Andre-Pierre Gignac had a "quiet" regular season.
His hat trick on the final weekend took him to eight goals on the year, putting him in a tie for second place in the top-scorer race. But it was still far behind the standard he'd set for himself since arriving in the summer of 2015. Six of the goals came in the final five weeks of the season as Tigres made their late push to get into the postseason after a miserable opening two months.
The Frenchman continued his hot streak, scoring a pair of goals in a 4-1 victory over Monterrey in the first leg of the teams' Liga MX quarterfinal. The win puts Tigres in pole position to advance to the semifinals, and despite the No. 7 seed they carry have them looking like the most fearsome team in the league.
In stark contrast to 2016, when Monterrey came into the Volcan and came out with a 3-1 victory in the first leg on the way to the final, Tigres were the only team that came to play Wednesday. They took advantage of the spaces left between Monterrey's midfield and defense, with Gignac making those gaps even wider with his savvy runs.
Rayados and coach Antonio Mohamed knew to look out for Gignac, but they couldn't do anything to stop him.
Gignac wasn't the only player to score twice against Monterrey. Jesus Duenas' lovely goal for Tigres' fourth squashed any thought Rayados might enter the second leg with any sort of momentum after a late goal credited to Jesus Basanta made things 3-1. But the three-goal advantage Tigres now take across town is as close to unassailable as it gets in the Liguilla.
And aside from the one goal, the back line was sound even without the injured Jorge Torres Nilo. The team extended its impressive streak of not allowing multiple goals for a 21st match in all competitions. Obviously, Monterrey will need to break that streak to have any hope of moving on.
While Gignac had scored only once before against rival Rayados, it's certainly not the first time he has saved up for the moments that really matter. In some respects, the flurry of goals late in the season is typical of the 31-year-old's time in North America. On the way to the title last tournament he followed up a regular season in which he scored just five goals with six goals in the Liguilla. He scored four for Tigres as they won the 2015 Apertura. This is a player who understands the occasion, who knows how to find the moment.
Gignac is loving life in Mexico, and as he climbs Tigres' scoring charts he's showing once again that he will go down as a club legend. When the team has needed him most - whether a title is slipping out of grasp or it needs an emphatic performance against its rival to keep momentum going.
That momentum is showing no signs of stopping with Gignac once again back to his best. He and Tigres sent a message to the league Wednesday night: The reigning champion is once again coming for the crown.