On Tuesday, Albion Pros hosted Club Tijuana Xolos U20 at Mission Bay Stadium for an international exhibition match. Albion Pros is preparing for the upcoming National Premier Soccer League playoffs, while Club Tijuana is wrapping up their preseason prior to the Liga MX Apertura league season. In a highly anticipated match between the two teams, Albion Pros was able to keep their undefeated season intact. Albion Pros earned a massive 3-2 comeback win against Liga MX U20 Finalists.
However it did not start out well for the home team. Just three minutes into the game, Xolos forward Vladimir Moragrega latched on to a home hopeful ball into the box and dribbled past his marker to slot home his first goal of the night. 1 – 0 Club Tijuana just three minutes in!
Albion then tried to get into their rhythm by connecting passes at the back, but Club Tijuana did a good job of forcing Albion into a few mistakes. It wasn’t until defensive midfielder Luis Cardona started imposing his physical style on the young Mexican based team that the flow of play started to change at about the 20-minute mark. Cardona put in a few good challenges that forced the Xolos midfielders into errant passes that created opportunities for Albion’s forward line. Albion didn’t have their first shot until 25 minutes into the game!
Albion Pros forward Tre Hayes started to use his physical advantage to create problems for Club Tijuana. In the span of five minutes, he was able to almost single-handedly create three good chances for Albion to pull a goal back. But there was no one to put the ball into the back of the net. Club Tijuana then found another goal through Vladimir Moragrega after a looped cross into the box. The high pass gave Albion goalkeeper Jean Antoine the visual queue to come off his line to collect the cross. However, he got caught off his line by Moragrega’s header that easily bounced into the Albion net. 2-0 for Club Tijuana after 40 minutes. Albion Pros have never trailed by two goals at any point this season, so this was something they would have to overcome.
Minutes later David Luquen latched on to a bad pass, who fed the ball to Hayes down the right side. Hayes attempted to cross into the path of the streaking Matt Clare, but it was cleared out for a corner. The resulting corner forced Club Tijuana into defending the taller Albion players. Club Tijuana struggled to deal with the subsequent cross as Albion forward Hayes looked to get on the end of the cross. Then the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot as he judged the Mexican defender to have prevented Hayes from reaching for the ball by holding him back. Matt Clare stepped up to take the penalty and confidently dispatched his shot into the bottom left corner to cut the deficit to 2-1 for Xolos going into halftime.
As the second half was scheduled to start, the stadium lights had not turned on leading to a 45-minute delay. Fans, players and staff members anxiously awaited the lights to flicker to life to get the second half started. As the lights came on, so did the Albion Pros energy. They had something to prove. For the fans that stayed after the delay, they were treated to an action packed second half!
After the restart, Albion Pros established possession in the attacking half quickly and fired off a handful of shots on the previously seldom tested Mexican goalkeeper. Then in the 54th minute, after a dangerous set piece the referee again pointed to the penalty spot. A high ball into the center of the box forced Hayes and Kuba Waligorski to jostle for position with Xolos defenders to win the aerial battle. As Kuba looked to flick his header onto goal, the Club Tijuana defender was judged to pull him down from behind. Clare again stepped up to take the penalty. Again, Clare confidently slotted his shot into the bottom left corner! 2-2 with 35 minutes left to go!
Inspired by the 2-2 score line, Albion Pros continued to probe for a game winner to complete the comeback effort. They pressed the Xolos back line a bit more zealously and forced some errors. Frustrated by Albion’s newfound confidence, Club Tijuana had a few moments where the game got chippy and earned two quick-fire yellow cards. Then the improbable happened. Matt Clare latched on to a well placed through ball by Albion homegrown substitute Oscar Ortega and rifled his shot past the diving Xolos goalkeeper.
[quote_center]Three goals for Clare. Three goals for Albion Pros. Three goals for San Diego![/quote_center]
Albion Pros would go on to dampen the emotion of the game to earn a well-played 3-2 win versus Club Tijuana Xolos U20! With the result, Albion Pros remain undefeated and gain some great experience going into the NPSL Playoffs that start July 9th! Club Tijuana U20 also gain valuable experience as they finalize preparations for the upcoming Apertura season.