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Jose Torres

The Mexican Clausura Playoffs: American Impact

Pachuca Galaxy Soccer

The Mexican Clausura playoffs began this week and as is always the case, will be the most watched club football event on US TV for the first six months of the year.

But this year’s playoffs are completely different from the American perspective. For the first time in recent memory, American Footballers are playing critical roles for playoff participants.

Jose Francisco Torres is no longer a mystery to US National Team supporters but his progress continues to amaze many. The left footed attacking midfielder scored a wonder goal, Pachuca’s second of the match and ultimately the game winner in a 3-1 victory over Jaguares last night. Torres’ impact wasn’t just felt on that cracker of a goal but all over the pitch where he helped stimulate quick counter attacks and linked up well with Pachuca’s other midfielders and attackers.

Torres’ experience playing a key role for one of North America’s top clubs has allowed him to emerge as a regular selection for Bob Bradley’s National Team. While other left footed American midfielders struggle in Europe, Torres is lighting the Mexican league on fire with his clutch play and attacking prowess.

Indios, the equivalent of a  recent expansion team in American sporting leagues has also been a remarkable story. After being promoted last May, the club which plays its games in Juarez on the US border was tipped for relegation. From August until March, Indios looked destined to go back down, until a late season surge not only ensured top flight football next year for the club but actually saw a playoff birth gained.

Marco Vidal, an American has emerged as a key defender for the club and has emerged on the US National Team radar thanks to his strong late season play. Vidal who recently told Yanks Abroad that he’d welcome the opportunity to represent the US this summer has to be considered strongly by Coach Bradley.

Last night, Vidal helped anchor a defense that was remarkably solid against legendary club Toluca. Indios bent at times but did not break, keeping their shape at critical times and stimulating several opportunities with quick clearances and nice one touch football. The final scoreline was a remarkable 1-0 Indios win, giving the Juarez club real hope in the second leg. Toluca no doubt are still the favorite, but Vidal and his backline mates have been outstanding in the run up to the playoffs as well as last night, so anything could very well happen.

Vidal and Torres weren’t the only Americans in “play-off” action last night. Even though the British media ridicules MLS, the FMF and Austrailian A- Leagues for the use of play-offs to determine a champion, it’s always ironic to me that the Football League uses playoffs to determine a final promotion spot.

Zac Whitbread a star for the US U-20 team that defeated Lionel Messi and Argentina a few short years ago advanced over Mike Grella and Leeds 2-1 on aggregate. Now Whitebread faces another American Jemel Johnson at Wembley in the playoff final which will determine which side advances to the English Championship next year.

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  1. adam

    May 15, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    I enjoyed last night’s games and think the FMF is vastly under rated on the world stage. Americans no its a good league bit do Europeans?

  2. Ted Westervelt

    May 15, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Great post Kartik.

    One wonders when Tijuana or other towns will develop clubs to draw Americans cross border for a night of futbal. Of course, I disagree on just one thing – we’re not ridiculed because of our playoff system, we’re ridiculed because of a micromanaging league office, limited club autonomy, no promotion and relegation, and the stilted and stagnated quality of play that has resulted.

    Playoffs are the least of our problems!

  3. Mexican Football

    May 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    KARTIK! It’s “berth”, not birth! No one’s being born here!

    Anyway, the more you talk about Mexican football, the more I’ll keep coming back to this site. Good job. Do you understand the Hispanic commentators of the football matches?

    Playoffs may ruin the concept of the best team being champion, but they’re just too exciting. We’re used to it, and I believe they’re here to stay.

    You said this is the most watched club football of only the 1st 6 months? I think the Mexican finals outdraw the USA finals in American viewership. I’ll do some research now and get back 2 u

  4. Jeff

    May 15, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Bradley isn’t calling either Whitbread or Johnson in. Stop getting your hopes up.

  5. A-RET

    May 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Good piece.

    I am glad more and more Americans are going to the more competitive atmosphere of the FMF to develop their skills at a young age rather than hanging around MLS and waiting for some over his head coach to make a decision on his career.

    Also props to Bob Bradley for being willing to select players who had the audacity to leave MLS or skip it altogether to further their careers. Arena was so pro MLS it was sick and that’s why 2006 was a disaster.

  6. M. Argueta

    May 15, 2009 at 11:22 am

    The Brazilian national championship does not have playoffs. It is European style. 20 teams , 38 games. The team with the most points is the champion. You may be reffering to the Stated championships and they do have playoffs. The Mexican league is unwatchable for my standards. Their football is boring. I hear people trying to sell it here including the writer of this article. Of course, millions of Mexico citizens live in the US and that is why they have a good audience.

  7. Cavan

    May 15, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Our playoffs in MLS (and in Mexico and Brazil) help with the diversity of champions. Playoffs make it harder for the same four teams to win year after year after year until you just don’t find the league interesting anymore.

    The British could learn a thing or two, but they won’t because they don’t and saying stupid stuff to sell papers to a jingoistic sports fanbase makes more financial sense. Yet another reason why we should ignore them.

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