Power Rankings: Santos continues to sizzle, Toluca climbs to No. 2
MEXICO CITY -- A semester ago, Santos Laguna was in a complete state of flux. Outgoing manager Jose Manuel de la Torre had left the club with virtually zero chance of making the playoffs.
In came Robert Siboldi, a longtime assistant in Liga MX who was getting his first real chance at managing a bona fide first-division club. Though Siboldi was unable to turn the tide during the Apertura 2017, he was kept on to try to steer the club back into relevance.
Even for Liga MX standards, the flip in fortunes has been fast. Santos has yet to relent its first-place spot after another win, this time grinding out a 1-0 win in Puebla to stay atop the rest of the pack. Though the top spot remains the same, there was plenty of change elsewhere. Here are the Power Rankings for Week 12:
1. SANTOS LAGUNA (no change)
Julio Furch was once again key for Santos Laguna, who are soldiering on without leading goalscorer Djaniny Tavares. Furch stepped in and notched a late goal in Puebla, a stadium that has been overtly difficult for any visitor this season. With eight wins this season, Santos has virtually locked up a playoff spot for the Clausura 2018.
2. TOLUCA (+2)
A big win at the Estadio Azteca vaults Toluca to second place in the Liga MX table, and our Power Rankings. Club America fought on with 10 men for most of the match and looked like they would even go forth and win the game at times -- but after a spectacular brawl (and a pair of red cards) between both managers, Toluca was spurred on to find a late goal and win.
3. TIGRES UANL (-1)
Faced with the task of beating a rejuvenated Chivas at the Estadio Akron, Tigres was unable to score in a tense match that could've gone either way. There were 24 shots on goal, and possession was split an even 50-50. However, Tigres could be accused of squandering a few key chances and letting a game they should have won slip away.
4. CLUB AMERICA (-1)
Hampered by a red card to Bruno Valdez in the first half, Club America was unable to hang on against a hungry visitor that turned it around after a sideshow between both managers in the second half. Despite going 11 games undefeated, America has now gone from first place to fourth place in a matter of weeks.
5. MORELIA (no change)
After Miller Bolanos opened scoring early in Tijuana, it looked for a while like Morelia might wilt under the pressure of an opponent looking to rebound after their CONCACAF Champions League elimination. However, Morelia rallied with Diego Valdes and tied before the half-time whistle. As they look to cement a playoff spot, an away draw against a tough rival will go a long way.
6. MONTERREY (+2)
This was a must-win for Antonio Mohamed. Queretaro opened scoring at the Estadio BBVA, but Monterrey rallied back to score three times and mounted a convincing comeback at home against an increasingly dissatisfied crowd in recent weeks. More than three points, Monterrey gained confidence after a tough stretch.
7. CLUB TIJUANA (no change)
Another underwhelming result for Diego Cocca's squad at home, days after the New York Red Bulls eliminated the team in the CONCACAF Champions League. A draw against Morelia doesn't change much in the grand scheme of things in Liga MX, but Los Xolos are in danger of fading during a key stretch of the tournament.
8. PUEBLA (-2)
Tasked with beating the league leaders at home was not easy to begin with -- but Puebla was unable to do the things they've been most effective at during the Clausura 2018. After a hot start, Puebla is starting to finally cool off -- at the worst possible time.
9. PUMAS UNAM (no change)
Memes flowed after Cruz Azul was able to pull out a draw against Pumas during the final moments of a tense game at the Estadio Azul. It was, to put it bluntly, Cruzazulesque of Pumas to cough up a late lead. Amidst an irregular season, UNAM has been hard to pin down as a potential playoff contender in the Clausura 2018.
10. NECAXA (+2)
Matias Fernandez was sent off in the first half -- a few minutes later, Pachuca went up 1-0 at the Estadio Victoria. It seemed like things were on their way after that, before Necaxa fought back and scored with Victor Davila late in the game. An admirable result despite the difficulty the match presented.
11. LEON (no change)
Lobos BUAP looked primed to cruise to victory and add three very valuable points to their cache as they look to evade relegation. But, down 2-0 at home, Leon summoned enough strength to come back in the final half hour of the game as Claudio Gonzalez scored a brace to tie it up.
12. PACHUCA (+1)
Though disappointing to give up a lead away from home, Pachuca has to be happy with a rough and tumble game in Aguascalientes in which two players were sent off. Los Tuzos are currently 11th in the league, but hope remains: they are three points away from sixth-placed Monterrey.
13. CRUZ AZUL (+1)
There's a flip side to Cruz Azul's improbable last-minute comeback against Pumas on Saturday: their players celebrated the feat as if they'd won the league. There's a clear irony. This team hasn't won the title since 1997, and it was frankly a bit jarring to see them celebrate a simple draw in that manner.
14. CHIVAS (+1)
Picking up a point against the league champions isn't anything to scoff at, but Chivas needs to start piling up three-pointers if they think they have a shot at making the playoffs this season. With 12 games gone, Guadalajara is mired in the lower end of the table with time running out.
15. QUERETARO (-5)
This week's biggest disappointment was seeing Queretaro fold after they'd gone up on Monterrey early in the first half, following a dominant display of soccer. The disheartening part came exactly minutes later, when it became clear they were more interested in defending a lead than expanding on it. The final result was telling of how wrong that strategy was.
16. VERACRUZ (+1)
It was absolutely massive for Veracruz to beat Atlas at home and put pressure on the teams above them in the relegation race. After Milton Caraglio scored in the seventh minute to put Atlas ahead, Veracruz roared back with two quick goals in five minutes to grab the lead. They put the exclamation point in the 93rd minute to destroy their rival's chance of a comeback.
17. LOBOS BUAP (+1)
Lobos has to be very disappointed with the end result of a game they had in the bag. Up 2-0, Leon crawled back against the league's worst defense. It could've been worse: Leon was close to winning the game in the end.
18. ATLAS (-2)
Forward Milton Caraglio said during the week that he was embarrassed at being part of a horrid season for Atlas. He scored early and looked to turn the tide for his entire team, but he wasn't enough to avoid another tough loss.
Eric Gomez is an editor for ESPN's One Nación. You can follow him on Twitter: @EricGomez86.