Matchday 14: Clausura 2024 playoff chase tightens as favorites stumble

América, Monterrey and Tigres prioritize Concacaf quarterfinals and pay the price
Javier Hernández tallied his first Liga MX goal since returning to Guadalajara this season. "Chicharito" opened the scoring for the Chivas Saturday night, helping them defeat Puebla 3-2.
Javier Hernández tallied his first Liga MX goal since returning to Guadalajara this season. "Chicharito" opened the scoring for the Chivas Saturday night, helping them defeat Puebla 3-2. / Jam Media/GettyImages

The Liga MX playoff chase just got a whole lot more interesting.

A day after Necaxa and UNAM earned statement wins, co-leaders América and Monterrey failed to win Saturday night and now seven teams are within 5 points of first place with three matchdays remaining.

Third-place Toluca could actually be perched atop the Liga MX table by the end of the day if Renato Paiva’s men take care of business against 15th-placed Atlas.

And if Atlas and FC Juárez don’t win today, contenders for the 10-man playoff field would be reduced to 14 teams heading into Matchday 15 next weekend.

Liga MX leaders stumble away from home

Defending Liga MX champs América found itself trailing 1-0 at Santos Laguna when coach André Jardine sent in four subs – including three normal starters. 

Just 8 minutes later, the score was tied and suddenly the Aguilas were flowing forward in waves and Guerreros goalie Carlos Acevedo was under siege. Four of Acevedo’s six saves on the night came in the game’s final 15 minutes and “Los Laguneros” were lucky to escape with a draw.  

The point América earned was enough to claim sole possession of first place (for now, as noted above) since Monterrey took one on the chin in Mexico City.

The Rayados – just like América – are in the middle of a Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal series (Lionel Messi and Inter Miami come to town on Wednesday) and they rested starters, including three of four members of their regular back line.

Uriel Antuna and Cruz Azul took advantage.

The Cementeros outshot Monterrey 16-3 on the night and took the lead in minute 49 when the El Tri winger chased down an Ignacio Rivero lead pass and chipped Esteban Andrada. 

The visiting Rayados knotted things up less than 20 minutes later, but Antuna was there with an answer, putting the Cementeros back up.

Antuna stole a weak back pass, chased it into the box, cut inside a defender and fired a low left-footer past that nestled inside the far post. It was his 7th goal of the season, moving him into second place in the Liga MX Golden Boot race.

Elsewhere Saturday, Pachuca ended its three-game losing streak in league play, stunning the host Tigres with a sparkling second-half display and getting their first shut-out since Matchday 1.

Both clubs have Concacaf Champions Cup duty this week but the visiting Tuzos won their first-leg match 5-0 so they could afford to prioritize league results whereas Tigres face defending MLS champion Crew all-even after last week’s 1-1 draw in Columbus.

Even with seven starters sitting on the bench in the first half, Tigres put on an impressive display. But despite 66% possession, the hosts managed only a single shot on goal.

Then league scoring leader Salomón Rondón stepped up. Two minutes later, Nelson Deossa fellowed suit. Jesús Hernández added the cherry on top in minute 88 and Pachuca’s domestic woes were behind them.

With the loss, Tigres fell from fourth place to seventh while Pachuca climbed from sixth to fifth.

Earlier Saturday, high-flying Querétaro slowed down León’s playoff push with a 2-0 win at the Camp Nou

After starting the season 0-3-2, the Gallos Blancos have climbed into the postseason conversation with a tidy 6-2-1 streak.

The White Roosters improved to 4-2-1 on the road with an efficient performance. The visitors absorbed game-long pressure, remained disciplined on defense and took advantage of the few chances they created.

Chivas keep Liga MX playoff hopes alive 

Guadalajara threw a party at Estadio Akron and last-place Puebla was the sacrificial victim.

Chivas fans were ecstatic when prodigal son “Chicharito” Hernández scored his first goal since returning to “El Rebaño Sagrado” and even more so when Erick Gutiérrez doubled the score. Roberto Alvarado added a third before the hour mark and the celebration seemed complete.

Spirits were only mildly dampened when the Camoteros ruined the shut-out in minute 89, but panic set in a few minutes later when “La Franja” narrowed the gap further. 

After José Rangel was required to make a big save in minute 90+7, the hosts were begging ref Fernando Guerrero to blow the whistle. Seconds later, he obliged, eliciting a Bronx cheer from Chivas Nation. 


The 3-2 win kept Guadalajara in the running for a Play-In berth, but it won’t be easy with Pachuca and Querétaro up next before the Goats finish the season with a Clásico Tapatío.