Tijuana Xolos Liga MX CL 18 Playoffs Preview: Xolos Seek Another Upset in Semifinals Against Toluca
Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Toluca
When: Thursday, May 10, 2018
Where: Estadio Caliente, Tijuana, Mexico
Time: 7:30 P.M. Pacific
TV: Univision Deportes
The Tijuana Xolos defied the odds and defeated Monterrey in the Liga MX Clausura 2018 quarterfinals.
The Border City Dogs came away with a 3-2 win in a two-legged series on aggregate and are now inching closer to their second league title in franchise history. Club Tijuana will now face Toluca in the semifinals of the competition and will play the first leg of that series at the Estadio Caliente this Thursday, May 10. The Aztec Canines are going into this game as the underdogs once again, like they did in the quarterfinal series against Monterrey.
Diego Cocca was able to get the best out of his team in the quarterfinals as the Xoloitzcuintles looked the best they had all season in that series. In the first leg, Los Rojinegros outclassed Los Rayados at the Estadio Caliente, but the players were unable to be clinical in front of net. Thus, the game ended 1-1. But in the second leg, the defense was nearly perfect and the offense was on point, along with some luck as well.
The second leg at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer ended 2-1 in the Xolos’ favor, with goals by Miller Bolanos and Juan Martin Lucero. Ignacio Rivero scored the lone goal in the first leg, but received a red card in the second leg and will not be available for this game on Thursday night. Rivero’s absence should not make a huge impact as Luis Chavez is his likely replacement and is more than capable than filling in for the Uruguayan midfielder. Diego Cocca has used more of a 4-4-2 formation lately with the potent strike force of Juan Martin Lucero and Gustavo Bou. The defense is clearly Tijuana’s best component with Pablo Aguilar leading it and Gibran Lajud in between the sticks as well. The backline and Lajud will need to be on point in this series along with the offense, which will need to capitalize opportunities.
Toluca was the first-place team in the Liga MX Clausura 2018 regular season, finishing in first with 36 points.
Los Diablos Rojos struggled in the quarterfinals against Monarcas Morelia as they tied 4-4 on aggregate, but were able to advance because of their position on the table during the regular season. Toluca’s defense struggled in this series and could be a component that the Xolos can exploit on Thursday night. Hernan Cristante, head coach of Toluca, counters with an exciting offense with players like Fernando Uribe, Pablo Barrientos, and Rubens Sambueza. Sambueza is clearly Toluca’s best player and should be a factor if Los Diablos come away with a favorable result.
Players to Watch
Bou netted himself two assists in Club Tijuana’s quarterfinal upset against Monterrey and has been playing in top form lately. The Argentine seems to be comfortable wherever Diego Cocca puts him, whether it be on the wing or as a striker. Bou is easily the Xoloitzcuintles’ most talented player and has displayed his potential in recent matches, which is very exciting.
“Sambu” is the engine that starts up most of Toluca’s attacking plays, and he is Hernan Cristante’s most talented player. Sambueza had two goals and three assists during the regular season and already has a goal to his name in the playoffs. The 34-year-old is one of the grittiest players in the league and already has two league titles under his belt with Club America. The Argentine playmaker has the experience and the grit to make a difference on the pitch, and that should show on Thursday night.
Toluca had a nine-game winning streak that was snapped by the Xolos in the last week of the regular season at the Estadio Caliente. The Border City Dogs defeated Toluca 1-0 in that game and EVT predicts that history will repeat itself on Thursday night. Club Tijuana has the defense to hold off Los Diablos, but the offense can be inconsistent at times. However, the Xolos have played their best at the Estadio Caliente this year and should be able to come away with the favorable result.
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.