Toluca, Pachuca over Club America, Monterrey

The semifinals of the 2022 Apertura season are officially over, leaving only two teams still in the running for the Liga MX title. Following the latest play-off games, here are a few points to discuss ahead of this week’s two-legged tie.

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The main interests of Club America are fired by Toluca

No. 6 seed Toluca was already labeled before it hit the field last week. Against No. 1 seed Club America in the semi-finals, Toluca was widely seen as a minor roadblock for the Liga MX giants who previously crushed Puebla 11-2 on aggregate in the quarterfinals.

Then came the errors that seemed to double their supposed harmless interference. In a surprisingly error-filled evening for Club America, Toluca hit some unexpected passes and shaky moments that led them to a shocking 2-1 victory in last Wednesday’s semi-final series.

“It’s football, mistakes happen,” Club America manager Fernando Ortiz said after the loss, describing the result as a surprise. “Today they happened to us.”

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At home during Saturday’s second leg at the historic Estadio Azteca, things didn’t get any better. Las Aguilas. Toluca remained solid defensively, led by outstanding performances from defenders Haret Ortega, Valber Huerta and Andres Mosquera. In net, Tiago Volpi’s goalkeeping was influential with several of his saves that would go on to hold Club America to one goal at the weekend. With their goal from behind Jorge Torres Nilo, Toluca ended up sneaking in with a 3-2 aggregate result.

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Although Club America almost turned the series in their favor with a stunning injury-time goal from Henry Martin that was ruled offside – which would have sent them to the finals in a high-seeded thriller — Las Aguilas they have no reason for their final exit.

Usually able to rely on a number of options that play well in midfield and attack, Club America looked lost when starters like Diego Valdes and Richard Sanchez were shut down by Toluca’s aggressive play. Los Diablos Rojos he forced the Mexico City team into mistakes, and in response, Ortiz made questionable changes in the second leg that did nothing to bring new ideas to the final third.

Ortiz said: “I am responsible for this failure of the games,” said Ortiz after his exit, later adding that “obviously I want to continue. [as manager].”

As for Toluca, a squad that has been weak defensively has gained strength at the right time. After getting just six wins from July to September, Los Diablos Rojos and manager Ignacio “Nacho” Ambriz raced to the finals with five wins in October alone.

Ambriz was hired last December ahead of the 2022 Clausura campaign but finished 15th in the table. In this Apertura season, he organized a successful side with a stable defense and produced behind game changers like Volpi, Jean Meneses, and Leonardo Fernandez.

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“The last eight months we were a disaster,” Ambriz said of the win over Club America. “Now it’s changing.”

Against 4th seed Pachuca in this weekend’s two-legged series, Ambriz and his squad will look to defy expectations once again.

Pachuca ended up being upset after Monterrey

Toluca wasn’t the only Liga MX team to get upset in the semi-finals. Pachuca was convincing in the previous game against No. 2 seed of Monterrey, eventually defeated the favorites 6-2 overall.

Thursday’s first leg at home set the tone for Pachuca. Fearless in their attacking style, Los Tuzos traded jabs in a thrilling start to the series that found Pachuca 3-2 up in the 47th minute. At the start of the battle between the two, Monterrey shot themselves in the foot with a straight red in the 64th minute for Erick Aguirre, allowing Pachuca to score two more points and win the first leg by 5 points. -2.

Aware of pressure and defense when needed, manager Guillermo Almada used his usual 4-2-3-1 formation during Sunday’s second leg, which led to a chaotic first half. Monterrey was unable to find the back of the game. net in a 1-0 loss. With former goalkeeper Oscar Ustari collecting 11 fouls — and defenders like Oscar Murillo, Gustavo Cabral and Kevin Alvarez collecting even more — Los Tuzos Survived Monterrey’s attack that ended in a stalemate in the second half.

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When the streak ended, a penalty goal in the 95th minute for Pachuca Aviles Hurtado, who left Monterrey in 2021 after missing a few minutes, was the perfect match for the cakes for Almada and his team.

Arriving in December ahead of the 2022 Clausura campaign, the 56-year-old Uruguayan coach has already taken his side to a string of back-to-back championships. After pushing Santos Laguna to the final of the 2021 Clausura, could this be the time Almada not only wins his first Liga MX title, but also helps Pachuca to their second Liga MX title in since 2016?

“Hopefully,” Almada said after the win. “We will do our best to achieve the goal, [but] Toluca will think the same as us, so may they win the most. “

Pachuca should not overlook a Toluca side whose regular season form can be deceiving. In the nature of a competition as short as Liga MX, it can often take a manager more than one season to click through his roster. By their power, Los Tuzos they are a more organized and balanced team that can switch seamlessly from an aggressive attacking style to dropping deep and defending when needed.

With a good mix of promising academy talent and experienced foreign signings, Pachuca could be the last to stop Toluca.

Liga MX final schedule

Pachuca vs. Toluca
First leg: Thursday, Oct. 27 (time TBD)
Second leg: Sunday, Oct. 30 (time TBD)


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