Mexican Independence Day, the Canelo Alvarez fight, AND the Clasico Nacional? There were plenty of celebrations over the weekend -- especially for Club America fans.
Las Aguilas defeated Chivas 2-1 during Saturday night's massive Liga MX rivalry match, maintaining their perch on the table. Second-place Monterrey defeated struggling back-to-back champions Atlas, who are now officially out of the running for the playoffs. Also out of the running are fellow Liguilla outsiders Queretaro.
There's plenty to cover, including a goal of the season candidate and some halftime Mario Kart, so in case you missed anything, here are three talking points and some additional observations on Week 15 of the 2022 Apertura
America down Chivas in Clasico Nacional
Saturday evening was a bittersweet one for many residents of Guadalajara. While local boxing hero Canelo Alvarez retained his undisputed super middleweight championship over Gennady Golovkin, Chivas (and Atlas, as we'll dive into later) failed to get the job done after losing 2-1 to Club America in the Clasico Nacional.
The problems for Los Rojiblancos quickly began in the second minute when defender Luis Olivas fouled Club America's Henry Martin in the 18-yard box, providing the striker with a goal off a penalty shortly afterwards -- and a Cuauhtemoc Blanco-esque celebration in tow.
Las Aguilas would then make it 2-0 by the 51st minute through an attempt from in-form midfielder Alejandro Zendejas. Chivas responded with a goal by Cristian Calderon in the 62nd, but that would prove to be their only one of the night. While supporters from Guadalajara, and Chivas' social media account themselves, will complain about officiating not checking the monitor for a strike that might have gone over the line as a possible equalizer, the reality is that Club America were the superior side on Saturday.
Led by performances from Guillermo Ochoa, Emilio Lara, Sebastian Caceres, Alvaro Fidalgo, Zendejas and Martin, Club America are deserving of not only a victory over Chivas, but a continued spot at the top of the table.
"This [win] is for the fans," said manager Fernando Ortiz after the result. "We must work day-by-day to maintain our intensity and fight for the title."
The game did see 37 fans ejected for bringing in prohibited objects, taking part in an anti-gay goalkeeper chant, or disturbing the public.
No three-peat shot now for Atlas
With injuries, a limited roster, two shortened preseasons due to consecutive playoff runs (and league titles) and an average of one match every 4.66 days in the Apertura, it's no surprise that Atlas have dropped out of the playoff race. Heading into the last week's round of games, they needed a miracle and a near-perfect end to the season in order to qualify for the Liguilla.
Three days after a short trip abroad that left them with a 2-0 loss to MLS side NYCFC in the Campeones Cup, Atlas quickly traveled away to Nuevo Leon and were then defeated by the same scoreline against Monterrey in Liga MX play last Saturday. For what it's worth, Atlas held their own for most of the match before Los Rayados scored twice after the 75th minute.
"It's not a prize to become champion and then have 10 days to prepare for the next season," lamented Atlas manager Diego Cocca after losing to Monterrey. "We don't have a big roster."
As for Monterrey, their standout tournament continues under the leadership of veteran coach Victor Manuel Vucetich. There has been plenty of attention given to Club America with their 35 points in 16 games, but Monterrey and Vucetich are close behind with 34 points of their own.
Speaking of the manager, Vucetich is currently stable but was taken to the hospital on Monday morning as a precaution after his blood pressure dropped during a Monterrey training session.
Davila's stunner keeps Leon's hopes alive
Leon is one of several teams trying to clinch a playoff spot, and Victor Davila did his a side a big favor by scoring this stunner in a 3-1 win over Queretaro.
🚀⚽️¡Gooool de @clubleonfc! 🦁— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) September 19, 2022
🚀⚽️¡Gooool de @clubleonfc! 🦁
🚀⚽️¡Gooool de @clubleonfc! 🦁
¡El gol de la Jorndada! 💥 Victor Dávila la colgó en el ángulo ‼️🔥
🦁 2 - 1 🐓
🔴 EN VIVO
🔗 https://t.co/NVlA2njYRM#TuApertura2022 | pic.twitter.com/gjKw9TgloF
As for the rest of the field, Club America, Monterrey and Pachuca have all directly qualified for the quarterfinals as guaranteed members of the top four. Santos Laguna, in fourth, are on the cusp but could be surpassed by fifth place Tigres.
In a preliminary play-in round, positions five through 12 in the league table will fight for the other four spots in the quarterfinal round.
Toluca and Chivas are guaranteed a spot in the play-in round, but not the top four. This leaves an entertaining end to the season which features nine teams (Leon, Cruz Azul, Puebla, Atletico San Luis, Necaxa, FC Juarez, Mazatlan, Club Tijuana and Pumas) battling for the last five play-in spots.
To add more excitement for the number-crunchers out there, five of those nine hopefuls have already played their Week 16 matches ahead of time due to a condensed schedule because of the World Cup, meaning that this Friday's Week 16 games between Necaxa vs. Mazatlan and Puebla vs. Pumas are now must watch.
- Elsewhere in Week 15: Puebla claimed their first win since early July in a 2-1 victory over 9-man Tigres, Mazatlan kept Toluca to a 1-1 draw, Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jesus Corona was brilliant in a 2-1 away win over Pumas, Santos Laguna nearly assured their quarterfinal spot with a 2-0 result against FC Juarez, Pachuca extended their good run of form through a 2-1 away victory over Atletico San Luis, and Club Tijuana earned a 1-1 draw with Necaxa.
- Club Tijuana's lethargic sprint towards the playoffs isn't nearly as good as these two halftime invites playing Mario Kart on the team's massive screen, which they claim to be the biggest in Latin American stadiums.
- Ahead of their recent win over FC Juarez, Santos Laguna unveiled a statue of club legend and hometown hero Oribe Peralta. The former Mexico international and Olympic gold medal winner was involved in the team's Liga MX championships in 2008 and 2012.