A wild weekend in Mexico's Primera Division solved little aside from eliminating three more no-hopers from playoff contention, and if there were few winners, there was clearly one loser.
If the Diablos Rojos fail to reach the Clausura playoffs -- and they're two points out with one weekend to go in the regular season -- it will be Sunday's 4-4 draw responsible for all the rolling heads.
Toluca, one of Mexico's most successful clubs the past decade and a half, skidded out of contention down the stretch during the fall Apertura, and now this: Surrendering a four-goal halftime lead at home in a 4-4 draw with lowly Estudiantes Tecos when a win would have vaulted the Red Devils to seventh or eighth, depending on the margin of victory.
A 47th-minute own goal, strikes in the 54th and 80th by former Chivas USA forward Eduardo Lillingston, and Juan Carlos Leaño's 84th-minute equalizer left Toluca (5-5-6) 10th overall and fourth in Group 2, two points away from the dividing line.
It's a tight fit heading into the final nine games, with five playoff berths still available and nine teams in the race. Guadalajara (6-3-7) and Cruz Azul (7-5-4), who played to a 1-1 draw Saturday, have 25 points; one of them definitely gets through, probably both.
Twenty-three points is the median at the moment, with Atlas (6-5-5) and Monterrey (6-5-5) above the line and America (7-7-2) just below. The most fluid race is in Group 2, which will supply two and potentially three teams to the quarterfinal field; five of the six teams are alive, with one point one point separating the top three.
San Luis (4-4-8) and Santos Laguna (6-8-2) have a prayer for the final berth. If Monterrey loses to fourth-place Guadalajara, America falls to first-place Pumas UNAM and Toluca fails to beat fifth-place Atlante, San Luis would get through with a win. Santos would need to improve its goal difference to advance with a victory in that situation.
Pumas UNAM (10-1-5), UANL Tigres (9-2-5) and Morelia (8-4-4) have clinched postseason berths.
Here are the fourth through 12th spots with final games; the top eight advance:
4. Guadalajara: 25 points (+9 goal difference), Saturday vs. Monterrey, currently second in Group 1
5. Cruz Azul: 25 (+5), Saturday at San Luis, third in Group 3
6. Atlante 24 (+10), Saturday vs. Toluca, first in Group 2
7. Atlas 24 (+3), Saturday at UANL Tigres, second in Group 2
8. Monterrey 23 (+2), Saturday at Guadalajara, third in Group 1
9. America 23 (+1), Sunday at Pumas UNAM, third in Group 2
10. Toluca 21 (+2), Saturday at Atlante, fourth in Group 2
11. San Luis 20 (+2), Saturday vs. Cruz Azul, fifth in Group 2
12. Santos Laguna 20 (-2), Friday at Estudiantes Tecos, fourth in Group 1
HERCULEAN STREAK: Herculez Gomez's 10-goal tear a year ago won him a role at the World Cup and a transfer to mighty Pachuca, where he has played hard off the bench, mostly, but had scored just once in nine months for the Tuzos through the first week of April.
His goal Saturday in a 1-1 draw at Gallos Blancos was the fourth in four matches for the former Galaxy standout, who has netted 15 goals in 15 months in Mexico. If he's on the move this summer -- there's going to be MLS talk -- the late run will have boosted his price.
The draw ended Pachuca's minuscule hopes of reaching the Clausura playoffs, and its season will conclude Saturday against Necaxa.
AMERICANS ABROAD: Texan Sonny Guadarrama received a recall to Atlante's first team, coming on in a 1-1 draw at America that left the Potros atop Group 2. It was Guadarrama's seventh appearance for Atlante during the Clausura, and he's also played for satellites Atlante Neza and Merida FC in the second-tier Liga de Ascenso. … Calexico's Isaac Acuña played the first half for Gallos Blancos for the third straight game. … Gomez and Jose Francisco Torres went the distance for Pachuca, and Sacramento-born Miguel Angel Ponce was on Guadalajara's backline. … Marco Vidal started in Leon's big win in the Liga de Ascenso (see below), and San Diego's Joe Corona came off the bench in Tijuana's loss (see below).
ETC.: Pumas, the likely top seed, has posted shutouts in seven of its last eight games. The lone aberration was a 3-1 loss April 2 at Jaguares, which has just three Clausura victories and is 18th, or last, in the overall table. … Tigres clinched second place and stayed within reach of Pumas with a 3-0 romp at third-place Morelia. Goals by Alan Pulido and Alberto Acosta in the final 10 minutes determined a tight match. … Emanuel Villa's ninth Clausura goal, in the 81st minute, lifted Cruz Azul to the 1-1 draw with Guadalajara. … Wilmer Aguirre's hat trick carried San Luis to a 3-1 victory at Santos. … Former Chivas USA forward Giancarlo Maldonado's third Clausura goal gave Atlante a 1-1 draw with America, keeping hold of Group 2's top spot while dropping the Aguilas out of the top eight.
LIGA DE ASCENSO: The real news isn't who's in the playoffs, it's who's out. Veracruz (7-4-5), the biggest club in the second-tier Liga -- the only Liga side we can see semi-regularly on TV -- finished fifth and should be facing Club Tijuana (7-4-5) in a quarterfinal rematch of the Apertura final.
The Tiburones Rojos were barred from the liguilla for financial irregularities -- think Frank McCourt on a lesser scale -- and it's curious what solution will be found before the next Apertura begins in summer.
Veracruz's ouster gives Dorados (6-4-6) life; the Sinaloa club finished eighth, even on points with Cruz Azul Hidalgo (6-4-6) and Correcaminos (7-6-3) but behind on goal difference.
The other four slots had already been clinched, but the order changed at the finish. Leon (10-2-4) rallied for a 2-1 victory at Irapuato (10-3-3) to pip La Trinca for the top seed and a bye into next week's semifinals.
Atlante Neza (8-3-5) leapfrogged Club Tijuana for third, beating Altamira, 3-1, as 2007 MLS MVP Luciano Emilio scored. The Xolos fell at Veracruz, 1-0, on Nelson Maz's first-half goal.
The quarterfinal matchups (with first legs Wednesday and Thursday and second legs Saturday and Sunday, higher seed home for second leg):
1 Leon has a bye
2 Irapuato vs. 7 Dorados
3 Atlante Neza vs. 6 Correcaminos
4 Club Tijuana vs. 5 Cruz Azul Hidalgo
Other Liga news: Lobos BUAP (4-9-3), a playoff team in the Apertura, escaped the cellar with its third successive victory and finished two points above Alacranes de Durango (3-10-3), which finished third last fall. During the fall/spring campaign, Lobos were 10-2-5 when Juan Manuel Sara (22 goals, 11 in the Apertura, 11 in the Clausura) found the net and 2-13-1 when he didn't. … Cruz Azul Hidalgo clinched its postseason berth with a 5-1 rout of Merida that featured a Jair Garcia hat trick. … Leon's Perez won the scoring title with 14 goals. … Tijuana, which will play its quarterfinal home game Sunday at 1 p.m. at Estadio Caliente, has lost three of its past five games. The Xolos had lost just two of their first 31 this season. All five defeats have been shutouts on the road. … Leon is 17-2-6 since mid-September.
COPA CALL: Monterrey is in must-win territory for its CONCACAF Champions League finale Wednesday night at Real Salt Lake (Fox Soccer Channel, 7 p.m. PT), even on aggregate after last week's first leg and 2-0 down on away goals. The Rayados' cause isn't helped by injuries that have knocked out forward Aldo de Nigris and midfielder Luis Perez and slowed Chilean star Humberto Suazo.
Monterrey is unbeaten in the competition, at 8-0-3, and it dominated play in the first leg against what might be the best side Major League Soccer has produced but twice failed to hold on to leads. Javier Morales' grand finish in the 89th minute pulled RSL even, 2-2, in Monterrey.
RSL has a 34-game unbeaten streak, all competitions, at Rio Tinto Stadium, but it is missing its captain, midfield general Kyle Beckerman, who is serving a yellow-card suspension.
America and Jaguares start round-of-16 play in Copa Libertadores on Wednesday, with the Aguilas starting off at Brazil's Santos and Jaguares welcoming Colombia's Junior to Tuxtla Gutierrez.
Last week's results (home teams listed first)
Necaxa 0, Pumas UNAM 1 (Cacho 86)
Gallos Blancos 1 (C. Bueno 90), Pachuca 1 (H. Gomez 28)
Cruz Azul 1 (E. Villa 81), Guadalajara 1 (de la Mora 45)
Monterrey 1 (J. Zavala 23), Puebla 1 (F. Borja 7)
Santos Laguna 1 (J. Rodriguez pen. 80), San Luis 3 (W. Aguirre 30, 32, 60)
Atlas 2 (R. Jimenez 21, J. Barraza 74), Jaguares 0
Toluca 4 (N. Calderon 10, Zinha 17, E. Cerda 32, 39), Estudiantes Tecos 4 (og Duenas 47, Lillingston 54, 80, Leaño 84)
Morelia 0, UANL Tigres 3 (L. Lobos 14, A. Pulido 84, A. Acosta 87)
America 1 (A. Reyna 35), Atlante 1 (G. Maldonado 38)
Group 1: x-UANL Tigres 32 points, Guadalajara 25, Monterrey 23, Santos Laguna 20, Estudiantes Tecos 17, Necaxa 14
Group 2: Atlante 24, Atlas 23, America 23, Toluca 21, San Luis 20, Pachuca 17
Group 3: x-Pumas UNAM 35, x-Morelia 28, Cruz Azul 25, Puebla 18, Gallos Blancos de Queretaro 16, Jaguares de Chiapas 11
Overall (top 8): 1. x-Pumas UNAM 35 (+16 goal differential); 2. x-UANL Tigres 32 (+14); 3. x-Morelia 28 (+6); 4. Guadalajara 25 (+9); 5. Cruz Azul 25 (+5); 6. Atlante 24 (+10); 7. Atlas 23 (+3); 8. Monterrey 23 (+2). Playoffs: If season ended now, top eight would qualify.
Relegation percentage: 1. Necaxa (33 games/30 points) 0.9091 (relegated to Liga de Ascenso)
x -- clinched playoff berth
This week's games (all times Pacific)
Santos Laguna at Estudiantes Tecos, 6:10 p.m.
Gallos Blancos at Jaguares, 3 p.m.
Monterrey at Guadalajara, 5 p.m.
Atlas at UANL Tigres, 5 p.m.
Necaxa at Pachuca, 5 p.m.
Cruz Azul at San Luis, 6:45 p.m.
Toluca at Atlante, 7 p.m.
Morelia at Puebla, 10 a.m.
America at Pumas UNAM, 10 a.m.
Schedule subject to change
1. Angel Reyna (America) 12
2. Wilmer Aguirre (San Luis) 10
3. Christian Bermudez (Atlante) 9
Rafael Marquez Lugo (Morelia) 9
Emanuel Villa (Cruz Azul) 9
6. Carlos Bueno (Gallos Blancos) 8
Hector Mancilla (UANL Tigres) 8
8. Juan Carlos Cacho (Pumas UNAM) 7
9. Felix Borja (Puebla) 6
Mauro Cejas (Estudiantes Tecos) 6
Marco Fabian de la Mora (Guadalajara) 6
Erick Torres (Guadalajara) 6
1. Christian Benitez (Santos) 20
2. Humberto Suazo (Monterrey) 19
3. Matias Vuoso (America) 15
4. Christian Gimenez (Cruz Azul) 14
Emanuel Villa (Cruz Azul) 14
6. Wilmer Aguirre (San Luis) 13
Mauro Cejas (Estudiantes Tecos) 13
Hector Mancilla (Toluca/UANL Tigres) 13
Angel Reyna (America) 13
10. Juan Carlos Cacho (Pumas UNAM) 12
Marco Fabian de la Mora (Guadalajara) 12
CONCACAF Champions League
Final, second leg: Monterrey at Real Salt Lake (MLS), 7 p.m.
Round of 16: Junior (Colombia) at Jaguares, 3:30 p.m.; America at Santos (Brazil), 6 p.m.
LIGA DE ASCENSO
Past week's games (home teams listed first)
Correcaminos 3 (J. Silva 24, R. Saucedo 27, A. Gonzalez 87), Alacranes de Durango 0
Pumas Morelos 2 (E. Herrera 46, H. Gonzalez 58), Dorados de Sinaloa 1 (F. Flores 72)
Irapuato 1 (G. Vega 21), Leon 2 (B. Perez 49. 58)
Veracruz 1 (Maz 33), Club Tijuana 0
Indios de Ciudad Juarez 2 (Borboa 25, J. Echavarria pen. 88), Leones Negros 1 (M. Zepeda 75)
Atlante Neza 3 (Luciano Emilio 26, D. Mejia 29, Sainz 91+), Altamira 1 (E. Gonzalez 85)
Cruz Azul Hidalgo 5 (J. Garcia 19, 25, 69, G. Velasco 73, R. Fuentes 85), Merida 1 (Uscanga 32)
Lobos BUAP 2 (J. Sara 29, Mi. Castillo 88), Albinegros de Orizaba 1 (D. Gonzalez 65)
Idle: La Piedad
1. x-Leon 34; 2. x-Irapuato 33 points; 3. x-Atlante Neza 29; 4. x-Club Tijuana 26; y-5. Veracruz 26; x-7. Cruz Azul Hidalgo 24; x-8. UAT Correcaminos 24; x-8. Dorados de Sinaloa 24; 9. Pumas Morelos 22; 10. Indios de Ciudad Juarez 20; 11. Albinegros de Orizaba 18; 12. Altamira 18; 13. Merida 16; 14. La Piedad 15; 15. Lobos BUAP 15; 16. U de G Leones Negros 14; 17. Alacranes de Durango 12
x -- clinched playoff berth; y -- disqualified from playoffs for financial irregularities
This week's games (all times Pacific)
Quarterfinals, first leg
Irapuato at Dorados de Sinaloa, 7 p.m.
Club Tijuana at Cruz Azul Hidalgo, 2 p.m.
Atlante Neza at Correcaminos, 6:30 p.m.
Quarterfinals, second leg
Dorados de Sinaloa at Irapuato, 6 p.m.
Correcaminos at Atlante Neza, 10 a.m.
Cruz Azul Hidalgo at Club Tijuana, 1 p.m.
Schedule subject to change
1. Blas Perez (Leon) 14
2. Jair Garcia (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 12
Ariel Gonzalez (Irapuato) 12
4. Juan Manuel Sara (Lobos BUAP) 11
5. Roberto Saucedo (Correcaminos) 10
6. Miler Castillo (Lobos BUAP) 7
Mauricio Romero (Veracruz) 7
8. Edwin Borboa (Indios de Ciudad Juarez) 6
Raul Enriquez (Club Tijuana) 6
Edgar Garcia (Alacranes de Durango) 6
Eduardo Herrera (Pumas Morelos) 6
Rodrigo Prieto (Dorados de Sinaloa) 6
1. Juan Manuel Sara (Lobos BUAP) 22
2. Eder Pacheco (Alacranes/Veracruz) 21
3. Blas Perez (Leon) 19
4. Ariel Gonzalez (Irapuato) 18
5. Jair Garcia (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 14
Mauricio Romero (Veracruz) 14
7. Raul Enrique (Club Tijuana) 13
Roberto Nurse (Cruz Azul Hidalgo) 13
Miguel Zepeda (Leones Negros) 13
10. Miler Castillo (Lobos BUAP) 11
Nelson Maz (Veracruz) 11
Roberto Saucedo (Correcaminos) 11
FINAL CLAUSURA/APERTURA STANDINGS
1. Club Tijuana 18-5-10, 64 points
2. Irapuato 18-9-6, 60
3. Leon 17-8-8, 59
4. Veracruz 14-8-11, 53
5. Indios de Ciudad Juarez 14-12-7, 49
6. Dorados de Sinaloa 12-10-11, 47
7. Cruz Azul Hidalgo 11-9-13, 46
8. Albinegros de Orizaba 11-12-10, 43
9. Lobos BUAP 12-15-6, 42
10. Altamira 11-13-9, 42
11. Pumas Morelos 11-13-9, 42
12. Alacranes de Durango 11-15-7, 40
13. Correcaminos 10-14-9, 39
14. Atlante Neza 10-15-8, 38
15. Leones Negros 7-14-12, 33
16. La Piedad 7-14-12, 33
17. Merida 6-16-11, 29
18. Guerreros 6-5-6, 24