On Saturday night, Tijuana closed out a busy week with a narrow 2-1 win over Chiapas. Thanks to goals from Aviles Hurtado and Juan Martin Lucero, Xolos were able to earn a second consecutive victory in their recent two-game away trip.
Although Tijuana’s performance wasn’t as thrilling or entertaining as expected, that will likely matter little to the organization that is now eyeing a guaranteed spot in the top eight. Xolos still have three matches left to play in the regular season, but with two scheduled at home, Tijuana might want to soon get ready for Liga MX playoff soccer once again.
Here are three Xolos talking points from Saturday’s win.
1. Tijuana is doing well without Herrera
Believe it or not, Xolos are doing just fine without their suspended manager, Miguel “Piojo” Herrera. In fact, Tijuana has remained undefeated during the first four games of his five-match ban.
The suspension, which was set after two separate incidents in a draw with Santos Laguna last month, has so far proven to have no real negative influence. Assistant coach Diego Ramirez has done a superb job stepping in, and with one hand almost always on a walkie-talkie conversation with Herrera, the substitute has led Tijuana through the undefeated streak with his multi-tasking.
Despite the fact that Xolos still have one more game left without their head coach, few will worry about the squad that has been able to seamlessly transition over to Ramirez’s guidance.
2. Inexperienced backline continues to exceed expectations
There’s something to be said about defenders Hiram Muñoz and Carlos Vargas. The two Mexican youngsters, who weren’t starting options for most of the season, have done a fantastic job covering Tijuana’s backline.
On Saturday, Muñoz was given his first start of the year after making his Liga MX debut less than a month ago. The 21-year-old was excellent with his passing as a right-back and significant with his defensive interventions. Although an injured player like Michael Orozco is a much better option, there seems to be something brewing with Muñoz.
Looking over at Vargas, the 18-year-old is showing plenty of promise for Tijuana. The central defender, who made his league debut last month, played the best match of his very young Liga MX career against Chiapas. Vargas was proactive with his clearances and showcased an unexpected amount of confidence.
Xolos’ backline would clearly be better with names like Emanuel Aguilera and Orozco, but for now, both Muñoz and Vargas have been exceptional as backups for the injured players.
3. Tijuana is one step closer to the playoffs
At time of writing, Xolos are sitting at the top of the league table. Regardless of the result between Toluca and Monterrey on Sunday, Tijuana will at least head into Week 15 of the Clausura season at a spot in second place.
Liga MX is an infamously fickle and unpredictable league, but with the current tally of 25 points that Tijuana has, you won’t find very many members of the media who will rule out a position in the playoffs.
Xolos are on the cusp of earning another invitation to the Liguilla, and after last year’s disappointing early exit, the squad should be aiming to make a more spirited run in the postseason.
Xolos man of the match — Aviles Hurtado
Another game, another performance that proves that Hurtado is the most important member of the roster. The Colombian scored Tijuana’s first goal of the night and later had a fundamental role for Lucero’s game-winning goal. For those questioning his influence in the second goal, check out this video here where he moves past three Chiapas players before giving Paul Arriola the space to run with the ball.
As mentioned in the past, if Xolos secure a spot in the playoffs, it will be due to Hurtado’s work in the attack.