Liga MX: Matchday 15 results set up mad dash to finish line

José Antonio Lopez (left) and Necaxa upset the Tigres, knocking them off the top of the Liga MX table. (Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images)
José Antonio Lopez (left) and Necaxa upset the Tigres, knocking them off the top of the Liga MX table. (Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images) /
Liga MX M15
León coach Ariel Holan walks glumly off the field after the Esmeraldas’ disastrous 2-0 at América. After the game, Holan resigned, the ninth coaching change in Liga MX this season. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) /

Matchday 15 featured several upsets, the biggest being Necaxa’s 2-0 win over the league-leading Tigres, and the ninth coaching change of the Clausura 2022 as the Liga MX season hurtles toward the finish line.

Pachuca reclaimed first place by handing Puebla its first shut-out of the season, rising to 35 points and climbing past the Tigres (32) who might have been caught looking past the Rayos toward their big weekend showdown against red-hot América.

The Aguilas continued their revival, winning their fifth consecutive match and soaring into seventh place (22 points). América’s streak has lifted them out of the Liga MX basement (yes, “Los AzulCremas” were in last place just over a month ago) and they have a legitimate shot at claiming a Top 4 seed and a bye in the first round of the Liga MX playoffs.

Just a single point above América, fifth-place Monterrey and sixth-place Atlas battled to a scoreless draw that satisfied neither team, while Cruz Azul (24 points) claimed fourth place thanks to a 1-0 victory at Querétaro. As such, the No. 4 seed is still very much in play as six teams are within 4 points of Cruz Azul with two games remaining.

Another Liga MX coach out the door

Hours after his team lost to América 2-0, León manager Ariel Holan submitted his resignation. The Esmeraldas have lost three straight to tumble into 12th place and three starters will not be available for Sunday’s must-win game at Santos Laguna (defender William Tesillo, midfielder Iván Rodríguez and forward Víctor Dávila received red cards).

“La Fiera” is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and the team seems to be in complete disarray. Holan guided the Esmeraldas to the Liga MX finals last season (losing to Atlas in a penalty shootout) but he inherited a championship-caliber team when he took over last year and critics contend he has mismanaged the roster this season. The lack of discipline and the shoddy performance the past month makes it hard to argue otherwise.

Mad scramble for wildcard spots

Upsets helped tighten up the standings heading into the penultimate matchday. In addition to the Necaxa stunner, last-place FC Juárez scored a minute 90+5 winner to slow Toluca’s push for a wildcard spot. The Diablos Rojos now sit in 13th place with 18 points.

Elsewhere, 17th-place Mazatlán FC blanked Santos 1-0 and Atlético de San Luis (20 points) leap-frogged over UNAM (19 points) by beating the Pumas 2-0.

Thirteen teams are chasing the nine remaining playoff spots (Pachuca and the Tigres have clinched “Top 4” seeds while third-place Puebla – 26 points – has secured a wildcard spot) so the final two Liga MX matchdays guarantee plenty of drama.

Two games of particular interest are UNAM at Guadalajara and the aforementioned León at Santos Laguna match.

The 11th-place Pumas (19 points) travel to Guadalajara to take on the Chivas (20 points) just ahead of a Wednesday appointment in the Concacaf Champions League Final against the Seattle Sounders. UNAM knows it can’t afford to look past the Goats because a loss could force them to forfeit their Liga MX dreams, but Andrés Lillini does not want his men to arrive to its first-ever CCL final exhausted.

For their part, the Chivas hope to continue their late-season mini-surge. “The Goats” have won two consecutive matches since firing Marcelo Michel Leaño last week.

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A bit farther north, Santos hopes to turn its fortunes around when the wounded Esmeraldas come to town. The Guerreros (16 points) have lost three straight since an upset win over Pachuca on April 3. The negative streak has seen “Los Laguneros” tumble into 14th place and time is running out.