The Tijuana Xolos started up their Apertura 2017 campaign this Friday, July 21, at the Estadio Caliente against Cruz Azul.
The entire city of Tijuana was buzzing for the new season to kick off at the border city fortress and the fans were anticipating a lot from Eduardo Coudet and the rebuilt Tijuana Xolos.
A transitional phase without Miguel Herrera, Aviles Hurtado, or Guido Rodriguez was underway in Tijuana, and players like Gustavo Bou and Damian Musto were looking to become icons for the team and the city of Tijuana.
Eduardo Coudet went with a 4-4-2 formation to start out the game. Gibran Lajud was in net. The back four consisted of Matias Aguirregaray, Emmanuel Aguilera, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, and Damian Perez. The two central midfielders were Alejandro Guido and Damian Musto, while Mauricio Cuero and Ignacio Malcorra played out on the wings. Finally, the striking combo up top consisted of Henry Martin and Juan Martin Lucero.
The stadium erupted at kickoff with the chant of “Fuerza Tijuas” filling the air, and many blue shirts supporting Cruz Azul also filled the Mictlan. The first few minutes of the game were promising as Club Tijuana generated scoring opportunities and looked like the team that was more likely to score. Early on it was unclear what the newest additions to the team brought to the table, but things looked hopeful at the Estadio Caliente.
Things quickly turned a tide for the worse at the border city fortress as a penalty was awarded to Cruz Azul. This was the turning point in the game as Gibran Lajud completely took out Martin Rodriguez in the penalty area, injuring him and receiving a yellow card in the process.
In the 19th minute of the match, Adrian Aldrete stepped up to take the penalty for the Mexico City team, but failed in the delivery, smashing the top left part of the crossbar. Just seconds later, Adrian Aldrete executed a corner kick that found Edgar Mendez in the Xolos’ penalty area. Mendez got a potent header on the ball, but Gibran Lajud had a woeful error that cost the team dearly. The Mexican goalkeeper could not properly handle the sphere and it bounced into the back of the net to put Cruz Azul up 1-0.
After that goal, the Xoloitzcuintles were not the same 11 players that stepped onto the pitch at the initial whistle. Frustration grew within the team and nothing could be created going forward, especially from the midfield. Alejandro Guido and Mauricio Cuero seemed lost in the game and were not contributing much at all.
The halftime whistle blew and a comeback did not seem likely for the home team with the 11 players that started the game. Changes had to be made. Henry Martin was replaced by Luis Chavez at halftime and Eduardo Coudet opted to change his formation. The Argentine skipper was now running a 4-3-3 formation with Chavez in the midfield and Juan Martin Lucero as a lone striker. Order was restored at the Estadio Caliente for a few moments as the Xolos seemed to be playing much better at the start of the second half.
The passing seemed a lot more fluid and Club Tijuana was dominating possession of the sphere. The game then became flat again and nothing was happening for either team. A spark was needed to revive the lackluster style of play by the Xolos, and the game in general. In the 61st minute, Gustavo Bou came on for Mauricio Cuero to try and revive the disastrous Xolos’ attack. The debut of Bou had been heavily anticipated and he did not disappoint. Sure, the Argentine did not contribute to the score, but he was doing everything in his power to try and generate something for the Aztec Canines. Bou showcased that he is a complete forward who has strength, speed, and tremendous vision as well. The problem was that the dismantled and unmotivated midfield was not generating anything in return for Bou to act on.
In the 71st minute, “El Chacho” Coudet made his third, and most controversial, substitution of the night by replacing Alejandro Guido with 17-year-old Daniel Lopez. Th youngster came in with the number 299 on his back and was absent in the encounter, not doing anything in the game. In the 82nd minute of the game, the Xolos had a free-kick that resulted in nothing but a counter-attack that La Maquina did take full advantage of.
Martin Cauteruccio found himself alone up the field with the sphere against Gibran Lajud and made an unselfish pass to his teammate, Edgar Mendez, The Spanish winger took care of business with a slight tap of the ball to get past Gibran Lajud for the second time in the game. The game was done and dusted after that goal, as it was 2-0 and the Xolos had no chance of climbing back into the encounter.
The border city side was abysmal in the inaugural match of the Liga MX Apertura 2017 and played one of its worst games at the Estadio Caliente in recent times. There were few bright spots worth noting that were overshadowed by how weak the attack and midfield looked during the 90 minutes. Of course, this is just the first match of seventeen in this tournament and the team can only improve after such a dreadful performance. The Xolos must now work very hard to ensure a much better performance in next week’s game against Necaxa away from home.