The Tijuana Xolos started up their Copa MX campaign this Tuesday, August 1 at the Estadio Caliente against Puebla.
Before this game, the Xolos had lost two consecutive games in the Liga MX competition and had not scored in those two games. There had not even been a glimpse of the “dynamic, intense, offensive” style that “El Chacho” Coudet had promised going into the season.
All of this changed entirely on Tuesday night at the border city fortress as the Xolos looked distinct than they had in previous encounters. There were still some clear problems with the team but the Aztec Canines did look much improved than they had in their Liga MX games.
Eduardo Coudet went with a 4-3-3 formation from kickoff which he had not done before. The Argentine manager had used the formation before but never from the initial whistle this season. Jose Antonio Rodriguez was in net, with the back four consisting of Michael Orozco, Alejandro Donatti, Hiram Munoz, and the club captain for the match Damian Perez. The midfield trio was made up of youngster Luis Chavez, Chula Vista native Alejandro Guido and fresh signing Enzo Kalinski. Finally, the front three featured Paul Arriola, Ignacio Malcorra and Henry Martin. There were six players in the lineup that had not started a game yet this season, this included Paul Arriola, Luis Chavez, Enzo Kalinski, Michael Orozco, Hiram Munoz and Antonio Rodriguez.
The changes in formation, players and even Ignacio Malcorra’s new shaved head look anticipated that this would be a different game for the border city side. There was also a sold-out crowd at the Estadio Caliente ready for the first win under Eduardo Coudet. The fans did not have to wait long in this game for the first goal of the season as six minutes into the encounter Paul Arriola opened the score for Tijuana. A beautifully executed corner kick by Ignacio Malcorra found the American, who made a spectacular run from just outside of the box to go into the header with plenty of momentum and out leapt his opponent from around the penalty spot, landing the sphere in the back of Puebla’s net.
After 185 minutes without a goal under Eduardo Coudet, Club Tijuana was finally on the board.After this goal, glimpses of the “dynamic, intense, offensive” style were seen, as the Xolos attacked Puebla, looking for the second goal of the night. The home team was unable to get that second goal and Puebla was looking dangerous in the encounter with a few clear chances in the first 45 minutes. The clearest opportunity for Puebla fell near the end of the half in the 42nd minute but “Tono” Rodriguez emerged as a hero, stopping a one-on-one shot from Federico Gonzalez.
In the second half, the Xolos offense really slowed down and not much was seen by the home side going forward. Club Tijuana was rigid defensively, with a lot of players back during the latter half of the game. In the 75th minute, Puebla came close to equalizing the game again but “Tono” again wore his cape and emerged as the hero for Eduardo Coudet and his teammates. The Mexican goalkeeper stopped a threatening shot from Carlos Salom inside of the penalty area to keep the game level and help the Xolos get the three points from the game. Coudet and Club Tijuana held the lead perfectly during the last 15 minutes and walked away with the three points from the game. Damian Musto, Gustavo Bou and Juan Martin Lucero also received minutes in the game, Musto really helped maintain the lead in that defensive midfield role. Bou looked sharp offensively again, getting a one-on-one opportunity against the Puebla Goalkeeper Fabian Villasenor in the 78th minute but being denied by the Mexican goalkeeper.
The performance was solid by Club Tijuana but there some inconsistencies with the offense that suggest future struggles. The midfield looked the best it has under Coudet but was still lacking intense game play, Paul Arriola helped with his style of play but other players still seemed lost. The defense was the main talking point of the game providing rigid setwalls work throughout the 90 minutes, with the goalkeeper “Tono” Rodriguez stealing the show. Coudet may consider starting some of the players that had good performances in this game like Rodriguez and Paul Arriola in Liga MX matches. The team definitely still needs some refining but this victory is a boost of confidence and is a good stepping stone for more victories in the near future.