Tijuana Xolos Liga MX Playoffs Recap: Xolos End Season with Lackluster Performance

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Credit: Xolos

The Tijuana Xolos played the second leg of their semi-final matchup against Tigres UANL this Sunday, May 21, at the Estadio Caliente.

The game was set to be an exciting duel, but it was almost set in stone that Tigres UANL were going to be the team that moved on to the final. The atmosphere was vibrant, worthy of the magnitude of the encounter.

Miguel Herrera went with a 4-4-2 formation for the game, with Gibran Lajud defending Tijuana’s net and Juan Carlos Nunez, Hiram Munoz, Carlos Vargas, and Damian Perez making up the defense. The midfield was comprised of Joe Corona and Guido Rodriguez in the middle with Aviles Hurtado and Ignacio Malcorra playing out on the wings.

The front two were Milton Caraglio and Henry Martin. The main talking point was the absence of Juan Carlos Valenzuela and the inexperienced pair of Hiram Munoz and Carlos Vargas playing in the heart of the back line. “El Piojo” was looking to recreate the offensive power the border city side generated in the quarterfinal encounter against Monarcas Morelia with Henry Martin up top with Caraglio. Unfortunately, this did not work the wonders it had in that match against Morelia. Another interesting thing to note was that Guido Rodriguez was serving as the captain with the absence. Despite only being 23, Rodriguez had shown great leadership throughout the year and really deserved to wear the armband in this game.

From the initial whistle, up until the entire first 45 minutes, it was unclear who was the more dominant team. The Xolos had played a very good game containing Tigres UANL, making for a 0-0 scoreline after the first 45. In the sixth minute, Guido Rodriguez picked up a yellow card that would go on to haunt him later in the match. The Aztec Canines did have two very clear scoring opportunities in the first half of the encounter. First, in the 13th minute, Milton Caraglio got his head to a cross by Ignacio Malcorra, the ball was curling into the net. But Tigres’ goalkeeper, Nahuel Guzman, was somehow able to keep it out with a magnificent save at the goal line. Then in the 29th minute, Nahuel Guzman made his presence felt again with a one-on-one save against Henry Martin. The first half was one that gave hope to the fans at the Estadio Caliente with no clear winner heading into the second half.

Credit: Xolos

As soon as the second half began, disaster struck for the Tijuana Xolos. In the 49th minute, Guido Rodriguez received his second yellow card of the match which meant he would receive a red card that would expel him from the game. The loss of the Xolos’ captain was an enormous one as he was holding the midfield together to give Tijuana a solid chance at winning the game.  In the 59th minute, Miguel Herrera attempted to fill the gap in the midfield by bringing on Luis Chavez for Damian Perez. Quickly after that change, Tigres UANL ended any hopes that the border city team had. In the 64th minute, Andre-Pierre Gignac sent a beautiful backheel pass to Javier Aquino near the left-hand corner of the Xolos’ box. Aquino came in to receive the pass with full speed and finished the play with a perfect shot that found the top right corner of Gibran Lajud’s net.

All hope was now lost around the Estadio Caliente as the fans knew the home team now needed four goals to get past Tigres UANL. This was an impossible task with the time remaining in the match and fans started to filter out of the border city fortress.

In the 65th minute, “El Piojo” tried to hopelessly make a change by bringing on Juan Martin Lucero for Henry Martin. Then in the 71st minute, Herrera raised the white flag by taking out Aviles Hurtado and bringing on Paul Arriola. In stoppage time, the away team really put the nail in the coffin for the Prehistoric Dogs with another goal. Andre-Pierre Gignac was again instrumental in the play, making a couple of precise passes, one that found Jürgen Damm who scored the second goal to make it 2-0, just like in the first leg of the series. The global score after the two games was an embarrassing 4-0 against the Tijuana Xolos to end their playoff run.

The first-place team ended the season how it was expected, by falling to Tigres UANL in the semifinals. The match was nothing spectacular, but it might have marked the final games with Club Tijuana for Miguel Herrera, Aviles Hurtado, and Guido Rodriguez, who could all be on different teams come the next tournament. The front office will now need to focus on next season and what decisions to make to get the Xolos to have success both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Fuerza Tijuas!

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