Friday, November 28, 2008

Mexican playoffs, second legs

The Apertura 2008 playoffs will resume on Saturday as the top four seeds will head home. However, only one goes home needing a victory to advance to the semifinals. For those not familiar with the Mexican playoff system, if the series is even at the end of the second leg, the higher-seeded team goes through; road goals also don't count.

1 San Luis vs 8 Santos: San Luis learned the hard way that Santos will defend their title tooth and nail. Cuauhtemoc Blanco played his role of hired gun perfectly as he played a key role in the 3-1 rout of top-ranked San Luis. Santos need only draw to get through; even a one-goal loss will see Santos on to the next round. This game will also guarantee that we'll see an American in the semifinals as Edgar Castillo of Santos and Michael Orozco each went the distance in the first leg, and will likely do so again in the second leg. TV: Saturday 5 pm, TeleFutura.

2 Toluca vs 7 Tecos: Toluca go home lucky to not have conceded a goal. Tecos should have put multiple chances away against los choriceros at home but instead squandered away their home leg and now must head to Toluca in search of a win. If this game comes down to experience, Toluca will rout Tecos. Toluca have won eight Mexican league titles, the last three years ago in the Apertura '05 title. Tecos reached the final in the Clausura 05 season but have just one league title, back in the 93-94 campaign. Complicating matters for Tecos: Toluca were the best home team this season, compiling a 6-1-1 record and a plus-11 goal differential at Nemesio Diez. TV: Sunday 10 am, Telemundo.

3 Atlante vs 6 Tigres: Atlante showed resiliency in overcoming a 1-0 deficit in Monterrey but Tigres sort of dug their own grave by going down a man in the second half. Atlante can now relax and play with a little less pressure at home. Atlante lost just once at home as they ran up a 5-1-3 mark in Estadio Andres Quintana Roo. Atlante's offense was also particularly strong at home as they scored 16 goals at home, a mark surpassed by only Tecos. Still, this game won't exactly be simple for los Potros. Tigres were the top road team in the Apertura 08 season with a 4-1-3 mark away from home. TV: Saturday 7 pm, Telemundo.

4 Pumas vs 5 Cruz Azul: The matchup didn't live up to the hype in the first leg as the third- and fourth-most popular teams in Mexico did not produce a goal. The game moves across town from Estadio Azul to Estadio Olimpico where Pumas will be heavily favored to walk away with the series. Cruz Azul have not beaten Pumas in three short-season playoff meetings. Cruz Azul's overall lack of success in playoffs likely doesn't put much fear into their opponents. Although they reached the final last season, los cementeros haven't won a title since 1997. TV: Sunday 3 pm, Telemundo.

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