Tijuana Xolos Copa MX Playoffs Round of 16 Preview: Xolos Face Club America in First Round of Playoffs
Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Club America
When: Wednesday March 8 2017
Time: 7:00 P.M. PST
Where: Estadio Caliente
TV: ESPN Deportes, Univision Deportes
The Tijuana Xolos are one of the only professional sports teams in the Tijuana/San Diego area where the playoffs are a constant thing.
This Wednesday, we get the first whiff of the playoffs this tournament, as the Xolos will host Club America in the round of 16 in the Copa MX competition. The match is set to be the most enticing of this round of 16 and should present an incredible atmosphere at the Estadio Caliente.
The Xolos had a long and winding road to the playoffs of this Copa MX. The border city side formed part of group 1 of the tournament. A pair of second-division teams accompanied the Xolos in Correcaminos UAT and Cimarrones de Sonora. The Aztec Canines started off the tournament in the worst possible way, losing 1-0 against Sonora away from home. The loss was worrying as it could have been vital to the Xolos playoff aspirations in the Copa MX.
Luckily, after that shocking loss in week 1, the Xolos won in week 3, beating Correcaminos UAT 2-1 at the Estadio Caliente. The victory was not simple for Miguel Herrera’s side and this was, of course, the game where defender, Yasser Corona, suffered that horrible cervical injury which has kept him off a soccer pitch since January 31. After that complicated game, the Xolos faced Correcaminos UAT again in week 5, this time away from home. The Xolos again did not have an easy match, missing several opportunities, but did come away with a 1-0 victory against the team from Tamaulipas. Finally, in week 6, Club Tijuana hosted Sonora at the Estadio Caliente.
This was one of the most thrilling matches of the tournament for the Xolos, ending in an intense 2-1 victory for the Aztec Canines. The border city side yet again had a complicated match, wasting several opportunities and were lucky to come away with the three points from the game. The Xoloitzcuintles finished in first place in group 1 of the Copa MX, as the sixth best team overall in the competition.
Miguel Herrera did demonstrate that the tournament is of some importance to him, starting some of his key players like Aviles Hurtado, Guido Rodriguez, and Juan Carlos Valenzuela. It would not be surprising if ‘Piojo’ decides to utilize some or all of his Liga MX starters in this match. Unfortunately, Guido Rodriguez might not feature in the game, having suffered an injury in the latest Liga MX match against Pachuca. But it should be interesting to see what formation and what players the Mexican manager does decide to use against a tough opponent in Club America.
Club America is the most loved and most hated team in the country. It is also the most successful franchise in the Liga MX, having won 12 championships, the latest coming in the Apertura 2014 tournament. Currently, Club America is considered to be in a crisis, not doing as expected for the very demanding national fan base. ‘Los Azulcremas’ are currently in 13th place with 11 points, just one point away from a playoff spot in the Liga MX Clausura 2017. This is, of course, not enough for the fan base and now several want head coach Ricardo La Volpe out of the team, just a tournament after the Argentine skipper led the team to a league final.
‘Las Aguilas’ did not have an easy road to the playoffs in this competition, finishing second in group 3 with six points. Club America was accompanied by top-flight team, Santos Laguna, and second-division side, Coras FC, in group 3. ‘The Millionaires’ started off the competition nicely with a 3-2 victory over Santos Laguna. After that, La Volpe’s side struggled away from home against Coras FC, losing 3-2 in week 3 against the second-division side. The ‘Aguilas’ did get it together in week 4, defeating Coras FC 1-0 at home, then finished off the tournament, losing 3-2 to Santos Laguna away from home in week 6. Club America were lucky to advance to the playoffs with all three teams in the group finishing with six points. Luckily for the Mexico City side, their goal differential was better than Coras FC, which allowed the team to advance to the playoffs.
Ricardo La Volpe has expressed that this tournament is important to him. Success in the cup competition could mean more time to the manager who is currently in the hot seat. This game is vital for both Club America and Ricardo La Volpe, and it would not be surprising for the team’s best players to be present in the starting 11 for ‘Las Aguilas’.
The incoming presence of the team has caused a buzz around the city of Tijuana. Fans from all over Baja California, Southern California, and beyond will embark, or have embarked, on the pilgrimage to the Estadio Caliente to see their team in an official match. Some people cannot wait for Wednesday. Others are dreading it due to the intense traffic the presence of the Mexico City team will cause around the city. Either way, Wednesday is a special day in the border city, but Club America will look to spoil the occasion for the local fans.
Players to Watch
Hurtado has done well filling the void that Dayro Moreno had left when the tournament had begun. The 29-year-old has scored four goals and has also provided four assists in the nine games of the Liga MX competition. Hurtado has also been present in the Copa MX competition, mostly off the bench, only starting one game, but the Colombian forward has managed to score one goal. Aviles Hurtado is clearly the main figure in attack for Miguel Herrera, providing immense pace, skill, and vision. Hurtado can be the player who scores the goal or provides the pass no one saw coming. The Colombian is a mixture of skill and intelligence out on the pitch that not many other players can offer. It should be interesting to see how Aviles Hurtado will fare in a game of this magnitude against a worthy adversary.
After being a consistent starter for seven games, Arriola has not been present in the starting lineup for Miguel Herrera in the Liga MX for two straight games. ‘Piojo’ did not even start the San Diego native in the last Copa MX match against Sonora, which was odd since Arriola had not started in the Liga MX. The former Mater-Dei High School student has proven to be a versatile player, being valuable both defensively and offensively. Arriola has two goals and two assists in seven Liga MX games as a starter. A player with his talent should receive more playing time throughout the season. It will be interesting to see if Herrera starts the young American player in this match.
All the newspapers, magazines, and online publications in Mexico are filled with Diego Lainez. What’s so special about him? Well, this past week in week 9 of the Liga MX, the 16-year-old made his debut with Club America against Leon at the Estadio Leon. Yes, a 16-year-old just debuted for arguably the biggest sports franchise in Mexico. Lainez played the full second half of the game against Leon, playing very well. The youngster made decisions on the pitch far beyond his years, making exceptional passes and giving a spark to the ‘Aguilas’. Of course, fans and media are already suggesting that this kid is the savior of the current “crisis” Club America finds itself in. There is no denying the player born in the year 2000 has talent, but he still has a long way to go. Manager, Ricardo La Volpe has already said he has full trust in the youngster going forward this season. It will be interesting to see if Lainez does feature in this huge game and whether he can make an impact on Club America.
Apart from the players, the managers, fans, and overall atmosphere should be a spectacle to see in this match. Miguel Herrera and Ricardo La Volpe are two of the biggest characters in the Liga MX and seeing the two go head-to-head should be fascinating. Club America will also bring an enormous crowd, with the number of yellow shirts in the Estadio Caliente rivaling the number of red and black shirts. The prediction for the match is an intense 2-2 game in regulation time with the Xolos winning the game in penalties. Carlos Darwin Quintero and Oribe Peralta with the goals for Club America, while Aviles Hurtado and Joe Corona score the goals for the Xolos. The match really is a must-watch, whether at the Estadio Caliente or on TV. For those who head out to the stadium, especially those coming from the US, leave at least five hours before game time towards the Estadio Caliente as the traffic will be horrid. Have fun, meet people, perhaps tailgate. The event is a huge deal for the city of Tijuana and should be a game unlike any we have witnessed this season. Fuerza Tijuas!
Francisco, 26, Chula Vista/Tijuana. I have been a Padres fan all my life, did most of the series previews and recaps in the Padres’ 2016 season for EVT. Now I focus more on the local soccer scene. Tijuana Xolos, San Diego Loyal, San Diego Wave.