This Friday, March 17, 2023, the Tijuana Xolos hosted Toluca at the Estadio Caliente for a game in the 11th round of matches in the Liga MX 2023 Clausura.
The game was set to be a very tough match for Club Tijuana as Toluca was coming into the match in second place on the Liga MX table. However, Xolos prevailed and snuck out a 3-3 draw after being down by three goals by halftime.
The first goal of the game came in the 21st minute as a cross by Jean Meneses found Maxi Araujo, who headed the ball into the back of Antonio Rodriguez’s net. Just two minutes after that first goal, the Red Devils stuck again as Maxi Araujo struck again with a perfect finish inside of the penalty area after a long pass by Bryan Angulo.
Miguel Herrera had made some adjustments to his starting 11, most notably playing a five-man backline with Eduardo Armenta as a wing-back. Xolos team captain Lisandro Lopez was back in the starting 11 after an injury, but Fernando Valenzuela started the game on the bench after serving a one-game suspension. However, Miguel Herrera was forced to make some tactical adjustments after the 2-0 scoreline and decided to bring on Valenzuela for Leonel Lopez in the 30th minute.
This change definitely added creativity to Club Tijuana’s offense, as the change was a risky move by “Piojo” that ended up paying off. It did not pay off instantly as Toluca added another goal, this time by former Xolo’ Brayan Angulo, in the 34h minute of the match. The goal came off a very well-constructed play by the visitors via a string of passes by Angulo, Maxi Araujo, and Marcel Ruiz. Angulo ened the play with a powerful shot inside of the penalty area that Antonio Rodriguez had no chance of getting to.
Miguel Herrera seemed to be fuming by halftime and did immediately make some changes to begin the second half. The Mexican manager replaced defender Rodrigo Godinez with midfielder Francisco Contreras and also took out Eduardo Armenta for Ismael Govea. Armenta did not look comfortable on the pitch playing as a wing-back, and Govea, who is a natural fullback, helped bring order in the Xolos backline.
Miguel Herrera put out an aggressive game plan in the second half that immediately paid off as Lucas Rodriguez scored the first goal of the night for the Xoloitzcuintles in the 47th minute. The goal was the product of a terrible mistake by Toluca Goalkeeper Tiago Volpi, who practically passed the ball straight to Rodriguez, who took advantage of the miscue.
In the 59th minute, Fernando Valenzuela cut the deficit and made it a 3-2 scoreline as the goal came off a rebound after a shot by Lucas Cavallini. The goal was originally called offside, but a VAR check legitimized the goal and put all of the pressure on Toluca. The difference between the first and second halves for Club Tijuana was incredible, there were several factors to this, but most importantly were Miguel Herrera’s substitutions and switch to a four-man backline.
Finally, in the 76th minute, Lucas Cavallini tied the match for the Aztec Canines as he scored off a rebound after Tiago Volpi dove to try and stop Alexis Canelo. The 3-3 scoreline was completely unprecedented after Toluca had dominated the first 45 minutes. Club Tijuana had the potential to come out with more from the game as the border city team kept on attacking after the third goal.
In the 80th minute, Alexis Canelo had a shot denied by Tiago Volpi and then was wiped out by Andres Mosquera in the penalty box as there was controversy as to whether a penalty should have been called on the play. The foul was not called, as Xolos had a few other scoring opportunities, but the game ended 3-3 at the Mictlan. The result was definitely a positive one, as it is extremely difficult to come back from a 3-0 scoreline, especially against a team like Toluca.
With the result, Club Tijuana extends its home undefeated streak to four games and is now in 13th place with 12 points, just out of the top 12 due to goal differential. Xolos next game will be played in San Diego as the Border City Dogs play Club America for a friendly match at Snapdragon Stadium.
Player of the game
This was a solid team effort by the border city side, as it is almost impossible to name one single player that stood out. The defense did not have its best day in the first half, but players like Nicolas Diaz and Ismael Govea definitely had a very important role in the second half. Fernando Valenzuela scored a goal and was one of the key factors to Tijuana’s comeback when he was subbed on. Lucas Cavallini was heavily involved throughout the 90 minutes and ended up with the tying goal. Despite not scoring, Alexis Canelo also played an important role as he generated plenty of scoring opportunities. Miguel Herrera was definitely the standout, as he helped with his tactics and overcame a very difficult position.
The Canadian striker talked about the second half of the match and how it was played.
He said, “We showed a lot of personality, commitment, and passion in the second half, and we almost won the game.” The goal Cavallini scored was his second goal of the season, but he also has two assists on the season as the Canadian international has proven his value to Club Tijuana.
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.