Esmeraldas hold No. 1 spot for seventh week in a row
All 12 Liga MX playoff teams were in our top 12 last week, and there was little movement in the final Playing for 90 Power Rankings as we had the teams pegged rather well.
Top-ranked León had its spot sewn up weeks ago and the Pumas were the biggest mover thanks to two late goals from Juan Ignacio Dinenno that boosted them to No. 2 in the Liga MX table. The win was dampened by bad news on the injury front, a factor taken into consideration for these rankings.
León was the class of the league since early September, its offense purring gloriously and backed by a ferocious defense (a league-low 12 goals allowed). It didn’t start out that way.
After three weeks, León was a mediocre 1-1-1 (1 goal scored; 2 goals allowed) then Luis Montes donned a super hero cape (a green one, naturally) and the Esmeraldas have not lost since. “La Fiera” saw out the rest of the Guardianes 2020 season on a 14-game unbeaten run (11-3-0), outscoring their rivals 26-12.
“El Chapo” – the clear-cut MVP favorite – produced 4 goals and 4 assists while guiding a potent attacking offense that specialized in long, probing possessions. Montes was everywhere, carrying out of the back, switching play, dribbling into danger zones, filtering seeing-eye passes to teammates.
The Esmeraldas played at a superior level for three months, their last loss coming on Aug. 8 (2-0 at Cruz Azul). They clinched the No. 1 playoff seed during a 7-game win streak down the stretch before battling to a 2-2 draw at Toluca in a meaningless season finale.
Without further ado, here is the final Playing for 90 Liga MX Power Rankings for the Guardianes 2020 season. As always, the figure in parentheses after the team name indicates the club’s movement with respect to last week’s rankings. Then follows the “win-draw-loss” record and the team’s point total.
1. León (—) 12-4-1, 40 points
The Esmeraldas had clinched the No. 1 seed for the entire playoffs with two games to spare. That didn’t matter to coach Ignacio Ambriz who knows his club’s offense hinges on timing, spacing and a high level of coordination, all of which are best perfected by playing together. So starters played most of the match against Toluca knowing their next competitive match won’t be until Nov. 26.
2. América (—) 9-5-3, 32 points
The Aguilas will benefit from the November FIFA break more than any other Liga MX team. Striker Federico Viñas has just come off the Covid/Reserve list and playmaking midfielder Nico Benedetti could be back soon from minor knee surgery on Oct. 21. Central defenders Emanuel Aguilera and Sebastián Cáceres should be fully fit after nagging injuries curtailed their playing time throughout the season.
3. UNAM (+2) 8-8-1, 32 points
The Pumas lost only once all season (tied with León for fewest losses) and pulled off a late-game comeback to defeat Cruz Azul at Estadio Azteca to claim the No. 2 seed in the Liguilla. But goalie Alfredo Talavera injured himself during warm-ups and team doctors have revealed that the All Liga MX netminder suffered a serious thigh injury. Described as a Grade 3 strain of the pectineus muscle in the upper thigh, “Tala” could miss the entire playoffs. That is a big loss.
4. Monterrey (–1) 8-5-4 29 points
The Rayados opened the Guardianes looking as dismal as their winless Clausura 2020 campaign (0-5-5) but turned things around after a 1-3-1 start. The Striped Gang rediscovered their 2019 championship form, nearly snagging a Top 4 seed thanks to a late 7-2-2 run while also claiming the Copa MX title on Nov. 4. That Cup win means Antonio Mohamed’s team is the current holder of three trophies (Copa MX, Apertura 2019, and 2019 Concacaf Champions League).