The Tijuana Xolos played their week 15 match against Toluca this Friday, April 22.
The match was set to be one of the best of this weekend, between first place Toluca and the second place Tijuana Xolos.
This was the fifth and final game that head coach Miguel Herrera would miss due to suspension. Herrera went with a lineup that had two peculiar exclusions. “El Piojo” utilized a 4-4-2 formation with Gibran Lajud in net. Hiram Munoz, Carlos Vargas, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, and Juan Carlos Nunez made up the back line. The midfield consisted of Joe Corona and Guido Rodriguez in the middle with Ignacio Malcorra and Paul Arriola out wide. Finally, the attacking duo up top was made up of Aviles Hurtado, playing just in behind Milton Caraglio.
The first half of the game left plenty to be desired, as there were only a few poorly executed opportunities. The encounter began promisingly as Milton Caraglio had a scoring opportunity in the first minute of the game. Off a cross by Ignacio Malcorra, Caraglio managed to get his head on the ball, but the header fell out of danger. After that opportunity, there were not very many clearer chances in the game. Paul Arriola threatened Toluca’s net in the 15th minute of the match with a shot after a blocked shot, but the strike fell with ease to Alfredo Talavera. The game grew dull after that, as both teams embarked in a physical battle to gain possession of the ball. The stagnant encounter would not see another scoring opportunity until the 39th minute of the game.
Aviles Hurtado had a clear opportunity against Alfredo Talavera, but the shot was not true and just went straight to the goalkeeper’s hands. The first half ended as it started, with a 0-0 score line. Toluca seemed to be playing for nothing with no shots on target and utilizing a very pragmatic style of play. Hernan Cristante did not seem to want the victory from this game, but seemed to be settling with getting a point from the encounter at the Estadio Caliente. The first half finished with Toluca having the edge in possession with 55 percent but had no shots on goal compared to the Xolos four.
The second half did not start out distinct from the first half, but did turn out to be a different game. The Xolos had opportunities in the first 45 minutes, but were not clinical with them. That changed in the second half at the Estadio Caliente. A turning point came in the 65th minute of the encounter when Paul Arriola was subbed off for Matias Pisano. Pisano had not received much playing time this tournament, playing in less than 100 minutes before this game. The Argentine had not made an impact yet, but proved to be vital in this clash. Pisano came in and ignited the game for the Tijuana Xolos, making the Aztec Canines a more potent threat going forward. Five minutes after Pisano came into the game, the first goal of the night fell to the border city side. In the 70th minute at the Estadio Caliente, Ignacio Malcorra orchestrated a perfect cross into Toluca’s penalty area.
San Diego native, Joe Corona, made a spectacular leap to get to the sphere with his head and net his second goal of the tournament. The goal was a spectacular play by the home side and created a spark in the game. It was at this moment that the game became a different encounter than what we had seen. Toluca realized that it could not just keep on staying back, and the Xolos had a boost of confidence from the goal. Club Tijuana took advantage of the fired-up home crowd and of that boost of confidence, and kept on attacking the ‘Diablos Rojos’. Milton Caraglio had not looked great in this game and was replaced by Juan Martin Lucero in the 71st minute. The Aztec Canines continued to bombard Toluca with attack after attack.
Finally, in the 82nd minute, the border city side sealed its victory, making it a 2-0 game. Off a cross by Aviles Hurtado, Ignacio Malcorra controlled the sphere perfectly inside the penalty area and made a potent strike that wound up in the back of Alfredo Talavera’s net. After that goal, the Xolos maintained their lead and came away with the three points from the game. The three points ensured that the Prehistoric Dogs would come away in first place after this week with 28 points. Another thing that the three points ensured was that Miguel Herrera’s side was going to be in the playoffs for a second consecutive tournament. The border city side played as a unit in this encounter and passed a great test, defeating a strong Toluca side. Another important thing was that Club Tijuana kept a clean sheet with an incomplete defense that has now proved to be reliable. The Xolos will have no pressure in their last two games, but will face a worthy adversary next week as they will travel to Monterrey to face Tigres UANL. Fuerza Tijuas!