Liga MX playoff field still murky with just two matchdays remaining

Liga MX M15 wrap

Kevin Castañeda and Tijuana gave defending Liga MX champion Tigres fits all game long, and the Xolos came away with a 2-0 victory. (Photo by Carlos Heredia/Jam Media/Getty Images)

Matchday 15 – a Midweek Matchday – provided some drama but did little to clear up the Liga MX postseason picture.

Just one more team clinched a playoff berth – three of 10 spots are filled now – and only one team has been eliminated from contention (Necaxa).

That means 14 teams will be battling for the remaining seven invitations over the final two weekends of the Apertura 2023 season.

And 12 of those 14 clubs still have a shot at the remaining top seeds – Nos. 3-6 – and the first-round bye that goes with them.

Top of the Liga MX table

América clinched the No. 1 seed in the Liga MX playoffs with a 1-0 victory at Atlético de San Luis, the hard-fought road win extending the Aguilas’ unbeaten streak to 14 games. André Jardine’s men now have 36 points.

Henry Martín – the reigning Liga MX MVP – knocked in the only goal of the match in minute 32, while América goalie Luis Malagón made two brilliant saves in quick succession in the final 10 minutes to preserve the win.

The loss sent the Tuneros (22 points) tumbling from fourth to sixth place.

Monterrey became the third franchise to clinch a playoff spot with an easy 3-0 win over last-place Necaxa on Tuesday. The Rayados (26 points) have a game in hand so they could leapfrog past crosstown rivals Tigres (28 points) and steal the No. 2 seed from the defending Liga MX champions.

The loss knocked the Rayos (11 points) out of contention.

Tigres saw their six-game unbeaten run come crashing to an end in Tijuana as the Xolos shut down “los felinos,” limiting the holders to one shot on goal despite conceding possession throughout (Tigres had 65% possession).

A modest two-game win streak has allowed Tijuana (23 points) to climb into fifth place.

Fourth-place Guadalajara bounced back from a 4-0 pounding at the hands of Tigres to hold off a late-charging Querétaro and escape Estadio Corregidora with a 2-1 victory.

The Chivas (24 points) survived a flurry of attacks from the Gallos Blancos who enjoyed a man advantage for the game’s final 7 minutes. Querétaro (15 points) fell into 17th place and must win out if it hopes to make the play-in tournament. But with a visit from Monterrey on the final weekend, chances don’t look promising.

‘La Máquina,’ Tuzos rise up the table

Since sinking into the cellar with a 1-2-6 record on Sept. 24, Cruz Azul has won four of six to climb into playoff contention with two games remaining.

The Cementeros (17 points) defeated slumping FC Juárez (18 points) with goals from Angel Sepúlveda – his sixth in the past five matches – and Uriel Antuna.

The Bravos have lost six of their last seven contests and are 1-1-6 since climbing into third place back on Sept. 1.

Pachuca’s four-game unbeaten streak has lifted the Tuzos into a tie for 10th place with 19 points though they trail Mazatlán FC (19 points) by a significant margin on goal differential.

Jesús Hernández and Erick Sánchez scored to give Pachuca an important 2-0 road win at Atlas.

Some treading water, some sinking

Seventh-place UNAM and ninth-place León battled to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday that did neither team any good. The Pumas (22 points) were coming off a loss to last-place Necaxa and are winless in their past four.

For their part, the Esmeraldas (20 points) continue to struggle up front. Nicolás Larcamón’s men have scored more than 1 goal just once since Aug. 18.

Toluca stumbled against lowly Puebla, keeping the Camoteros in the playoff hunt but sending the Diablos Rojos into eighth place.

“Los Choriceros” (21 points) were blanked at home by “La Franja” (16 points) and one wonders how they are dealing with the surprise dismissal of coach Ignacio Ambriz a week ago.

Atlas is now winless in its last seven (0-1-6), getting outscored 5-15 during that stretch, a pratfall that cost Benjamín Mora his job.

The slide has seen the Zorros plummet into 16th place and their playoff aspirations are nearly exhausted although their final two matches (at UNAM and vs Necaxa) provide a glimmer of hope … if they can fix their offense.

The final Matchday 15 contest saw host Mazatlán FC outscore Santos Laguna 3-1. The Guerreros – the worst defense in Liga MX – have now allowed 30 goals in 14 matches.

With Necaxa next on the schedule, Mazatlán (19 points) might feel good about its postseason prospects while the Guerreros (17 points, but with a game in hand) has their work cut out for them.