After an early own-goal from defender Greg Garza in the fourth minute, Xolos were left chasing Puebla for most of Sunday night’s 3-2 away loss.
During the first half, Puebla looked deadly with dangerous counters that easily cut through Tijuana’s defense. Opposition players like Matias Alustiza and Christian Bermudez had no problems running at the backline and connecting with one another through quick passing.
After a halftime score which showed a 3-1 lead for Puebla, Sunday’s game for Xolos manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera appeared to be all but over. To make matters worse for Herrera, the manager was forced to replace an injured Garza during the 42nd minute of the one-sided match.
Xolos’ defense, which included newcomers Yasser Corona and Victor Emanuel Aguilera, struggled to halt anything that Puebla threw at them. Although Los Camoteros finished with less possession, shots and passes than their rivals, the starting XI was much more effective and lethal with their opportunities moving forward.
As for Piojo and Tijuana, the team did fight back in the second half, but it was difficult to find any concrete plan in the attack. Despite the fact that Dayro Moreno, Paul Arriola, Gabriel Hauche and Aviles Hurtado were covering plenty of ground, it was difficult to see what the squad was trying to build. On several occasions, it was also apparent that the attacking players were almost running into each other.
Following goals from Guido Rodriguez in the 37th minute and Hauche in the 47th minute, Xolos applied plenty of pressure late in the game, but struggled to find the back of the net. In what appeared to be a loosely defined 4-2-4 formation, Herrera threw numerous numbers forward in hopes of a scoring a third goal which would at least secure a tie.
Unfortunately for Tijuana, Puebla did an excellent job to absorb the away team’s high pressure and finished the match with a narrow victory at home.
Herrera has the makings of a playoff-worthy club, but must be able to have a more concrete “Plan B” and also find his best possible defensive combination. On Sunday, defenders Corona and Aguilera did little to prove a continued starting role.
It should also be mentioned that the manager may also be left without the help of Garza, his American left-back, after an injury during the first half of the match. At time of writing, there are no confirmations on the extent of his injury. Argentine defender and recent transfer Damian Perez took over for Garza, but like Corona and Aguilera, he did little to help his case as a vital player.
A quick fix would be to bring Juan Carlos Valenzuela back into the starting XI. The central defender isn’t an exciting option, but also hasn’t done much to receive serious criticism. A healthy Hurtado is also a key factor in a possible 3-man attacking line with Milton Caraglio and Moreno that could prove to be one of the best in the league.
Focusing on the positives from the weekend, the defensive midfield position appears to be set with 22-year-old Guido Rodriguez. The young Argentine has had no problems transitioning into a key role and has looked like the best player from the club so far this season.
There’s also something to be said about Xolos’ resilient mentality after allowing three goals. While many other teams would have immediately fallen apart, Tijuana fought back and nearly had an equalizer during the loss. Given 10 to 15 more minutes, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the away side would have collected one more goal that would have guaranteed a draw.
Looking forward to Week 3, Xolos will have a difficult task at home this Friday against a Chivas squad that recently beat Monterrey 1-0.
Other Liga MX results from Week 2
Veracruz 2-0 Santos Laguna
Gabriel Peñalba was a difference-maker for Veracruz with his two goals last Friday. While Los Tiburones Rojos now have three points in the Clausura, Santos have stumbled out of the second week without a single goal in the early stages of the tournament.
Chiapas 0-2 Pachuca
Two second half goals solidified a second straight win for Pachuca on Saturday night. With six points amassed, Los Tuzos are now only one of two teams in the Liga MX that have started off the competition with two victories.
Cruz Azul 0-0 Pumas
The highly-anticipated game left many fans disinterested and bored. Pumas goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios provided a few moments of excitement with his saves that kept Los Cementeros scoreless at the Estadio Azul.
Tigres 0-0 Atlas
Tigres are still in preseason form. Despite the fact that the roster is arguably the best in the league, manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti has yet to find a way to gain three points. With a game scheduled this weekend against America, Ferretti might go three matches in a row without a win.
Morelia 2-2 Queretaro
In a Saturday filled with numerous low-scoring results, Morelia and Queretaro provided an entertaining battle which ended with a last second equalizer from Los Gallos Blancos’ Neri Cardozo.
Leon 0-0 Necaxa
Two-word summary of the game: Rain delay. Both teams understandably had a difficult creating plays on a pitch that was littered with puddles. After a long delay, the match finished with a quiet 0-0 draw in Leon.
Chivas 1-0 Monterrey
Chivas’ Nestor Calderon provided the narrow victory with a well-timed shot from distance during the 67th minute. The game highlighted an atypically weak Rayados squad that couldn’t find a way to sneak in at least one goal in the loss.
America 3-1 Toluca
America striker Oribe Peralta was the best player of the weekend with his hat-trick at the Estadio Azteca. The striker will now train with Mexico’s Olympic roster that will leave for Rio this upcoming Saturday.