Was the 2016 Apertura a successful tournament for Club Tijuana? After finishing in first place of the regular season, and previously finishing in 1
Was the 2016 Apertura a successful tournament for Club Tijuana?
After finishing in first place of the regular season, and previously finishing in 14th during the 2016 Clausura, the argument could easily be made that Xolos greatly exceeded expectations. Thanks to a fluid and energetic 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 system, Tijuana usually provided plenty of headaches for numerous Liga MX opponents.
On the other hand, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that many supporters are disappointed in the roster that recently stumbled in the first round of the playoffs. After the 5-3 aggregate loss to Leon in the quarterfinals, Liga MX’s No. 1 seed hardly spent any time in the Liguilla.
The most practical answer regarding Xolos’ success is a mixture of the two.
Fans can’t overlook the progress that manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera made with the squad during most of the regular season, but it’s also fair to question the team that slowly began to lose momentum before the playoffs. After two straight losses in early November, it perhaps shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Tijuana immediately faltered in the Liguilla.
Either way, one thing is for sure: Xolos now have a base to build off of for the upcoming 2017 Clausura. Despite the disheartening early exit from the playoffs, Herrera has a talented roster filled with an underappreciated amount of depth.
Even if a couple of key players leave over the winter, backups like Paul Arriola, Juninho and Ignacio Malcorra have the talents to step up and take charge in the starting XI. Which is assuming that some players leave, or that ownership won’t add some more intriguing options to Herrera’s squad.
If the coach is able to hold onto the core of his team, important names like Guido Rodriguez, Gabriel Hauche and Dayro Moreno, there should be no reason why Tijuana will miss out on the playoffs in the Clausura.
Finishing in first place of the regular season will be difficult to recreate, but as seen in the recent Liguilla, the only thing that truly matters is finding a spot in the top eight. Looking at Xolos’ current roster and the most recent tournament, there is an excellent chance that Tijuana will once again fight for a championship next year.
Before we start prepping for the Clausura, let’s first give out a few awards for the 2016 Apertura.
Xolos MVP: Dayro Moreno
The numbers speak for themselves. Moreno finished the regular season with 11 goals and added a 12th during the second quarterfinal leg against Leon. The Colombian was Tijuana’s leading goalscorer and the most threatening member of Herrera’s attack. Moreno also tacked on two assists in the competition.
Best newcomer: Guido Rodriguez
It’s going to be tough for Xolos to hold onto the gifted 22-year-old Argentine. Rodriguez exuded confidence in the midfield and helped maintain plenty of possession for Tijuana. The newcomer has quickly adapted to Liga MX’s demands and might soon be ready for Europe.
Most improved: Federico Vilar
Vilar, who just announced that he will retire on Tuesday morning, carried Xolos through several difficult matches in the regular season. At 39 years of age, the goalkeeper somehow avoided many of the mistakes he made during the first half of 2016. A complete 180 from the starter who finished his career on a high note.
Biggest let down: Juan Carlos Medina
After two starts in July, Medina failed to gain another spot in Herrera’s starting XI. In fact, the noteworthy summer signing only took part in one of Tijuana’s last 12 games. As long as Rodriguez is in the roster, the 33-year-old former Mexican national team player will continue to be a backup.
Best option off the bench: Paul Arriola
Arriola, who never gained a single start or more than 25 minutes during a single match, was always a thrilling introduction in his 12 games as a substitute. Given more time, the 21-year-old American could become one of the most dangerous and agile wingers in Mexico.