A bizarre television interview and his political views on the Superclásico fiasco aside, Diego Maradona was also making news for all the right reasons this weekend as his Dorados side earned a 2-1 aggregate win over Ciudad Juarez to advance to the Ascenso playoff final.
Whether or not you question Maradona’s abilities as a coach, there is no doubting the Argentinian’s impact in Sinaloa which has seen Dorados go from playoff outsiders to potentially sealing a spot in Mexico’s top flight.
A 1-0 defeat on Saturday evening, only the second of Maradona’s tenure, didn’t matter as Dorados held on for a 2-1 aggregate victory to set up a title showdown with Atlético San Luis.
Maradona’s interview technique might not be up to much but his celebrations appear infectious and his appointment has clearly motivated a side that looked like finishing the season way down the table to this point.
Liga MX is the goal for Dorados and this weekend the regular season came to an end with the eight qualified sides discovering who they will meet in the playoffs.
Queretaro made a late push to snatch the last playoff spot but otherwise there was little drama in terms of the positions. Monterrey finished in fifth ending the regular season with a 3-1 win over Atlas, capped off by a finely taken goal by Rogelio Funes Mori. A Nicolás Sánchez penalty had already given Monterrey the lead when Funes Mori nutmegged Omar González, sidestepped Leiton Jiménez and slotted in a superb second on the hour mark.
Eventual 3-1 winners Monterrey will play Santos Laguna in the quarter finals while Club América will face Toluca after finishing runners-up to Cruz Azul.
América ran out 4-1 winners against Veracruz and after former Racing Club and Colombia forward Roger Martínez gave the home side the lead, Guido Rodríguez added a second. The powerful central midfielder won possession on half way, drove at the Veracruz defence and unleashed a stinging shot from outside the box into the top corner.
Veracruz did manage to pull a goal back but former Independiente defender Emanuel Aguilera restored the two-goal lead from the penalty spot.
And in one last day of the season contest that had no impact on the playoffs Pachuca drew 1-1 with Club León. Franco Jara slid in an opener for Pachuca only for compatriot Mauro Boselli to powerfully head León level.
(1) Cruz Azul vs. (8) Queretaro (2) América vs. (7) Toluca (3) Pumas vs. (6) Tigres (4) Santos Laguna vs. (5) Monterrey
And finally, Gerardo Martino’s Atlanta United took a huge step towards the MLS Cup final with a 3-0 first leg win over New York Red Bulls.
A clash between the two best sides in MLS was supposed to be a close affair but Atlanta produced a blistering display to blow away the side who pipped them to the Supporters’ Shield. The prolific Josef Martínez opened the scoring just after the half hour mark and after the Red Bulls saw a goal ruled out, Franco Escobar doubled Atlanta’s lead. The Newell’s Old Boys academy product was tremendous throughout, capping his display with a powerful, first time finish past Luis Robles.
A two-goal lead would have been good but Héctor Villalba came off the bench to make the win all the more emphatic. The 24-year-old had already shot against the post when he drilled a long range effort into the bottom corner deep in stoppage time.
The two sides meet again on Thursday and while there is still a job to do, Martino edges closer to the possibility of ending his time in Atlanta with the MLS title.