Friday, Sept. 15, the Tijuana Xolos played their ninth game in the Liga MX Apertura 2017.
The border city side hosted Club America at the Estadio Caliente in what was expected to be one of the best games in the Liga MX this weekend, and the match did not disappoint. Apart from the product on the field, the atmosphere at the Estadio Caliente was expected to be the best it has been this season.
The attendance was made up of half Xolos fans and half Club America fans, and both sets of fans were into the game and created a spectacular atmosphere at the Estadio Caliente. A big question heading into the game was how the home support would receive Miguel Herrera and Guido Rodriguez. Both ex-Xolos were received with very few cheers and an overwhelmingly negative response.
Eduardo Coudet went with a 5-3-2 formation and the same starting XI that won him the game against Pumas UNAM last week. Gibran Lajud was in net with Matias Aguirregaray, Emanuel Aguilera, Alejandro Donatti, Michael Orozco, and Damian Perez making up the defense. The midfield trio consisted of Joe Corona, Damian Musto, and Ignacio Malcorra, with the strike partnership of Juan Manuel Iturbe and Gustavo Bou.
Straight from kickoff, the atmosphere at the border city fortress was distinct and there was an elevated level of intensity felt on the pitch. Both teams were fighting, both managers wanted the three points from the game, and so did both sets of fans. With the type of play that was seen on the field, someone was bound to get injured or red-carded. Both occurred throughout this game as Club America’s Edson Alvarez suffered an injury in the 22nd minute. Former Xolos’ defender Carlos Vargas replaced Alvarez for “Piojo” Herrera. Shortly after the substitution, Oribe Peralta opened the score in Tijuana to make it 1-0 for Club America in the 25th minute of the game.
The game maintained its excitement after the goal. In the 26th minute, a penalty was called in the Xolos’ favor. Gustavo Bou stepped up to take the penalty, but kicked it awfully to Agustin Marchesin’s left and the Argentine goalkeeper had no problem saving the incredibly weak strike from Bou. The game remained 1-0 in Club America’s favor for the first 45 minutes, but the encounter was very evenly matched and there was no clear winner heading into the half.
The Estadio Caliente kept the vibrant atmosphere even at half time as there was an amazing fireworks show in honor of Mexican Independence Day. It was hard to imagine that the second half of this game could top the first half, but that is just what happened. A key moment came in the 57th minute, as Club America’s Miguel Samudio received his second yellow card of the game, leaving Las Aguilas down to 10 men. With the man advantage and the disadvantage on the scoreboard, Eduardo Coudet approached his opponent more aggressively and displayed that with a substitution. The Argentine Manager replaced defender Michael Orozco with the Xolos’ latest signing, Miller Bolanos. The Ecuadorian was on for his Liga MX debut and almost instantly made an impact. In the 67th minute, Gustavo Bou provided a beautiful backheel pass that found Bolanos in the penalty area. The newest Xolos’ player finished the opportunity perfectly and made it a 1-1 game at the Mictlan.
A minute after the goal, “Chacho” made another substitution as Alejandro Guido came on for Joe Corona in the midfield. The match still had plenty to offer as the Aztec Canines were trying to take advantage of being a man up. Coudet could not find the formula to get the ball in the back of the net. In the 80th minute of the match, Luis Angel Mendoza replaced Juan Manuel Iturbe. Iturbe had a solid game, but Mendoza had been performing extremely well recently and arguably deserved the start in this game.
In the 83rd minute, “Quick” Mendoza almost scored the winning goal as a header was somehow stopped by goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin. The bad blood between the two teams kept on going as Damian Musto received his second yellow card of the game, leaving both teams with 10 men on the pitch. The game remained intense until the final whistle and the clash finished in a deadlock 1-1 draw.
The result was a positive one for the Xoloitzcuintles as the border city side looked the best it had in the last few weeks. There were countless opportunities that were wasted as Eduardo Coudet’s team finished the game with 17 shots and 65-percent possession. Miguel Herrera looked calm in his postgame press conference and did seem to be content with the point from the game. Eduardo Coudet was also content and said, “The team is growing and getting better” and “The team (Xolos) was superior to its opponent”. However, Coudet did also say “We lost two points”, showcasing that the Xolos had countless opportunities to get the three points from the game. Coudet is now in an entirely new situation than what he was in the beginning of the season as the depth on Club Tijuana is incredible. The Argentine manager said, “Miller is an amazing player” regarding Miller Bolanos.
“El Chacho” now has several players that should be in the starting XI, like Gustavo Bou, Juan Manuel Iturbe, Miller Bolanos, and Luis Angel Mendoza, but it will be impossible to fit all of them in the lineup. The Xolos proved to be capable against a tough opponent like Club America, and now look to be a strong candidate for the playoffs. The next task for Club Tijuana will be against Lobos BUAP away from home in the 10th round of matches in the Liga MX Apertura 2017, in what should be a very winnable game.