Over in Guadalajara, celebrations are beginning again soon within Jaliscos streets, with Atlas joining Pumas and Leon as one-time back-to-back winners of the short-season Liga MX format. With the possibility still scattered across the city of Guadalajara since the start of the season, supporters of Atlas only had to wait another 168 days before they could once again celebrate the championship title when Atlas defeated Pachuca 3-2 on aggregate to end the 2022 Clausura season. In each of the last two regular seasons, no Liga MX team has allowed fewer goals than Atlas.
Since Grupo Orlegi took over the costs as owners in 2019, there has undoubtedly been an evolution of Atlas and the players on the Atlas. Since Grupo Orlegi took over as owners in 2019, the club and its players have certainly developed. Although eyebrows were raised when Grupo Orlegi intervened a few years back, because Grupo Orlegi also manages Santos Laguna in Mexico’s top division, the change has already paid off for Atlas.
When Atlas hoisted the trophy at the end of 2021, it had been 70 years since it had won the Mexican top-flight title. With an excellent stable of homegrown talent and smart international signings, it is not surprising that Atlas was in the position to finish a regular season atop the table. Not so far back; they were a team who represented more the past than the future. Draws and wins were usually narrow in the Clausura tournament, making some wonder if their 2021 Apertura title would be a flash in the pan. For staff across the country, Mexico’s head coach, GerardoTata Martino, also seemed to be left with questions, which have persisted until now.
Had a few shots gone wide or the selection of officials gone the way of several Atlas players, the script might have been that of Atlas winning their seventh Liga MX title since 1999. They would continue on Thursday with a 2-0 victory in their opening match against Pachuca but would have then had their backs against the wall as the second leg Sunday was tied at 2-1 for Pachuca by halftime, thus giving head coach Diego Cocca and his men only the slimmest of leads, at 3-2. Needing just one more goal to tie the game and send the ultimate into extra-time, Pachuca marched forward, also taking the one-person advantage when Anibal Challa, from the club, saw red.
Months after Atlas players and fans were forced to run down the stadium’s tunnels, it is incredible that the squad members were mentally able to keep playing through the season, much less win their second consecutive title. On paper, the club might look at what Pachuca is doing and make notes about Pachuca.