The Tijuana Xolos started off their Copa Corona MX campaign in the worst way possible by falling 1-0 against second division team, Cimarrones of Sonora.
The Xolos also had a pessimistic game and merited the loss, not like in their week one Liga MX game against Morelia. Head coach Miguel Herrera was serving a suspension and was coaching the game from the stands, giving orders to the assistant coach via walkie talkie. Herrera decided to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation for the game. 37-year-old Luis Ernesto Michel got the nod to start in net for the first time this year.
The defense was made up of Michael Orozco, Emanuel Aguilera, Yasser Corona, and 20-year-old John Requejo. Juan Carlos Nunez and Juan Carlos Medina played as two defensive midfielders, while Joe Corona and Luis Chavez played out on the wings. The strike force was made up of Juan Martin Lucero playing just in behind Henry Martin. 33-year-old Juan Carlos Nunez captained the team in this game, Nunez has been with the club since 2008 and offered good leadership in the game despite the loss.
The bench did offer good options for Herrera, which he did end up using. Milton Caraglio, Victor Malcorra, and Paul Arriola were the key players that made up Tijuana’s bench. The game started out promising as Juan Martin Lucero got a shot on early on in the game, which Sonora’s goalkeeper, Gabino Espinoza, did manage to keep out. After that chance, the pace of the match dramatically changed and we did not see another key opportunity until the 41st minute of the game. Henry Martin made it to the penalty area and tried a near-post shot on the left side of Sonora’s net. The 5-foot-7 striker was denied by Gabino Espinoza, who proved to be the hero again at the Estadio Heroe de Nacozari.
The first half turned out to be a dull affair that neither team seemed to dominate in. The second half kicked off and Tijuana quickly lost control of the game in the 50th minute. A corner kick by Cimarrones F.C. turned out to be lethal as 23-year-old Luis Lorona got the best out of Yasser Corona’s marking to make it 1-0 to Sonora.
The best chance of the game for Tijuana fell in the 60th minute. A perfect cross by Joe Corona fell straight to Juan Martin Lucero. But Sonora’s Gabino Espinoza saved his team yet again as a cat-like reaction allowed the goalie to slap the ball just over the crossbar. After that key opportunity, the game slowed down heavily yet again. Miguel Herrera made a string of substitutions from the 62nd minute to the 77th minute. The first one was last Friday’s star, Victor Malcorra, in for Luis Chavez, then Paul Arriola for Juan Carlos Medina in the 66th minute, and finally striker Martin Caraglio in for defender Yasser Corona in the 77th minute. Tijuana instantly caused a change of pace by bringing on key starters and an extra attacking option. The last key opportunity for the Xoloitzcuintles fell in the 86th minute of the game.
Victor Ignacio Malcorra managed to get a shot from inside of Sonora’s penalty area, but of course, Gabino Espinoza yet again denied Tijuana of at least coming away with one point from the game. The game ended, and the Xolos started off their Copa MX campaign in pessimistic fashion. Miguel Herrera ended up using six of Tijuana’s key starters in the game, but it was all for naught. Herrera’s face towards the end of the game sitting in the stands said it all. ‘Piojo’ had no choice but take the defeat and compliment the Sonora crowd by taking pictures with them when the game finished.
The obvious key player of the game turned out to be Gabino Espinoza, who had just been benched in Sonora’s latest Liga de Ascenso match. The 26-year-old goalkeeper had plenty of key saves that impeded Tijuana from getting on the score sheet, to make for an amazing 26th birthday for him. As for the Xolos, the game was a clear disappointment because several goals were expected after just having won 6-2 against Puebla F.C. It was unprecedented that a second division team would cause the Aztec Dogs so much trouble. Tijuana do have a huge game on the weekend against Chivas of Guadalajara. The match will be important to truly judge Tijuana’s progress to this point. Until the preview for that critical Liga MX match, Fuerza Tijuas!