Tijuana Xolos Liga MX CL 18 Playoffs Recap: Xolos Collapse Against Toluca in Semis to End Clausura 2018 Season

Credit: Liga MX

Credit: Xolos

Toluca, Mexico

The Tijuana Xolos played the second leg of their Clausura 2018 semifinal series against Toluca on Sunday, May 13 at the Estadio Nemesio Diez.

The first leg of this series started up on Mexican Mother’s Day, this past Thursday, May 10, with the Xolos coming away with a 2-1 win against Los Diablos Rojos at the Estadio Caliente. The Aztec Canines excelled in that first leg and really looked like the much better team against the team that finished in first place in the regular season.

American Mother’s Day was not as kind to the border city side as the Xolos impressive playoff run came to a close. Diego Cocca decided to go for the same lineup he had been using recently, with Gibran Lajud in net, and Damian Perez, Pablo Aguilar, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, and Omar Mendoza making up the backline. The midfield consisting of Ignacio Rivero and Damian Musto and four attackers in the form of Luis Angel Mendoza, Miller Bolanos, Gustavo Bou, and Juan Martin Lucero.

Toluca started its onslaught early with two goals by Fernando Uribe, and by the 31st minute of the match, the home team had a 2-0 lead. The Colombian striker’s second goal was especially impressive as he lifted the ball and scored via a bicycle kick. After Uribe’s second goal, the Xolos’ players were just not the same as they were from the initial whistle, and that showed in the 37th minute when “Quick” Mendoza was booted from the game for accumulating his second yellow card of the clash.

That suspension really changed the course of the game and really proved to be the major turning point. Diego Cocca’s men really seemed to have lost motivation after Mendoza’s suspension and it really showed with the product on the pitch. Club Tijuana did revitalize itself at halftime and jumped onto the second half as a new team. Defender Omar Mendoza was replaced by midfielder Luis Chavez at the half, and that made an impact for the Prehistoric Dogs.

Miller Bolanos received a red card of his own in the 61st minute, and this series seemed over for Diego Cocca and company. The Xolos were down to nine men, but some players still clearly cared, unlike Bolanos, who made a criminal tackle on Rubens Sambueza to get booted from the game.

Luis Chavez went on to score the lone goal of the game for the Xolos off a free kick in the 66th minute. The young midfielder proved yet again why he should be really be considered as a starting option and was one of the better players for Diego Cocca on the day. After that goal, the score was 2-1 in Toluca’s favor and the game received new life as the Xolos seemed motivated to get that second goal that would push them to the final.

Diego Cocca did not make any more adjustments until the final moments of the clash, but the substitutions he did make were very offensive-minded. Julio Angulo replaced Ignacio Rivero in the 77th minute and Damian Perez came off for Ignacio Malcorra in the 83rd minute. However, this was an almost impossible task with just nine players on the field, and that showed again in the dying moments of the encounter.

Fernando Uribe scored his third goal of the game in the 86th minute, and the slaughter did not stop there as Pablo Barrientos made it a 4-1 scoreline in the 88th minute. The game ended 4-1 and the aggregate score was a lopsided 5-3 in Toluca’s favor. The result itself was very disappointing, especially considering that the Xoloitzcuintles did have an advantage heading into this second leg, and also the indiscipline of the players. However, from a broader perspective, the Xolos were the underdogs and were not expected to make the semifinals of the competition in the first place. Their effort in this series and in this season was an admirable one given all the circumstances.

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Francisco Velasco
Francisco, 21, Chula Vista area, Journalism student at Southwestern College. 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 Tijuana Xolos soccer team, get press passes for every home game and write consistently about the team for EVT.

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