Raul Ruidiaz's goal saves Morelia in crazy final Liga MX weekend
The playoffs are set after a final weekend of matches in the 2017 Clausura regular season that will go down in Liga MX folklore.
1. The goal that changed everything
A total of 102 games per team, or 9,180 minutes of play, define which Liga MX team gets relegated. The system is based on a points-per-game ratio over three years, or six short seasons, and one team goes down each May.
On Saturday, it was pretty much the last play over those 102 games that saved Morelia from the drop and condemned Chiapas to second-division soccer next season in an unforgettable finish to the Clausura regular season.
Chiapas was winning 1-0 at Atlas, and Morelia was level at 1-1 against Monterrey -- a combination of results that would've seen Morelia relegated. Then, Peru international Raul Ruidiaz stretched out his right foot to poke a right-wing cross into the goal in the 91st minute to hand Morelia victory.
The goal not only saved Morelia from relegation -- and its ownership millions of dollars -- but also pushed it into a playoff spot, dislodging Club America, which lost 3-2 to Pachuca on Saturday. As a result, America coach Ricardo La Volpe learned Sunday that his contract wouldn't be renewed after his team failed to make the playoffs.
To add a bit of extra intrigue, the goal handed Ruidiaz the scoring title by taking him onto nine goals for the season, one more than Andre-Pierre Gignac, Nico Castillo, Oribe Peralta, Matias Alustiza and Aviles Hurtado.
Few goals anywhere have had the repercussions of Ruidiaz's on Saturday.
2. Tigres, Gignac in frightening form
Tigres are back in form and confident heading into the Clasico Regio quarterfinal.
The way Tigres swatted aside Queretaro 5-1 on Saturday made it clear that the reigning champions are very capable of winning back-to-back titles. To add to the general positivity surrounding the club, striker Gignac netted a hat trick. When Gignac hits form, it usually means good things for Tigres.
The recent uptick for Tigres in the past couple weeks has coincided with Argentine Lucas Zelarayan playing behind Gignac in place of Eduardo Vargas. The switch has brought more balance to Tigres, and the team is clicking nicely.
That said, Monterrey is the team Tigres would've wanted to avoid at the quarterfinal stage. Coach Antonio Mohamed masterminded a 1-0 win for Rayados back on April 22, and Tigres' city rivals are better equipped than most to stunt the Tigres charge.
3. Herrera's Club Tijuana tops table
All the rumors point to Club Tijuana coach Miguel Herrera being at Club America next season to replace La Volpe, but first comes another Liguilla in which Xolos enter as the first-place team.
It is a significant achievement for Herrera to be superlider once again, and though Saturday's 1-0 victory over Veracruz wasn't a highlight, the former Mexico coach has shown again that he knows how to get the best out of a group of players you wouldn't necessarily put in the top five in Liga MX.
Now comes the real test for Herrera. It'll be a tricky quarterfinal against Morelia, who have little to lose. Xolos go into the series as favorites, and Herrera will be hoping to bow out of Club Tijuana in style, with a deep run into the Liguilla.
4. Chiapas down and can't complain
Chiapas did what was required of it on Saturday by defeating Atlas in a spirited performance capped by a golazo from Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez. But it wasn't enough.
The lack of planning, overhauls of the squad and scandals took their toll. Seven points from 27 in the past nine games simply aren't enough.
In some ways, it is a shame. Mexico's southeastern region is traditionally under-developed from a socio-economic perspective and deserves a well-run first-division team.
5. Rebuilding needed for Mexico City clubs
The effects of not making the playoffs have already been felt and nowhere more keenly than at Club America, with La Volpe almost immediately announcing that he wouldn't be continuing at the club.
Las Aguilas now need a sporting director and a new coach for the upcoming season, as well as a couple of much-required signings, with a holding midfielder the absolute priority.
Over at Pumas, there has been some concern with the way Francisco "Paco" Palencia's side collapsed in the second half of the Clausura, which ended with a miserable 1-0 loss against Puebla on Sunday. Pumas didn't win a game from April 1 and conceded a remarkable 11 goals without scoring a single one over their last four matches.
At the other Mexico City club not to make the playoffs, Paco Jemez has been backed by Cruz Azul, who defeated Leon 2-1 on Saturday, but clearly things will have to improve quickly in the 2017 Apertura if the manager is to continue for much longer.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.