Tijuana Xolos Week 7 Recap: Xolos Lose 3-0 Lead In 25 Minutes, Tie 3-3 Against Pumas UNAM
Club Tijuana faced its toughest task of this Liga MX Clausura 2017. The Xolos played one of the ‘big four’, Pumas UNAM, away from home at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario. The match was predicted to be one of the best of this week seven of the competition, and it did not disappoint. The game ended in a hard-fought 3-3 encounter, which could have been worse for the Xolos.
Miguel Herrera went with a 4-4-2 formation, which he had utilized last week against Necaxa, and also in the week 5 encounter against Leon. Herrera was forced to use this formation with the absence of American defender, Michael Orozco. The formation has worked well despite the loss to Necaxa. It has allowed the Aztec Canines to generate more offense in games. Gibran Lajud was in net. The back four was made up of Juan Carlos Nunez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Victor Aguilera, and Damian Perez. The midfield then contained Guido Rodriguez and Joe Corona in the middle, with Paul Arriola and Victor Malcorra out wide. Finally, the one-two punch of Aviles Hirtado and Milton Caraglio comprised the attack.
Gibran Lajud was a huge factor in the game for the Xolos, despite what the scoreline may say. If it was not for the Mexican goalkeeper, the border-city side may have lost this game. In the first few minutes, Lajud become relevant, keeping Spanish midfielder Abraham Gonzalez off the score-sheet in the fourth minute of the match. In the 12th minute of the game, Lajud again made key saves to keep the game level, 0-0.
In the 24th minute, after an unspectacular showing by the Xolos, the first goal of the match came. As it has been shown before, the best team is not necessarily the one that scores. Miguel Herrera and his side have been able to take advantage of key errors from their opposition all year long. In the 24th minute, Pumas’ goalkeeper, Alejandro Palacios, was about 30 yards out of his net, in line with his defense. He then passed the ball to team captain, Dario Veron. The Paraguayan defender made a huge mistake and attempted a risky, lobbed pass to another defender. Milton Caraglio immediately ran towards the sphere and collided with Alejandro Palacios to get the ball to Aviles Hurtado. The Colombian forward chipped the ball with full concentration from 30-plus yards out and made a calm and composed finish to make it 1-0 for Club Tijuana. The final opportunity for the Xolos came in the 33rd minute of the game, from Paul Arriola, who was making his 100th appearance for the border-city side. The San Diego native found space and made a shot from within the Pumas’ penalty area. Unfortunately, the sphere went just over the crossbar.
The second half of the encounter started off like the first with Gibran Lajud being a key figure for the Aztec Canines. In the 55th minute of the match, a free kick by Nicolas Castillo was not enough to defeat Gibran Lajud as the keeper impeded the powerful shot by the Paraguayan forward. The 23-year-old goalie, yet again, was a factor five minutes later, saving a ball from just about the goal line. Shortly after that goal, the Xoloitzcuintles scored two goals in the span of five minutes. First, in the 62nd minute, a potent strike from Victor Malcorra, with his left peg, from about 23 yards out, resulted in the second goal of the game for Club Tijuana. Three minutes later in the 65th minute, Argentine midfielder Guido Rodriguez also scored from a long shot. A strike from about 20 yards from Rodriguez found the back of the home team’s net. Malcorra, who was the main play-maker in the game against Club Necaxa, was not a figure in this match, despite scoring the goal. After that third goal, the game would have a drastic momentum shift towards Pumas UNAM.
The first of three goals for the Mexico City side fell in the 72nd minute of the match. Paraguayan striker Nicolas Castillo scored via a spectacular half- scissor kick that found the back of Gibran Lajud’s net. Miguel Herrera looked for options to stabilize the game after that goal. ‘El Piojo’ went for Jorge Ortiz to replace Joe Corona in the 74th minute of the match. The substitution turned out to be detrimental to the match as the veteran midfielder did not offer anything for the border-city side. While Corona did not do much to stand out in the encounter, he did maintain order in the midfield. Ortiz seemed non-existent in the final minutes of the match.
In the 77th minute of the match, a Penalty would fall for the home team, via a foul by Paul Arriola inside the box. This would be the second penalty Arriola has caused in this Clausura 2017 tournament. Veteran midfielder, Pablo Barrera, executed the penalty to perfection, finding the lower left quadrant of the Xolo’s net. The match would now be an exciting 3-2 scoreline, and it would not end there.
In the 82nd minute of the match, the final blow, which disallowed the Xolos from gaining the three points of the game, came to the Estadio Olimpico Universitario. A cross into the Xolos’ penalty area caused problems for the back line. The cross was set for striker, Nicolas Castillo, but unfortunately the momentum on the sphere caused captain, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, to put the ball into his own net. That would make the final result a 3-3 draw, with an own goal being the decider.
Miguel Herrera’s side never looked like the better team, even when the score was 3-0. Unfortunately, that caught up with the Xolos, and they blew the 3-0 lead in just 17 minutes of play. The crash of this Xolos team is worrying, but the result itself is still favorable. Yes, the three points were basically already secured, but getting a point at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario is a tough task in itself. Also, Gibran Lajud was the man of the match for the Xoloitzcuintles, saving the team from falling in the encounter. Club Tijuana still look like one of the top dogs in this tournament with 13 points, and should remain focused since they do have two consecutive home games in the coming weeks. 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.