Tijuana Xolos Liga MX CL18 Week 1 Recap: Lajud Saves Xolos from Defeat in Lackluster 0-0 Game

Credit: Liga MX

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Credit: Xolos

The Tijuana Xolos played their first game in the Liga MX Clausura 2018 this Saturday.

The game turned out to be quite an uneventful display against Cruz Azul at the Estadio Azul that resulted in a scoreless draw.

The biggest highlight of the day was the new jerseys that the Xolos were sporting for this match. Both teams were going into the game with new managers, Pedro Caixinha was La Maquina’s new boss while Diego Cocca was now in charge of the Aztec Canines.

Cocca went with a 4-4-2 formation with Gibran Lajud in net and Michael Orozco, Pablo Aguilar, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, and Damian Perez making up the defense. The Midfield consisted of Damian Musto and Luis Chavez playing centrally and Juan Iturbe and Ignacio Malcorra on the wings. The strike partnership consisted of the Ecuadorian Miler Bolanos and the Argentine Juan Martin Lucero.

Some interesting things to note include Gustavo Bou starting on the bench, the decision to start Michael Orozco, and the complete absence of Matias Aguirregaray, Enzo Kalinski, and Alejandro Donatti. Ignacio Rivero was also nowhere to be seen, but he did just recently arrive with the team. It was reported by Televisa’s Rodrigo Peguero that Aguirregaray was not present because of slight muscle discomfort.

The border city side’s attack was completely absent in the first half of the game while Cruz Azul did have a couple of clear scoring opportunities.

First, in the 18th minute of the encounter, a shot by Felipe Mora went wide to the left of Gibran Lajud’s net. Then in the 28th minute, Gibran Lajud parried an outside of the box shot by Martin Rodriguez out of danger and out of play. The Xolos’ offense was dormant in the first 45 minutes and it didn’t even seem like Gustavo Bou would make a difference.

The Prehistoric Dogs had a couple of clear chances in the second half, both of which were by Michael Orozco. The American defender first had a long-range shot saved by Jesus Corona, then had a very clear chance in front of Corona’s net, but his shot went sailing over the bar. The Aztec Canines would not have any other clear opportunities after that golden chance that was wasted by Orozco. All of Cocca’s substitutions (Guido, Bou, Omar, Mendoza) failed to make an impact as it seemed that the Argentine manager was settling with the draw from the game. Cruz Azul would have a few more shots at Club Tijuana’s net before the final whistle, but none would influence the scoreline. Gibran Lajud’s heroics continued towards the end of the game as the Mexican keeper impeded a close-range shot inside of the box by midfielder Rafael Baca in the 83rd minute.

The game was not particularly the most exciting encounter, but a point against a potential playoff team away from home wasn’t the worst way for Diego Cocca to start off his tenure with Club Tijuana.

Man of the match: Gibran Lajud

 Pablo Aguilar had a very strong performance in his first game back with the Xolos as he had 14 clearances and five interceptions in his 90 minutes of play. However, the man of the match had to be Gibran Lajud, who had four total saves in the game, including two very crucial ones. Without the Mexican keeper’s effort, Cruz Azul would have been walking away with the three points from the game at the Xolos’ expense.

Main talking point: 4-4-2 formation

The 4-4-2 formation did not work for the Tijuana Xolos in the Apertura 2017 and it seems unlikely to work in this tournament. This group of players is not that different to the ones that featured in the Apertura 2017 and the same problems are apparent with this formation. The 4-4-2 doesn’t allow Club Tijuana to get forward and generate attack, as was displayed in this game, with only one clear opportunity in 90 minutes. The wingers, in particular, became absent in the play as Ignacio Malcorra and Juan Iturbe had very quiet performances. Malcorra did create the chance for Michael Orozco’s big miss, but finished the game with only 10 accurate passes. The result was positive, but the product on the pitch was poor by the Xolos and there are clear problems that need to be addressed as the season progresses.

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