Tijuana Xolos Week 7 Preview: Xolos Travel To Mexico City To Face Pumas UNAM

Credit: Liga MX

Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Pumas UNAM

When: Sunday Feb. 19

Time: 10:00 A.M. PST

Where: Estadio Olimpico Universitario

TV: Univision Deportes

The Tijuana Xolos will be featured in one of the best matchups in this week seven of the Liga MX Clausura 2017.

The Xolos travel to Mexico City to play one of the ‘big four’ in Pumas UNAM at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario.

Tijuana is currently in second place with 12 points, while Pumas UNAM is in seventh with 10 points. This match is important for both sides and could be an early preview of a playoff match-up. This game should be great, between two very well-balanced sides.

Tijuana Xolos

The Aztec Canines are coming of their second loss of the tournament as they fell by a score of 2-1 to Club Necaxa at the Estadio Caliente last Friday. Despite the loss, the Xolos are still in second place in this Clausura with 12 points, only one point back of Toluca for first place. One of the positives from that match against the Necaxa was that Juan Martin Lucero finally scored as a member of Club Tijuana. Lucero talked to media during the week about the upcoming match and mentioned the caliber of opponent the Xolos will be facing. “Pumas is a great team, I consider them one of the top teams” Lucero said. The Argentine forward also mentioned the various factors that could have an effect on the game. Lucero said  “We will have to face the altitude at Mexico City at a difficult time of the day”. The Xolos will be playing this game at noon (Mexico City Time), which is something unusual for the Xolos as they play their home games at 7 PM PST. This could turn out to be a huge factor which affects the match. Tijuana has defeated the other two members of the ‘big four’ that they have played in this Clausura 2017. Miguel Herrera’s side beat Chivas de Guadalajara 1-0 away from home and beat Cruz Azul 1-0 at the Estadio Caliente in this tournament. Pumas UNAM will perhaps be the toughest opponent the Xolos have faced in this tournament with the success the Pumas always seem to have at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario.

Pumas UNAM

Pumas UNAM is one of the ‘big four’ of Mexican soccer because of its huge fan base throughout the country. It is also a very successful franchise, with seven league titles. The team is based in Mexico City and represents the National University of Mexico, or the UNAM. Pumas is off to a fantastic Clausura 2017, with 10 points in six weeks. The Mexico City team is coming off a tough 2-0 loss to Monterrey, but had been undefeated in four straight weeks before that loss. Like the Tijuana Xolos, the Pumas also possess a very well-balanced team, which should make for an amazing encounter. Defense has been an important component on this Pumas team, as in its three wins, Pumas has only allowed one goal. The center-back pairing is made up of the rigid combination of veterans, Dario Veron and Gerardo Alcoba. While the full backs of the defense are youngsters, brought up in the organization, in Jose Carlos, Van Rankin, and Alan Mendoza. The midfield then brings good play-makers in Bryan Rabello, Javier Cortez, and Pablo Barerra, while the attack has clinical finishers like Nicolas Castillo. The Pumas should be able to put up a great battle against the Xolos in this game, especially with the home-field advantage. Pumas UNAM has yet to fall at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario in this Clausura 2017. They only lost once in the Apertura 2016, and it will be very difficult for the Xolos to change that trend.

Recent Match-ups

In the last six league games, Pumas UNAM have had the edge over Club Tijuana. The Xolos have won two games, while the Pumas have won three of the encounters. There has also been a tie in the mix, within the last six league games. The last game between the two ended in a 1-0 victory for the Xolos at the Estadio Caliente in the Apertura 2016 tournament. The last game at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario, however, was a completely different story, as the Pumas won 3-1 over the Xolos. In fact, the Xolos have not been victorious at the Olimpico Universitario since the Clausura 2013 tournament, when the Aztec Canines beat the Mexico City team 2-1. The match could prove to be a complicated one for Miguel Herrera and his team.

Credit: Xolos

Players to Watch

Damian Perez

The Argentine defender is an important component to this Tijuana Xolos team, without making very many headlines. Perez does fine work as the left back or left-wing back for Miguel Herrera, depending on the formation, providing solid defensive work and good build-up play going forward. Defense is key to winning games, as the Xolos have shown this season. Damian Perez also mentioned this in a press conference during the week. Perez said “We need to be very alert, so that our strikers can be comfortable, so that they can worry about scoring goals and we can worry about getting a shutout.” The quote is interesting, as it also showcases Perez’s mentality going into the game, and that he has his role on the team very clear. The Argentine fullback has recovered the ball on 105 occasions and has also achieved a solid 70.4 percent pass accuracy. Perez should be an important player going into this game, and it will be interesting to see what he can contribute to the team.

Matias Pisano

Pisano looked impressive in the nine minutes of playing time he received against Necaxa. He has also already scored his first official goal for the club, coming in the friendly match against the L.A. Galaxy on February 7th. Pisano brings nice pace and skill to this Xolos’ team. He looked like the engine of the team out on the pitch, not stopping, and providing good energy for the squad. Pisano is also quite good at passing, as he completed three passes in his limited playing time last Friday. The Argentine forward will most likely be on the bench, but hopefully he does get some playing time in this match.

Nicolas Castillo

Nicolas Castillo has been one of the main figures for Pumas UNAM in attack for this Clausura 2017. The Paraguayan striker is in his first season with Pumas UNAM and has had success, scoring two goals in five games. At 24 years old, he is quite an exciting young talent for the Liga MX. A lot is expected of the young striker for his first tournament in Mexican soccer. The Pumas have only scored a goal in their past two games, so Castillo will need to perform to get past this rigid Xolos’ defense. Castillo is not the quickest or even the most skillful with the ball, but you can tell that he is a natural goal-scorer that will find the spaces to tap in the goals. The Xolos’ defense will need to be in full concentration to disallow any scoring opportunities for this Pumas team, especially Nicolas Castillo.

The Verdict

This will be an extremely hard-fought encounter between two of the best and most well-balanced teams in this Clausura 2017 tournament. The Xolos’ history at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario does not lean towards a favorable result for the border-city team. But the Aztec Canines have shown that history is not a subject they care too much about. Case in point is the teams historic 4-2 win over Club Leon, in Leon, where the Xolos had never won before this Clausura tournament. The prediction for the match, unfortunately, is not a win for the Xolos, but rather an exciting 1-1 draw. Which is still  a favorable result for Club Tijuana. Make sure to wake up early and watch two of the best teams in the tournament battle it out. Fuerza Tijuas!

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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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