ESPN FC's Liga MX Clausura Awards: Best player, signing, biggest flop, more

The Liga MX Clausura regular season has come to a close, and what better way to round up the action as we head into the Liguilla than with our awards? ESPN FC asked our experts Tom Marshall, Nayib Moran, Cesar Hernandez and Eric Gomez for their picks for best player, biggest flop and more:

Best player

Aviles Hurtado, FW, Club Tijuana

No player has made a greater contribution to his team's success this regular season, with Hurtado notching up eight goals and four assists. The forward is the very definition of "desequilibrante" -- destabilizing opposition defenses with his pace and directness. -- Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup)

The striker has been among the most explosive players in Liga MX for a while now, but his play during the 2017 Clausura regular season was his most spectacular yet. With eight goals and a bona fide Puskas candidate in his resume, Hurtado positioned himself as one of the best players in Mexico. -- Eric Gomez (@EricGomez86)

Osvaldo Martinez, MF, Santos Laguna

There's no doubt Hurtado has had an impressive season, but Martinez's first campaign with Santos has been equally as special. Youngsters like Walter Sandoval and Ulises Rivas have looked sharp, mainly because Martinez's leadership has given them liberty to move freely around the pitch. He's been the orchestrator of Santos' attack, and is one of the main reasons why Los Guerreros only lost once in the Clausura. -- Nayib Moran (@nayibmoran)

Guido Rodriguez, MF, Club Tijuana

Tijuana's defense and attack would have fallen apart without the hard-working Rodriguez. The defensive midfielder, who recently turned 23, was brilliant for Xolos in the heart of the starting XI. -- Cesar Hernandez (@cesarhfutbol)

Breakout player

Luis Reyes, DF, Atlas

The 26-year-old left-back had very little first-division experience before the Clausura, but he has shown such a solid all-round game that he is now very much in the Mexico national team picture. Young Santos Laguna right-back Jorge Sanchez also deserves a mention. -- Marshall

Walter Sandoval, MF, Santos

Sandoval can be considered a work in progress. Even though he played 1,127 minutes last campaign, his career took off in the Clausura. He finished as the Mexican footballer with the most assists in Liga MX (five). The Guadalajara native could become one of the biggest idols in La Comarca Lagunera. -- Moran

Jose Maduena, DF, Atlas

Out of nowhere, everyone seems to be talking about Maduena. A vital figure in Atlas' noteworthy run this year. -- Hernandez

Nicolas Castillo, FW, Pumas

In just 11 games this season, Castillo slammed eight goals past Liga MX goalkeepers and became one of the most feared strikers in the league. Despite an underwhelming season from Pumas, their supporters should be excited for a strong second act from the player. -- Gomez

Best manager

Miguel Herrera, Club Tijuana

Consecutive first-place finishes in the regular season is special, highlighting consistent quality. Liga MX's playoff system doesn't reward such consistency, but if Mexico had a European style league, Xolos would now be champions without possessing one of the strongest squads in the league. -- Marshall

Injury problems in his back line and a five-game suspension have done little to stop Herrera from finishing in first place for the second season in a row. All signs point to a move back to America this summer. -- Hernandez

Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre, Santos Laguna

De la Torre was once dubbed the best young Mexican manager in Liga MX. His resume says that he has three league titles -- two more than Herrera. With "Chepo" in charge, Santos has become a hard side to break down, and the manager will certainly be eyeing another league trophy. -- Moran

Jose Guadalupe Cruz, Atlas

After weak stints at his past three or four stops, Cruz has become a beacon for Atlas fans hoping to end a drought of almost seven decades for the club. Last season, he banked on young Mexican prospects to find talent, and in the current tournament those bets have paid off, with the team's first Liguilla appearance since 2015. -- Gomez

Best signing

Matias Alustiza, FW, Atlas

With eight goals and three assists, Alustiza has been key to Atlas' playoff run and filled a void up front that has long been a headache for the Guadalajara club. No. 2 would be Martinez at Santos Laguna. -- Marshall

Even at age 32 (33 on May 31), Alustiza has continued to be one of the most underrated and effective players in Liga MX, this time replicating his success with the Guadalajara side. Eight goals, three assists and a strong veteran presence on a young team solidifies him as this season's best arrival. -- Gomez

Angel Mena, FW, Cruz Azul

Although Cruz Azul will not take part in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, Mena proved that he can help the club compete against the best in Liga MX, contributing five goals and four assists. -- Moran

Nicolas Castillo, FW, Pumas

It was a depressing end to the season for Pumas and Castillo, but we can't overlook his eight goals and two assists collected by late March. -- Hernandez

Biggest surprise

Santos Laguna's success

De la Torre's public image is a long way behind his actual ability as a coach. The former national team boss has made Santos extremely difficult to beat -- the side has lost only once all season -- and has done so using a core of young Mexican talents. -- Marshall

America, Pachuca miss playoffs

In Week 17, Club America was on the verge of reaching its 11th consecutive Liguilla, but Oscar Murillo's header gave Los Tuzos a 3-2 win at Azteca. Neither team will be in the playoffs, though, and it will feel odd because both have been among the most consistent in recent years. -- Moran

Club America missing out is very surprising. After working past some early problems, Las Aguilas narrowly missed out on the top eight through goal differential. It will be fascinating to see how they rebuild. -- Hernandez

Parity from top to bottom

From top to bottom, only 15 points separated the league's best team (Tijuana) from its worst (Puebla). Santos, who lost just one game, finished fifth in the regular season, while Veracruz missed out on the playoffs in 13th place after winnig seven times. For reference, six teams with equal or fewer wins made it into the Liguilla (Monterrey, Chivas, Santos, Atlas, Tigres and Morelia). -- Gomez

Biggest flop

Cruz Azul after Jemez's arrival

This is an easy one. With the money invested and coach Paco Jemez brought in, not making the playoffs is simply not good enough. -- Marshall

Braian Rodriguez at Pachuca

Pachuca's attacking options off the bench were almost nonexistent in the Clausura, and one of the reasons why was because forward Rodriguez never found himself comfortable in Liga MX. He took zero shots on goal in 381 minutes played. -- Moran

Pumas' disappointing finish

No excuses for only 18 points after 17 matches. The second-to-last place team fell apart, with four losses in a row to finish the regular season. -- Hernandez

Mexico City teams

America, Pumas and Cruz Azul, who boast a total of 27 league titles between them, will all watch the playoffs from the comfort of their homes. Between America's injuries, Pumas' implosion in the second half and Cruz Azul's inability to close out games, this was a season to forget in Mexico's capital. -- Gomez