Liga MX awards: Atlas won title but Club America season's biggest surprise?

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Are Atlas the best back-to-back Liga MX champions? (1:45)

Herculez Gomez debates how the current Atlas team stacks up against previous back-to back champions in Liga MX. (1:45)

Liga MX's 2022 Clausura tournament is now officially over. All packed into a handful of months, it was another thrilling run that saw Pachuca top the regular season table but fall just short of a championship after losing to title-holders and No. 3 seed Atlas in the playoff final. Atlas, with another trophy in hand, are now only the third club with back-to-back titles in Liga MX's short season format.

With the tournament now done and dusted -- and the start of the next season just one month away -- we now have a chance to look back and reflect on the highlights that stood out from Mexico's top flight. With that mind, here are our awards for the 2022 Clausura.

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Biggest surprise: Club America

Once dead last in the Liga MX table after Week 9, Club America were immediately revived under interim manager Fernando Ortiz, who stepped in for former coach Santiago Solari. No longer cautious in possession or a defensive mess, Las Aguilas powered through the end of the regular season with six wins and one draw that placed them at fourth in the table.

The undefeated streak continued through the quarterfinal round of the playoffs after defeating Puebla 4-3 on aggregate, and although Ortiz and his players eventually stumbled out in the semis against Pachuca, Club America had already cemented their status as the comeback story of the season.

Unsurprisingly, the Mexico City side announced last week that the Argentine coach would continue to remain in charge for the upcoming 2022 Apertura tournament.


Biggest letdown: Ricardo Ferretti

With five Liga MX titles under his belt through his time coaching Tigres, it was fair to expect manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti to make some waves with FC Juarez. Despite the fact that their roster was significantly more modest in comparison to Tigres', Tuca should have at least made his team a playoff contender.

After finishing in 16th place last season, FC Juarez dropped even further down to last place in the 2022 Clausura with just three wins in 17 matches. In short: They were dismal to watch. Lacking creativity, opportunities in the final third and conviction, Tuca and his men scored just 10 times all season.

Less than a year after taking the job, both the manager and the club parted ways last month. As for FC Juarez, they were left with a fine of 80 million pesos ($4 million) for finishing last in the coefficient table.


League MVP: Camilo Vargas

It has to be the Atlas goalkeeper Camilo Vargas, who led his side to lifting the trophy. Although some could make the argument for Tigres' Andre-Pierre Gignac -- who finished as the league-leading scorer with 14 to his name through the playoffs -- Vargas was outstanding in net and the most significant factor in his club's run towards the Clausura title.

Regardless of the fact that the Colombian recently turned 33, his shot-stopping and reflexes seem to be getting better with each appearance. For an Atlas side that would occasionally have issues with scoring, Vargas consistently stepped up with superhero-like moments that secured vital points and results.

Looking forward, he'll likely continue to add to his highlight reel with Atlas after extending his contract to 2026.


Best manager: Guillermo Almada

After manager Guillermo Almada took charge late last year, Pachuca quickly became the most dominant team in Liga MX. They don't have the roster starpower of a Tigres or Monterrey, or the massive popularity of a Chivas or Club America, but Los Tuzos punched above their weight in a Liga MX regular season that had them finishing at the top of the table.

In an attack-minded and dynamic 4-2-3-1 formation, Almeda and his men finished with not only the joint-best goalscoring tally in Liga MX, but also with the joint-best defense in the regular season. They came just short of winning the title, but that won't take anything away from the team that had a defined identity and gameplan week in and week out.

"When he arrived, the style of play was very clear. His principles were very clear," said Pachuca midfielder Victor Guzman about Almada ahead of the final.


Best U23 player: Kevin Alvarez

Kevin Alvarez is a well-rounded playmaker, a clever dribbler and vital tackler all in one. Since establishing himself as Pachuca's starting right-back in late 2020/early 2021, the young Mexican has become an invaluable member of the roster that finished first in the table.

This season, the 23-year-old added more pace and energy to his game, making him a headache for opposing defenders that often lost track of him as he launched dangerous crosses or passes forward after sprinting by.

On the national team level, Mexico manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino has taken notice and provided him with his first-ever start for El Tri during a friendly in April. Depending on how things go, a place in Qatar for the World Cup wouldn't be a surprise.


Best XI of the 2022 Clausura

Goalkeeper: Camilo Vargas (Atlas)
Right-back: Kevin Alvarez (Pachuca)
Central defenders: Israel Reyes (Puebla), Arturo Ortiz (Pumas)
Left-back: Luis Reyes (Atlas)
Central midfielder: Luis Chavez (Pachuca)
Attacking midfielders: Diego Valdes (Club America), Victor Guzman (Pachuca)
Right winger: Luis Quiñones (Tigres)
Left winger: Julian Quiñones (Atlas)
Striker: Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres)

Bench: Rodolfo Cota (Leon), Alan Mozo (Pumas), Jorge Sanchez (Club America), Pablo Aguilar (Cruz Azul), Daniel Aceves (Pachuca), Aldo Rocha (Atlas), Fernando Beltran (Chivas), Maximiliano Araujo (Puebla), Leonardo Fernandez (Toluca), Aviles Hurtado (Pachuca), Nicolas Ibañez (Pachuca), German Berterame (San Luis)