It just wasn’t meant to be for Tijuana.
In the first semifinal leg against Tigres, an early injury for Juan Carlos Valenzuela proved to be a watershed moment in the playoff series. Without their team captain, Xolos could do little to avoid an eventual 2-0 away loss.
In the second leg, any and all chances of a Tijuana comeback was squandered by Xolos midfielder Guido Rodriguez. After a tense and scoreless first half, the newly appointed captain earned a red card after a clumsy foul in the 50th minute.
Following the second yellow for the 23-year-old, Tigres easily regained more possession during Sunday’s clash, which then allowed them to find the back of the net twice during the second half. Once the final whistle blew, Xolos found themselves with a 4-0 aggregate loss and a place outside of the Liguilla.
Looking back at the weekend’s match in Tijuana, here are three Xolos talking points.
1. Guzman was near-perfect in net for Tigres
On Sunday, no Tigres player was more important than Nahuel Guzman. The goalkeeper was brilliant with his vital saves, and were it not for the 31-year-old, this series could have easily gone in Tijuana’s favor.
Xolos strikers, such as Milton Caraglio and Henry Martin, were eager to immediately test the goalkeeper during the opening stages of the match. Yet, with a strong command of his area between the sticks, Guzman leapt and dived his way to a shutout at the Estadio Caliente.
Although Jurgen Damm and Javier Aquino both scored for Tigres, the true difference-maker for the title-holders was the veteran who had no problems silencing Xolos’ attack.
2. Rodriguez hindered Xolos’ chance of a comeback
At the top of his game, Rodriguez is capable of surpassing Aviles Hurtado as Tijuana’s most important player. The Argentine is an excellent leader on the pitch, impeccable with his well-timed tackles and highly-productive with his short passing.
On Sunday, Rodriguez showed none of those traits.
Instead, the central midfielder was caught constantly producing aggressive fouls throughout his time on the pitch. In fact, it’s somewhat surprising that Rodriguez didn’t earn a red earlier on during the first half.
Once the captain was sent off, there was no hope left for Xolos. Unfortunately for the talented midfielder, the disappointing performance might also be his last in a Tijuana jersey.
3. Who will be left after this season for Xolos?
— Cesar Hernandez (@cesarhfutbol) May 22, 2017
Manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera isn’t the only member of the Tijuana organization that is rumored to leave this summer. While all signs point to a move back to Club America for Herrera, there are also whispers about a potential departure for Hurtado and Rodriguez as well.
These rumors should of course be taken with a grain of salt, and it’s also important to note that both players have also done a good job of quieting them recently.
That said, it wouldn’t be surprising if a bigger club was highly interested in either one of the players. Keeping this in mind, and Herrera’s likely departure, it’s going to be fascinating to see how the roster looks like for the 2017 Apertura.
Xolos’ best player on the pitch — Hiram Muñoz
In spite of his mistake that helped lead to Tigres’ first goal, Muñoz was Xolos’ most impressive member of the starting XI.
Typically a right-back, Muñoz had no issues with the transition into the center of the defense. With names like Andre-Pierre Gignac and Aquino charging toward him, the inexperienced youngster did a fantastic job with his tackles and interceptions.
Loss or not, Xolos fans should feel thrilled about the promising defender who kept Gignac from scoring a goal on Sunday.
Postgame quotes — Miguel “Piojo” Herrera
“We had a bittersweet exit because I think the team knew that we could have had better results, and we didn’t achieve that,” stated the manager after the loss. “We are calm knowing the effort we made, but unhappy that we didn’t achieve our goal.”