The Tijuana Xolos played the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League round of 16 matchup against Motagua on Tuesday at the Estadio Caliente.
The border city side was going into the match with a slim 1-0 lead, but was the favorite to go through to the quarterfinals of the competition. The game was not as simple as expected for the Xolos, even though the Aztec Canines were clearly the better team in the encounter.
The decisive moment of the series came just two minutes into the game as Alberto Garcia scored the goal that would give Club Tijuana its ticket to the quarterfinals. The goal was not pretty as it was the result of some atrocious defending by the Honduran side that allowed the Mexican striker to give his team a 1-0 lead.
The Border City Dogs stayed dangerous throughout the 90 minutes as the team finished with 19 total shots and 67-percent possession. Motagua also had a few decent opportunities, but were denied by Gibran Lajud, who was voted as the man of the match.
The Central American side did finally find the back of the net towards the end of the encounter in the 88th minute with a goal by Walter Martinez. The goal was very impressive as Martinez somehow found space for a shot in between four Xolos’ players and managed to strike the ball past Gibran Lajud. Motagua goalkeeper Jonathan Rougier had a tremendous performance that impeded Club Tijuana from coming away with a more impressive result. The game ended 1-1, but Diego Cocca’s team came away with the 2-1 win on aggregate to advance to the quarterfinals.
The performance overall in the series was unconvincing for the Aztec Canines and certainly raises questions about the team as they advance in the CCL. The Xolos will now face either the New York Red Bulls from the MLS or Olimpia from Honduras in the next round. That series is currently tied 1-1 as it will be decided this Wednesday at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
— @Xolos_En (@xolos_en) February 28, 2018
Xolos’ Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza, Pablo Aguilar, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Damian Perez, Damian Musto (85’ Fernando Arce), Mateus Goncalves (80’ Julio Angulo), Ignacio Rivero (70’ Alejandro Guido), Luis Angel Mendoza, Miller Bolanos, Alberto Garcia
Diego Cocca was forced to make a few modifications to his lineup with the injuries to Gustavo Bou, Juan Martin Lucero, and Ignacio Malcorra. Alberto Garcia played in the striker role for Bou, and Lucero and did a fine job as he provided the goal that gave the Xolos their ticket to the quarterfinals of the tournament, while Luis Mendoza replaced Malcorra on the right wing. Now the question is if Diego Cocca will use a similar starting XI against Lobos BUAP in Liga MX play this Friday or an alternate squad.
Main Talking Point: Finishing
The Prehistoric Dogs struggled massively in the encounter to finish key opportunities and this is a huge worry with the style of play that Diego Cocca uses. The Argentine’s pragmatic and conservative style of play only allows for a few chances in each game and the Xolos must take full advantage of the few opportunities they do receive. The Xoloitzcuintles are still the only team in the Liga MX that has not scored away from home, and finishing issues have played a role in this.
Diego Cocca seemed a bit bothered and displeased with the result put in by Club Tijuana. The South American head coach specifically pointed out the finishing issues and said, “When you show forgiveness, you end up suffering”. Gibran Lajud referred to this “suffering” as the Xolos did surprisingly struggle against a much weaker side. Lajud said, “The truth is I think that we suffered a bit too much” when asked about his thoughts on the series.