Chivas' five-game win streak earns first-round bye; León slinks into offseason

Liga MX playoff field set though final seeding awaits outcome of Monterrey-Necaxa match
Atlas couldn't slow down the in-form Roberto Alvarado (right) and "Piojo" led Guadalajara to a 1-0 win over Atlas, boosting the Chivas into fifth place and a first-round bye in the Liga MX playoffs.
Atlas couldn't slow down the in-form Roberto Alvarado (right) and "Piojo" led Guadalajara to a 1-0 win over Atlas, boosting the Chivas into fifth place and a first-round bye in the Liga MX playoffs. / Simon Barber/GettyImages

Chivas take Guadalajara derby

One moment of brilliance from Roberto Alvarado was all Guadalajara needed to earn its fifth straight win.

The victory in the “Clásico Tapatío” was made even sweeter because the Chivas clinched a first-round playoff bye with the 1-0 squeaker.

In minute 74, Alvarado brought down a long pass with his right foot, a perfect first touch allowing him to step inside his marker about 40 meters wide right of goal. 

His second touch rolled the ball another 10 meters toward the middle of the field and his third touch was a wicked, curling left-footer that soared past a lunging Camilo Vargas at full stretch.

Guadalajara (31 points) climbed into fifth place and can finish no worse than sixth. They’ll play either Cruz Azul or Toluca in the quarterfinals, depending on Monterrey’s result against Necaxa on Sunday.

Atlas – winners of just one of its last 12 games – gave their crosstown rivals all they could handle, but the Zorros were inefficient in their offensive third, letting the Chivas off the hook on several occasions.

Esmeraldas lose their luster

León could not unlock the FC Juárez defense and will be watching the playoffs on TV as a result.

The Esmeraldas took the field knowing a win against the 9-loss Bravos would earn the club a spot in the Play-In Tournament. 

Instead, Juárez found the net first, taking a 1-0 lead in minute 40. “La Fiera” equalized 14 minutes into the second half, but the hosts managed to keep León in check the rest of the way.

With this result, the Esmeraldas pulled even with Querétaro at 24 points, but Querétaro claims the No. 10 seed on better goal differential (+1 to minus–2). 

The Gallos Blancos will visit the No. 9 seed (UNAM or Necaxa) next week with a chance to advance to the second knockout round against the loser of the 7 vs 8 play-in match.

Cementeros climb one rung on Liga MX table

Cruz Azul held Toluca – the top-scoring team in Liga MX – without a goal for just the second time this season while also snapping the Diablos Rojos’ perfect home record. 

The win allowed Martín Anselmi’s men to swipe the No. 2 seed from the Diablos Rojos, dropping Toluca into third place.

The Cementeros – the second-stingiest defense in Liga MX (14 goals allowed) – limited Toluca to two shots on goal. It helped that Tiago Volpi missed two second-half penalty kicks after having gone 15-for-15 in his Liga MX career until last night.

The only other time Toluca left a “0” on the scoreboard came back on Matchday 7, a scoreless draw at Monterrey on February. 19.

The Diablos Rojos also saw their perfect home record come to an end. They were 7-0-0 this season at “La Bombonera” heading into the match against “La Máquina Azul” and they had outscored opponents 20-4.

The Cementeros did not escape unscathed, however. Star defender Gonzalo Piovi left the game just before the half clutching his collarbone after an awkward fall on his shoulder. 

Piovi’s linemate, Willer Ditta, got the only goal of the night, racing onto a Rodolfo Rotondi cross and powering a header into the net in minute 18.

Tigres back on the prowl

Right behind Cruz Azul (33 points) and Toluca (32) in the Liga MX standings is Tigres. With 31 points and an impressive +11 goal differential, Robert Siboldi’s side is primed for the playoffs.

Tigres earned the No. 4 seed with a workmanlike 4-1 win over visiting Tijuana, the worst team in Liga MX the year.

André-Pierre Gignac, Sebastián Córdova, Juan Brunetta and Nico Ibáñez scored for Tigres who are peaking right on time. 

“Los felinos” banged home 12 goals in the final three games of the season, demonstrating they are contenders to reach their third Liga MX Final in a row.

For its part, Tijuana must start taking up a collection to pay the 80 million-peso fine it owes Liga MX for finishing last in the 2023-24 “Relegation Standings.”

Pachuca’s dance card getting full

Pachuca coach Guillermo Almada sent out a make-shift line-up against visiting Mazatlán FC and he paid the price for it. 

Almada opted to rest his starters ahead of Wednesday’s all-important Concacaf Champions Cup semifinal match against América and the result was a lackluster 1-1 draw.

The callow Tuzos could not finish plays and were unable to puncture the defensive web the Cañoneros strung up. 

Almada sent in three starters before the hour mark and two of them combined for a goal in minute 67. Sending on two more starters to protect the lead did not have the desired effect and Mazatlán equalized.


The dropped points left Pachuca in 7th place, forcing the Tuzos into the Play-In tournament and an extra game next week. And if they lose the 7 vs 8 game, they’d be force to play the winner of the 9 vs 10 contest just three days later.