Ah, semifinals – the bastard children of playoffs. Not quite a championship game, so therefore worthless to most neutral fans. And for most regular Liga MX fans, the warmth and glow of making the liguilla has worn off. Your team has either lost or finds itself in a dogfight.
Thus, we’re left with four pretty evenly matched teams whose fate probably will be decided more by luck than skill. In fact, only four points separated the semifinalists in the regular season: América finished first with 31 points; Monterrey was sixth, with 27.
So how to separate the four? We’re not even going to try. Here are the need to knows. Pick, choose, and invest, just don’t fool yourself. When the semifinals begin tonight with Tigres at Toluca, the tournament will be wide open.
América, the team you hate, remember? It’s the favorite after finishing first in the regular season and kinda sorta have a loaded roster. As long as the Televisa money floweth, it’ll be a candidate to hoist silverware at season’s end.
Why it may win it all: The re-loaded roster featuring Oribe Peralta and Miguel Layun knocked in 28 goals in 17 games, best of any team. Its goalie, Miguel Muñoz had some stunning saves in the quarterfinals versus Pumas.
Why it’ll probably bottle it: Oribe Peralta’s form has been wildly inconsistent. One minute he’ll dominate a defense, the next 89 he’ll disappear from sight.
The ugliest part of its kit: Their aguila (eagle) mascot actually looks more like a hawk or falcon. Tell no one.
An irreverent historical fact: In 1923, Club America was the first Mexican team to play outside the country. They toured Guatemala and played in a city named Quetzaltenango. Try pronouncing it. Right now.
No, this is not a femme fatale electroclash band from NYC. Rather, Tigres is a soccer club that features two adorable Americans: Jose Torres and Herculez Gomez. The team advanced to the semis with no extra time required thanks to Liga MX’s unique tiebreaker. In the second leg of the quarters, Torres went the full 90 and Gomez played the final 30 minutes.
Why it may win it all: For a league that revels in attacking 4-4-2’s, Tigres compact 4-3-3 offers a balance of solid defense and a midfield that squirts out goals at key moments.
Why it’ll probably bottle it: Did we mention already that they feature two adorable American players?
The ugliest part of its kit: There’s actually no decent-looking part of its kit. It is yellow, blue, and covered in sponsorship “flair.”
An irreverent historical fact: Tigres is technically based in the city of San Nicolas de la Garza, not Monterrey. Legally, San Nicolas was a “village” from 1830 until May 12, 1970. Tigres was founded in 1960. Village team (equipito de pueblo!) chant? You betcha.
Monterrey finished sixth in the regular season but is as dangerous as any club from a rich Northern city with a population of over 1 million. The city’s GDP PPP is $31,051, second best in Latin America, and every year new MTV-esque shows with the words Regia pop up that cross telenovela drama with Jersey Shore stupidity. People hate Mexico City for being big and powerful, but Monterrey for being rich and petty. And prettier.
Why it may win it all: Colombian striker Dorlan Pabon has been on fire. He scored 11 goals in the regular season and was crucial in the quarterfinal triumph over Atlas.
Why it’ll probably bottle it: Its defense is shaky as a house of cards. And there are some house of cards which may be offended by that comparison.
The ugliest part of its kit: Vertical stripes have been great to zebras, allowing them to confuse predators, but are an eyesore on human beings.
An irreverent historical fact: Monterrey FC is owned by FEMSA, the company that bottles various sugary and alcoholic beverages that contribute to diabetes all across Latin America. [INSERT “BOTTLE IT” PUN].
Toluca has won Liga MX 10 times, pretty impressive given they are based in a municipality of under one million (just outside the D.F.).
Why it’ll probably bottle it: Toluca let in a little over one goal per game, but defense doesn’t win in Mexico. Goals do. In fact, the top three defenses in Mexico didn’t even make the playoffs: Cruz Azul, Veracruz, and Leones Negros.
The ugliest part of its kit: Red with white. How original.
An irreverent historical fact: The Diablos Rojos have a lesser known nickname: the Choricheros (sausagers). The City of Toluca is apparently the Chicago of wiener production. They must be so proud!