Liga MX Clausura review: The good, the bad and the ugly as Chivas win the title
Chivas were crowned Liga MX 2017 Clausura winners on Sunday in another captivating final, knocking reigning champions Tigres off their perch in the process.
Overall, though, it has been an erratic season in Liga MX, with real highs and some awkward lows.
Chivas winning the title. The team from Guadalajara holds a special place in the Mexican game, and the Liga MX is better off as a whole with Chivas at the forefront. The club's large amount of fans -- Chivas says it has around 40 million -- adds weight to on-field success, and the fact that the institution fields only Mexicans is one of the main storylines in Mexican football.
This season, that demarcation between Chivas' playing with only Mexicans and the rest of the teams has been accentuated due to the Liga MX's 10/8 rule. Clubs in the Clausura had to name only eight homegrown -- read: Mexican, in the vast majority of cases -- players in each match-day squad. Although Atlas, Pachuca and Santos Laguna fielded young Mexican bases, many of the others took advantage of the rule and brought in more foreigners. Chivas' winning a league and cup double in the season with the most foreigners in the modern history of the Mexican league offers a stark alternative to clubs scrambling around South America looking for players each offseason.
"Sí se pudo," went the chant at Guadalajara's La Minerva in Chivas' victory celebration. Or, "We did it."
But it wasn't just the achievement itself that the fans have acknowledged. The way Chivas' 12th title was accomplished is meaningful. This Chivas team won by playing a relentless, attacking brand of football. Then, when injuries struck, form was lost or confidence dropped, the sheer work ethic shone through and got the team over the line.
Let's not forget losing finalists Tigres, though. The side from Nuevo Leon came so close to a Liga MX double. And it also narrowly missed out on the CONCACAF Champions League. On paper, this will go down as a failed season for Tigres, but the side is attracting attention outside Mexico and is a team that has become a focal point in Liga MX of late.
Then there was Miguel "Piojo" Herrera's Club Tijuana, the regular-season leader for the second consecutive tournament. Aside from those, Santos and Atlas also exceeded expectations, but special mention should be made of Morelia.
That Raul Ruidiaz goal in the final seconds of the final match of the regular season to save Morelia from relegation and move it into a playoff spot, as well as secure the Peruvian the top goal scorer award, will go down in Liga MX folklore.
Mexico City's three clubs -- all considered part of Liga MX's "big four" -- all failed to reach the playoffs this Clausura.
Pumas finished 17th in the regular season, and the club, with manager Francisco Palencia, will have to decide how to improve for next season. The university club certainly can't afford to lose Chilean striker Nico Castillo and probably needs to match the spending of some of the bigger clubs if it is to move significantly up the table.
Over at Cruz Azul, another season passed with the club losing more games than it won and conceding more goals than it scored. Paco Jemez is under pressure to get La Maquina performing early in the Apertura.
Then there was Club America, which narrowly missed out on the playoffs and is now going through major changes, with Herrera coming back as coach and Santiago Banos stepping in as the sporting director.
The referees' strike brought negative headlines to Mexico, with Week 10 of the regular season suspended. The referees demanded sterner punishments for Club America's Pablo Aguilar and Toluca's Enrique Triverio and eventually got their way.
The dispute highlighted the fragility of the Mexican game, in the sense that it all works fine when Liga MX owners are united in power and making decisions, but when there is a glitch, things can fall apart easily.
More than anything, the referees' strike offered some not-so-subtle evidence to suggest that players could shake up the status quo if they could unite and form an independent union, as Rafa Marquez has been trying to do.
There also was violence in stadiums during the Clausura. The highest-profile incident was in Veracruz, but in Monterrey and Chiapas, ugly videos were shown. It is something the Liga MX and its clubs -- in combination with the government -- need to nip in the bud before it becomes even more of a problem.
Finally, Chiapas might have gone down to the second division, but the problem the Liga MX has with clubs not exactly being well run won't halt overnight. The futures of Puebla and Veracruz remain cloudy, and there has even been talk of altering the relegation system in order to guarantee positive ownership groups.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.