This Friday, Feb.10, 2023, the Tijuana Xolos hosted Atletico San Luis at the Estadio Caliente for a game in the sixth round of matches of the Liga MX 2023 Clausura season.
Club Tijuana was headed into this match winless with a loss and four draws from five games played. Interim manager Cirilo Saucedo was managing his only game of the season for the Aztec Canines as Miguel Herrera is set to take control of the border city club for the remainder of the campaign.
Saucedo began the match with a 4-4-2 formation that shifted throughout the match, sometimes having Alexis Canelo as a lone striker and other times accompanied by a teammate. One of the big surprises was that Saucedo gave Joaquin Montecinos his first start of the match, benching Argentine winger Fernando Valenzuela.
Atletico San Luis was headed into the game considerably better but was missing head coach Andre Jardine due to a suspension. The visiting team started with their usual 4-3-3 set up but had to adjust quickly as fullback Juan Pablo Martinez received a red card just six minutes into the match.
Martinez had kicked Xolos’ defender Ismael Govea in the face trying to win the ball in a duel. Referee Luis Enrique Santander had to check the play on the VAR but quickly decided that Juan Pablo Martinez was deserving of a straight red card.
This changed San Luis’ tactics completely as Jhon Murillo ended up playing as more of a fullback, also pushing forward on counter-attacks. Los Potosinos were expected to use a more defensive setup for this game, but with the red card, there were sometimes ten men back for the visiting side.
Club Tijuana was attacking a lot with the man advantage but were ultimately unable to cause much trouble as the first half ended scoreless at the Mictlan. One of the clearest opportunities for Xolos came in the 34th minute of the match when Alexis Canelo just grazed the ball on a very well-located free-kick by Joaquin Montecinos.
San Luis was able to come up with a couple of key opportunities in the first 45 minutes, the best chance coming in the 21st minute when a header by Leonardo Bonatini went wide of Antonio Rodriguez’s net.
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Fans chanted “Venga Cirilo” in support of the Xolos interim manager just before the half ended but also booed when the first half ended scoreless with a huge man advantage early in the game. There was clear frustration within Club Tijuana at the half, but that did not immediately translate into scoring opportunities in the second half.
Lucas Cavallini did make his Club Tijuana debut on the night, replacing Joaquin Montecinos in the 52nd minute, along with Leo Lopez replacing Jose Juan Vazquez. Both players made an impact, Cavallini seemed comfortable with his new teammates as he had a few key offensive plays that did not translate into goals.
One of Tijuana’s best chances came in the 57th minute, where Alexis Canelo failed to score in front of Marcelo Barovero’s net after a deflection off a shot from Alejandro Martinez, but he was called offside anyway. San Luis was almost non-existent in the second half with no shots on goal but did have a good opportunity in the 81st minute by Angel Zaldivar. In the 82nd minute of the match, Canelo had another opportunity that was saved by Marcelo Barovero, who’s efforts almost earned San Luis the draw away from home.
Misael Dominguez came on in the 88th minute of the match for Eduardo Armenta and proved to be one of the most important substitutions for Saucedo and Xolos. In stoppage time, a cross found Dominguez in the penalty area after a series of deflections, Dominguez then had his shot deflected by Uziel Garcia, and the ball ended in the back of San Luis’ net.
After a frustrating and hard-fought clash, lady luck rewarded Club Tijuana with a goal that snapped the dismal five-game winless streak to begin this season. It was not the best-played game by the Xoloitzcuintles, but the three points were golden as Miguel Herrera watched the game alongside president Jorgealberto Hank and UFC star Brandon Moreno.
The interim manager strongly expressed his gratitude with the Xolos fanbase as he said, “This game was won by the fans. It’s impossible not to get excited with so much love. I only have words of gratitude.” Saucedo was a fan favorite in his time as a goalkeeper with Club Tijuana, and the fans greatly expressed their affection for the interim manager in this match.
Misael Dominguez was one of the heroes of tonight’s match, but it was his first minutes of the season as he was not in favor with former manager Ricardo Valino. Dominguez expressed that he is hopeful with Miguel Herrera now in charge, “I have seen how he works with other teams, he gives opportunities to the younger players.” Dominguez clearly made a spark for Xolos, and it will be interesting to see if he gets more minutes going forward.
Gustavo Da Silva
The San Luis assistant manager came out and demonstrated the team’s frustration as he said that the team would not answer any of the media’s questions after the heartbreaking loss.
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.