Following six goals, three penalty kicks and 90 minutes of some of the most entertaining Liga MX soccer of the season, Xolos emerged from Guadalajara with a 3-3 draw against Atlas.
Considering that Tijuana went down to ten men in the 71st minute — thanks to a shoulder charge from Jorge Ortiz — Xolos were perhaps lucky to earn a point on Saturday night. Despite what the scoreline read, Atlas was the better side with a significant amount of attacking momentum, possession and opportunities against Tijuana.
In fact, Los Zorros nearly scored a late game-winning goal off a penalty that was halted by Xolos goalkeeper Gibran Lajud.
That said, the highlight of the evening and perhaps the entire Clausura tournament arrived in the 15th minute of the Estadio Jalisco battle. After a well-timed cross from Joe Corona off a corner, Aviles Hurtado produced a phenomenal bicycle kick that launched the ball into the net.
Although the goal and ensuing result weren’t enough to secure three points, the draw was undoubtedly a memorable for fans from both clubs.
Here are three Xolos lessons from the recent match:
1. Hurtado is the heart and soul of Tijuana
It can’t be stressed enough how important the Colombian is to Xolos. After scoring his golazo, which was enough to cement a noteworthy performance, Hurtado followed up the opportunity with a second goal during the 38th minute.
The 29-year-old is Tijuana’s own Russell Westbrook, carrying his roster that should be struggling much more than it currently is. On paper, Xolos should have lost that match against Atlas, but that was completely irrelevant to the attacker who boosted the away team with two goals.
Here’s the thing: If Xolos earn a spot in the playoffs and make a decent run towards the title, it will likely be due to the agile Colombian who now has six goals and four assists.
2. Rodriguez and Aguilera were severely missed
While Hurtado did an excellent job of pushing the attack, the same couldn’t be said for the midfield or defense.
Ortiz, who replaced Guido Rodriguez as the defensive midfielder, failed to recreate the same influence and impact that the suspended 22-year-old would typically provide. In the defense, Carlos Vargas also struggled to make his presence known in Emanuel Aguilera’s position alongside Juan Carlos Valenzuela.
Fortunately for Xolos fans, Rodriguez is set to return in the upcoming match at home against America. As for Aguilera, the central defender isn’t expected to be at full health at least until the end of the season.
Vargas, who made his Liga MX debut less than a month ago, will need to play at a much higher level if he wishes to hold onto his starting role. If not, manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera will need to think of another backup plan for his defense that is still missing Yasser Corona and Aguilera.
3. Caraglio quietly making an impact once again
Milton Caraglio isn’t one of the more exciting players on Xolos’ roster. The 28-year-old is average at best with his distribution and underwhelming with his lack of speed or agility. Caraglio’s role is clearly that of a target forward, and one that can sometimes be hidden or lost in occasional matches.
Yet, whenever criticism begins to build for the Argentine, Caraglio tends to respond with crucial moments for Xolos. On Saturday night, the striker provided a goal and assist that helped lead to the draw.
Caraglio was far from brilliant in the game, but with a tally of five goals and two assists this season, it’s hard to make an argument against the No. 9.
Xolos man of the match — Aviles Hurtado
At this point, it’s not a surprise to see Hurtado once again step up as the most important player in Tijuana’s starting XI. As mentioned earlier, his first goal would have been enough to solidify an impressive evening.
Lajud should be given credit for his big moments in net, especially after a poor first half, but nobody was better than Hurtado for Xolos.