Week 16 in Mexico's top flight is now in the books. In the latest round of matches, Liga MX showcased an assertive performance from first place Pachuca, interim managers continued their revival of league giants Chivas and Club America, and decisive results secured playoff invitations.
In case you missed anything, here are three talking points and some additional notes on Jornada 16 of the 2022 Clausura.
Club America, Chivas thrive under interim coaches
Sometimes a fresh perspective is all you need. Liga MX's two most successful and popular teams, Club America and Chivas, each have gone through a revival in the 2022 Clausura under the leadership of an interim manager.
With Santiago Solari dropped in early March by Club America, Las Aguilas quickly went from the bottom of the table to fifth place with the Phil Jackson-inspired Fernando Ortiz in charge. On Saturday, their noteworthy 2-0 away victory over Tigres marked their sixth consecutive Liga MX win.
"It shows that there is a team, that there is unity, camaraderie and commitment. It shows that they understood the situation," Ortiz said after Club America's win over the weekend.
Later that evening in Guadalajara, Chivas maintained their perfect streak with new coach Ricardo Cadena. Stepping in as an interim manager earlier this month after Marcelo Michel Leano was fired, Cadena earned a 3-1 win over Pumas --- his third victory in just as many matches.
Guided by a goal and assist from Alexis Vega on Saturday, Chivas moved up to seventh place in the table after sitting at 14th just a few weeks back.
"Things are working out for us and we have to take advantage of the moment," said Chivas winger Jesus Ricardo Angulo after the final whistle.
Both Chivas and Club America have officially booked their place in the playoffs, and depending on how things go in the upcoming final week of the regular season, there's a possibility that Ortiz and Cadena could face off in the wild-card round.
Mexico call-up Chavez stellar for Pachuca
Few players in Liga MX, if any, had a better week than Pachuca's Luis Chavez. After earning a call-up for the Mexico's national team on Thursday, the 26-year-old midfielder then responded two days afterwards with his first-ever brace in Pachuca's 3-0 win over Monterrey.
With the two goals from the former Club Tijuana player, Pachuca secured their third victory in a row and held onto first place in the Liga MX table.
¡Goooooooooooool de los @tuzos! 😎— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) April 23, 2022
Pero qué golazo de Luis Chávez que le pegó con un tubo y la puso en el ángulo. Obra de arte en el Hidalgo. 👏
🐹 1-0 Ⓜ️#TuClausura2022 | #PachucaSomosTodos | #ArribaElMonterrey
🔴 ¡EN VIVO!
📺 TUDN y @univision
📱: https://t.co/5Y4Z89UIWJ pic.twitter.com/uHOyXadVJm
Chavez, who has previously been called up to the national team but has yet to earn any minutes, is now in a good position to make his Mexico debut in a friendly this Wednesday against Guatemala. Well-rounded but also with a knack for powerful shots from distance, the midfielder will be one to keep an eye on for El Tri this week.
As for Pachuca, the Tuzos are in a fantastic run of form. Despite some tension through scuffles outside of the stadium that led to seven arrests on Saturday, things are looking incredibly promising for the team that just cemented their place as the No. 1 seed for the Liga MX playoffs.
That said, manager Guillermo Almada insists he isn't looking ahead with one more game left in their regular-season schedule.
"We have to close the season well in the best manner and then we'll think about another completely different competition," Almada when asked about the playoffs.
Playoff picture starting to take shape
A quick summary of Liga MX's playoff structure: The top four on the league table will automatically qualify for the quarterfinals, while spots five through 12 will enter a preliminary wild-card (repechaje) round.
With one week left in the Clausura regular season, both first place Pachuca and second place Tigres have already booked their place in the quarterfinals. Puebla, Atlas, Club America, Cruz Azul, Chivas, Monterrey, Necaxa and San Luis have all officially qualified for the playoffs, but it remains to be seen if they'll enter in the quarterfinals or the wild-card stage.
Next, there's a purgatory-like group of Leon, Pumas, Mazatlan, Toluca, Santos and Tijuana who are in the playoff race but have yet to guarantee a position within the top 12. That leaves behind 17th-place Queretaro and 18th-place FC Juarez, who are the only two teams officially out of the running for the playoffs.
A three-point difference separates third-place Puebla and 11th-place Leon, leaving an immense amount of room for changes in the final weekend of the Liga MX regular season.
- Elsewhere in Liga MX results: A blunder from Puebla goalkeeper Antony Silva gifted Necaxa a 1-0 away win; a brace from Brian Rubio pushed Mazatlan to a 2-0 victory over FC Juarez; title-holders Atlas bounced back into the top 4 of the Liga MX table with a 4-2 away win against Toluca; Cruz Azul stumbled at home with a 1-0 loss to San Luis; an equalizer from Eduardo Aguirre helped salvage a 1-1 draw for Santos Laguna against Leon; and Club Tijuana let a 2-0 lead fall apart in their 2-2 draw at home with Queretaro.
- Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman warmed up before the game against Club America with an all-black shirt that read "Justice." A day earlier, a missing 18-year-old law student, Debanhi Escobar, was found dead in the Nuevo Leon region after she vanished weeks ago. It was the latest tragedy in a spate of disappearances of women who had gone missing, prompting protesters to take to the streets of Monterrey to call out gender violence and ineffective investigations. Just this year, 26 women and girls have disappeared in Nuevo Leon, and five more have been found dead after being reported missing.
- The CONCACAF Champions League returns this week with the much-anticipated two-legged final between Liga MX's Pumas and MLS side Seattle Sounders. Pumas will host the first leg in Mexico City this Wednesday before visiting Seattle for the second leg on May 4.
- Ending the Liga MX wrap-up on a heartwarming note, here is a story about a young Chivas fan named Uriel with Marfan syndrome, who was in attendance at the Chivas-Pumas over the weekend. Uriel was invited as a special guest to the match and got to meet his favorite player, Alexis Vega, before the game. Vega assured him of the win and said he would dedicate a goal to him. By the 11th minute, Vega scored and then pointed up towards Uriel in the stands during his celebration. Vega also tweeted: "Uriel, you are a champion."