The Tijuana Xolos hosted Club America this Friday, April 8, at the Estadio Caliente to kick off week 13 of the Liga MX Clausura 2017.
The match was set to be one of the most exciting of the weekend with both teams needing the three points from the game and having strong rosters. Unfortunately, the game left a lot to be desired with the final score of the match being a dull 0-0, with the atmosphere at the stadium being the only salvageable aspect of the encounter.
Miguel Herrera was serving his third of five games out due to a suspension on Friday night. Assistant coach, Diego Ramirez, was taking his place on the sidelines. The Xolos went with a 4-3-3 formation with Gibran Lajud in net. Michael Orozco, Damian Perez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, and Carlos Vargas comprised the defense. The midfield consisted of the usual trio of Joe Corona, Victor Malcorra, and Guido Rodriguez. Finally, the attack was made up of Paul Arriola, Milton Caraglio, and Aviles Hurtado.
There were some talking points within the lineup. The 18-year-old defender, Carlos Vargas, was in place for Victor Aguilera because of an injury that will keep Aguilera off the pitch for the remainder of the season. San Diego native, Paul Arriola, was making his first start since the week 7 match against Pumas UNAM.
Before the initial whistle, you could feel the intensity in the air, the atmosphere at the Estadio Caliente portrayed itself as that of a playoff game. There was a large Club America fan base– you could see the countless yellow shirts in between the red and the black in the sold-out crowd. People from all over Baja California, Southern California, and beyond had made the pilgrimage to the Estadio Caliente to see their ‘Aguilas’. The game started and the disappointment brewed as the minutes went passing by. Victor Malcorra of Club Tijuana had the first clear opportunity of the game. In the 11th minute of the match, Malcorra found space and took a shot towards Club America’s net that sailed just over the crossbar. The strike by the Argentine midfielder caused many reactions from the crowd that was heavily invested in the encounter.
The 24th minute marked a vital moment in the game. American defender, Michael Orozco, got injured and was subbed out of the game. The young defender, Hiram Munoz, took Orozco’s place and the Xolos’ back line became more young and inexperienced, the 18-year-old Carlos Vargas playing at centre-back and the 21-year-old Hiram Munoz taking Michael Orozco’s spot at right-back.
After Malcorra’s opportunity, there would not be much else going on in the first half. The clearest chance fell to Club America in the 39th minute. Diego Lainez sent a long pass forward to Silvio Romero, the Argentine then found the captain, Oribe Peralta. The Mexican striker found himself up against one defender and Gibran Lajud in the penalty area. Peralta cracked under the pressure and rocketed the sphere over the crossbar and into the stands. The first half ended like it started, with a disappointing 0-0 score line. There were few opportunities, with only two shots on goal in the game, both of which were from the Xolos. The Aztec Canines also led in possession at the half, with 56 percent, but did not gain much because of that advantage.
The second half started out much better than the entirety of the first half. In the 46th minute, Club America started a counter-attack off a corner, but it was ended by Paul Arriola, who intercepted a pass and ran upfield with the sphere. The Chula Vista native passed the ball to Aviles Hurtado, who returned the favor and passed the ball to the American inside the penalty area. Arriola’s first touch when receiving the ball was horrific, as the former Mater-Dei alum tripped, which let a Club America defender get rid of the ball. Fortunately, the ball found Joe Corona’s feet. The San Diego native released a well-located shot that lacked power. This allowed Club America goalkeeper, Agustin Marchesin, to make the save and send the ball out of danger.
After that failed attempt by the border city side, not much happened. The game was hard-fought, with neither team being able to break down defenses that proved to exceed expectations. The atmosphere at the Estadio Caliente continued with its brilliance, but that did not help make the match more exciting. Diego Ramirez opted to make his second substitution of the game, taking out Paul Arriola and subbing in Matias Pisano. Arriola had a solid performance. While he was a bit off going forward, the San Diego native really helped defensively, giving coverage to the young Hiram Munoz. The substitution made no impact on the game, Pisano not providing much going forward. The final key opportunity of the match fell in the 79th minute. Ricardo Marin of Club America released a very weak shot inside the penalty area off a pass by Diego Lainez that Damian Perez easily cleared. Diego Ramirez opted for one last substitution, taking off Milton Caraglio for Juan Martin Lucero.
Again, this change made no impact in the final 10 minutes of the game. The fans were hopeful of a goal in the dying minutes of the game, but not even a scoring opportunity emerged. The game ended in an uneventful 0-0, with not many opportunities. The Xolos’ assistant coach, Diego Ramirez, expressed his thoughts on the game in the post-game press conference.
Ramirez said, “We had the clear idea of obtaining the three points. We didn’t achieve this and if I’m being honest, I’m not satisfied because we were thinking of obtaining three points to get a higher spot on the table, keeping our qualifying position”.
Club America players Agustin Marchesin and William Da Silva both said that they faced a tough rival and that the synthetic turf at the Estadio Caliente did impact the game. Joe Corona also shared his thoughts on the encounter. Corona said, “I feel we were dominant in the game, we had more possession and more opportunities. It’s a shame that they decided to stay back”. The Xolos’ captain, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, also shared his opinions on the game and the defense. Valenzuela said “They were solid defensively. They didn’t give us space. Us too. After a few games of allowing some goals it was important for us to not give them the space they wanted and be solid defensively. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish our opportunities”.
The game can be seen as a moral victory for the Xolos with the two youngsters in the back line. It was a huge accomplishment for the Aztec Canines to get a clean sheet with two young and inexperienced defenders. It seems like Michael Orozco will be out for at least a week, which may give Hiram Munoz another opportunity to get some minutes. The Xolos next game will be this Wednesday against Queretaro, playing the postponed week 10 match. As of now, Club Tijuana is in third place with 19 points, but that will change after the rest of the games are played this week. The Xolos have a big week ahead of them, playing two consecutive games on the road. Fuerza Tijuas!
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.