mistaken offside calls in a 2-0 home loss to Pachuca, which got goals midway through each half by Yulian Anchico and then Edgar Benitez.
Monterrey, which last month won the Apertura title, was outclassed at home by San Luis, also 2-0 -- with the Gladiadores' first goal, by Osmar Mares in the 71st minute, clearly offside. Juan Carlos Medina's sweet chip in stoppage, with the Rayados down a man, doubled the advantage.
Dario Cvitanich rescued Pachuca in Wednesday's fifth-place match at the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. but the Mexican team's triumph on penalty kicks sends CONCACAF home from FIFA's top club competition without a victory for the second time.
Cvitanich scored in the 82nd and 89th minutes to pull Pachuca back from a two-goal deficit in the 2-2 draw with host Al-Wahda, then converted the first spot kick in a 4-2 triumph in the tiebreaker.
The Tuzos, who had Americans Herculez Gomez and Jose Francisco "Gringo" Torres in their starting XI Wednesday, can take some comfort from its quarterfinal defeat to TP Mazembe, with the African champion -- from the Democratic Republic of Congo -- becoming the first club not from Europe or South America to reach the title game.
Mazembe stunned Brazil's Internacional, the Copa Libertadores titlist and winner of the Club World Cup in 2006, in the semifinals, claiming a 2-0 victory Tuesday on superb goals by Mulota Kabangu and Congolese national-teamer Dioko Kaluyituka.
UEFA Champions League winner Inter Milan will take on the Africans in Saturday's final in Abu Dhabi after thrashing South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa, 3-0, in Wednesday's semifinal. Dejan Stankovic, Javier Zanetti and Diego Milito scored the goals.
Pachuca didn't have huge expectations to meet at the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. Nobody expected the Mexican club (and not even the best of Mexican clubs) to reach the final -- that's, as always, the domain of the Europeans and South Americans.
But the Tuzos failure to advance from the quarterfinals, for the second time in three appearances in FIFA's club championship, is a grave disappointment that makes it difficult to counter perceptions that CONCACAF's leagues aren't at a particularly high level.
Pachuca was eliminated from the competition in its opener Friday, falling to African champ TP Mazembe, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mbenza Bedi scored the only goal, sweetly finishing high inside the near post from Mulota Kabangu's flick into the box in the 21st minute.
Two of Pachuca's Americans saw action -- Jose Francisco Torres started and former Galaxy forward Herculez Gomez came on in the second half -- and good for them. The experience certainly is worthwhile.
Pachuca had its chances: Damian Manso struck the post in the 17th minute and Raul Martinez the crossbar in the 60th. But the Mexicans head to Wednesday's fifth-place game, against the loser in Saturday's quarterfinal between UAE's Al-Wahda and South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa, the Asian champion.
Monterrey assumed the role as favorite in Mexico's Primera Division playoffs after holding off visiting Pachuca on Sunday in a wild quarterfinal second leg.Humberto Suazo, Aldo de Nigris and Neri Cardozo scored goals, and the second-seeded Rayados settled for a 3-3 draw -- leaving aggregate at 4-4. Monterrey advanced as the higher seed to a semifinal showdown with Pumas UNAM.
Santos Laguna also reached the final four, outlasting Jaguares, 1-0, for a 2-1 aggregate triumph. The No. 3 seed was set for a series with America before Juan Pablo Rodriguez's penalty kick deep into second-half stoppage.
Monterrey, which is the highest remaining seed after No. 1 Cruz Azul's defeat Saturday against Pumas, won the Apertura title last fall and posted the best record in the spring Clausura earlier this year. Pachuca pulled the first round upset in May, twice beating the Rayados to reach the semifinals.
The Tuzos appeared finished after Monterrey jumped to a 3-1 lead after 57 minutes, but Faustino Arizala, who scored their goal in Thursday's 1-1 draw in Pachuca, finished off a headed hat trick with goals in the 84th and 89th minutes. Monterrey held on for four minutes of stoppage to advance.
Former Galaxy star Herculez Gomez set up the third of Arizala's goals.
Gomez, who joined Pachuca over the summer after scoring 10 goals last spring for Puebla, has been targeted by UANL Tigres, Spanish-language Web site Medio Tiempo reported. Club vice president Andres Fassi said he would be in contact with the Monterrey-area club about the Los Angeles-born forward, who is slated to play for the Tuzos in next month's FIFA Club World Cup in Dubai. Jonathan Bornstein (Los Alamitos/Los Alamitos HS and UCLA) will join Tigres from Chivas USA in January.
LIGA DE ASCENSO: The last of the higher seeds in action during the second-tier Liga de Ascenso quarterfinals is out. Veracruz rode an early goal by Guillermo Rojas to oust fourth-seeded Lobos BUAP, a 1-0 road victory Sunday providing a 2-1 aggregate triumph.
Second-seeded Indios de Ciudad Juarez and third-seeded Alacranes de Durango were eliminated Saturday. Top seed Club Tijuana received a bye into the semifinals and will begin its playoff trek Wednesday at Albinegros de Orizaba. The home leg is tentative scheduled for Saturday at Estadio Caliente.
- PRIMERA DIVISION
QUARTERFINALS, SECOND LEG
Monterrey 3 (Suazo 19, de Nigris 37, Cardozo 57), Pachuca 3 (Arizala 26, 84, 89)
Santos Laguna 1 (J. Rodriguez pen. 95+), Jaguares de Chiapas 0
Santos Laguna at America, 5 p.m.
Monterrey at Pumas UNAM, 7 p.m.
SEMIFINALS, SECOND LEG
America at Santos Laguna, 4 p.m.
Pumas UNAM at Monterrey, 2 p.m.
- LIGA DE ASCENSO
QUARTERFINALS, SECOND LEG
Lobos BUAP 0, Veracruz 1 (G. Rojas 12)
Club Tijuana at Albinegros de Orizaba, time TBA
Veracruz at Irapuato, time TBA
SEMIFINALS, SECOND LEG
Albinegros de Orizaba at Club Tijuana, time TBA
Irapuato at Veracruz, time TBA
No problem for the Rayados, who dictated play most of the way and claimed a 1-1 draw at Pachuca -- almost as good as a victory -- in their quarterfinal opener Thursday in Mexico's Primera Division.
Santos Laguna also came away with a 1-1 tie on the road at Chiapas-based Jaguares, which provides a significant advantage in Sunday's second legs. The higher seeds advance to the semifinals if the aggregate score is even.
Monterrey, the No. 2 seed, went ahead in the 56th minute, with Jose Maria Basanta finishing Neri Cardozo's corner kick. It settled for a draw when Faustino Arizala fired into the top-right corner 11 minutes later.
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.
Pachuca is awaiting results Saturday evening and Sunday to discover if it's headed to the Mexican Primera Division's Apertura playoffs, but they've learned who they'll open against in next month's FIFA Club World Cup.
TP Mazembe, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, routed Tunisia's Esperance to win its second successive African Champions League title and advance to the Dec. 8-18 club world championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Mazembe won on aggregate, 6-1, after a 1-1 draw in Saturday's second leg. The Africans will face Pachuca in a Dec. 10 quarterfinal, with the winner advancing to face Brazil's Internacional, the Copa Libertadores winner, in a Dec. 14 semifinal.
Mazembe lost to South Korea's Pohang Steelers in the Club World Cup quarterfinals last year.
Pachuca, which won its Apertura regular-season finale Friday, will reach the eight-team Liguilla if UANL Tigres fails to beat Atlas on Saturday or if Pumas UNAM fails to beat America on Sunday. The Tuzos, whose roster includes Americans Herculez Gomez, Jose Francisco Torres and Marco Antonio Vidal, qualified for the Club World Cup by winning the CONCACAF Champions League title last spring.