The Tijuana Xolos played their 14th game in the Liga MX 2018 Apertura on Saturday, Oct.27, 2018 when the Border City Dogs hosted Pumas UNAM at the Estadio Caliente. The game was set to be a very tough match for the Aztec Canines and it did turn out to be that way as it was a very hard-fought and intense encounter at the Mictlan.
The first half of the clash was very dull as neither team managed to get a shot on target on the synthetic turf of the Caliente. The Xoloitzcuintles kept their offensive struggles consistent, even with a few changes in Diego Cocca’s starting XI.
The atmosphere at the border city fortress was lively and intense as fans from both teams kept it vibrant and loud. The halftime entertainment was interesting, to say the least, as cheerleaders and members of Xolos’ youth academy performed a rendition of “Thriller” dressed up as zombies. The performance was almost as spooky as the Xolos’ offense that proved to be ineffective yet again. The second half was immediately better than the first half as both teams had clear-cut opportunities early on. Diego Cocca took a risk and tried to stay aggressive as he replaced Eryc Castillo and Diego Rodriguez with Fabian Castillo and Luis Chavez.
The clearest opportunity of the night came for the Aztec Canines in the 73rd minute as they were awarded a penalty kick. Juan Martin Lucero stepped up to take the penalty and failed miserably as he released a weak shot that seemed more like a pass to Pumas’ goalkeeper Alfredo Saldivar than a shot. The Argentine striker was subbed off in the 83rd minute and received numerous boos from the home crowd. Erick “Cubo” Torres replaced Lucero and he, too, was booed as he stepped onto the pitch by the Xolos’ fans.
The crowd became restless as it wanted a goal. It came, but to Pumas, as Matias Alustiza released a powerful shot that found the back of the net in the 85th minute. The Argentine forward received a perfect assist by former Xolos’ player Juan Manuel Iturbe to add insult to injury. That goal proved to be the final blow as the Xoloitzcuintles fell to the Mexico City team by the minimum at the Estadio Caliente. There were many Pumas fans at the Mictlan that enjoyed the victory, but there were more Xolos fans that saw the playoffs become an unrealistic desire by the end of the night.
Club Tijuana is now in 13th place with 16 points, four points out of a playoff spot and with no real chance of making the top eight.
Xolos Starting’ Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza, Julian Velazquez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Luis Fuentes, Diego Rodriguez (60’ Luis Chavez), Diego Gonzalez, Jesus Angulo, Eryc Castillo (60’ Fabian Castillo), Miller Bolanos, Juan Martin Lucero (83’ Erick Torres)
Diego Cocca did make some adjustments as he decided to bench Gustavo Canto, Fabian Castillo, and Erick Torres after some inconsistent performances. However, these changes did not make much of an impact as Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Jesus Angulo, and Juan Martin Lucero were not much better on the night. It is clear that the Xolos need a new striker as it is impossible to be competitive with the current offensive setup that the team has.