It's been a story-filled Liga MX 2017 Apertura.
The earthquake on Sept. 19 brought the Liga MX community together and led to an outpouring of solidarity that highlighted the positive impact of sport. Then there was the news Mexico and Atlas captain Rafa Marquez had been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for alleged links to a drug trafficking organization back in August.
There was also humor and farce in early September, as the match between Atlas and Tigres in Estadio Jalisco was postponed shortly before it was set to get underway due to the new circular big screen hovering just a few meters above the playing surface.
To cap off the season, Liga MX authorities couldn't have asked for a better finale. Tigres were crowned champion against Monterrey last Sunday in Estadio BBVA Bancomer in the first ever Clasico Regio final.
Biggest talking point
The ease with which Nuevo Leon teams Monterrey and Tigres dominated.
Monterrey were simply sensational all Apertura. Local rival Tigres were a step behind for most the season, but once both reached the final, it was always likely to be an even affair. In the end, Tigres scraped over the line 3-2 on aggregate over the two legs.
But what was immediately clear from both the regular season and the Liguilla was the apparent gap between the Clasico Regio rivals and the rest. Tigres destroyed Club America 4-0 in the semifinal, for example, while Monterrey wrecked Morelia 5-0. The two Nuevo Leon clubs also had the highest average attendances of the season.
Wrapped up in the same rivalry are two other issues that have been fiercely debated in Mexico. The first is that in the first leg of the Liga MX final, Tigres and Monterrey had only one youth product each starting the game and Rayados regularly played with only one Mexico-born starter throughout the season.
Fans of the clubs may not particularly care if they are reaching finals and winning trophies, but the tendency from the top teams to shift away from domestic youth products and towards already-established foreigners is concerning for the Mexican national team's long-term future. For example, only three of the top 20 goal scorers in the regular season were Mexico-born.
Mention must also be made of the Liga MX Femenil, which made its debut in the 2017 Apertura. The women's league was a positive initiative from Liga MX and the season was a success. Much work remains to consolidate and grow the new league, but the way a total of 61,421 that attended the two legs of the final brought it worldwide attention and set a marker.
Gol de Escoto. Chivas 1-2 Lobos BUAP pic.twitter.com/bhvHFnZEht
— ChivasTV (@chivastvmx) September 27, 2017
It has to be the news back in August that Marquez had been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department. It rocked the Mexican game and cast doubts over whether Marquez will be able to play in a fifth World Cup next summer. Marquez returned to the field in October after a lengthy absence, but the issue still hangs heavy over the 38-year-old's future.
As for a surprising team, it would have to be Lobos BUAP. This is an institution that is the smallest Liga MX has seen in recent times. The 10,396 average attendance may seem low, but it was expected to be even lower. Coach Rafa Puente sent out the minnows to attack and entertain. Lobos BUAP not only did that but created problems for bigger clubs in the process, recording a famous victory in Estadio Chivas on Sept. 26.
A 10th-place finish may not jump out from the league table, but it does tell the tale of a side hotly tipped for relegation that has punched above its weight and done so in style.
Chivas. This Apertura was always going to be difficult for the 2017 Clausura champions, but no one expected Guadalajara to drop to 13th in Liga MX, with just four wins from 17 regular season games.
Pumas must also be up there amongst the negatives. The Mexico City university team -- one of Liga MX's "big four" -- ended up last in the league table and went through three different head coaches over the regular season. Serious work remains to restore the glory days to Pumas.
Does one penalty miss in the final mean Aviles Hurtado should be stripped of this crown? It shouldn't. Obviously the Colombian slashing a late penalty high and wide against Tigres in the second leg of the final is something he'll never forget, but Hurtado has been sensational not just this Apertura, but all of 2017.
Hurtado's form and goals drove Club Tijuana to top spot in the regular season of the Clausura and he was a main factor behind Monterrey doing the same in the Apertura, following his summer transfer.
The signing of Hurtado completed Monterrey. The 30-year-old became the perfect cog in coach Antonio Mohamed's counter-attacking team, with Hurtado's pace and directness difficult to defend against.
Monterrey vs. Tigres in the second leg of the final. This shouldn't be all about the number of goals. What Monterrey and Tigres provided was an advert for Mexican football that is difficult to rival. The intensity of the occasion and rivalry, the quality of player on the pitch and the magnificent Estadio BBVA Bancomer all provided the raw elements. Then the game itself was memorable, with Monterrey going ahead, Tigres roaring back, taking the lead and then Hurtado dramatically spawning a late penalty.
Amaury Escoto -- Lobos BUAP vs. Chivas
When Juan Carlos Medina chipped in a cross towards Escoto on the edge of the area, absolute nobody but the striker had a clue what was about to happen. With the game at 1-1 and Chivas dominating, Escoto pulled off a ridiculous overhead kick to win it for Lobos BUAP. What. A. Goal.
— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) November 25, 2017