Tijuana manager Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet took a big risk against Santos Laguna.
After a dismal start to the 2017 Apertura, which garnered three losses and one draw, Coudet decided to drastically change his usual approach on Friday night. Instead of his typical 4-4-2 formation, the manager went with an unexpected 5-3-2 at the Estadio Caliente.
What followed was the best futbol that Xolos have played this season. By halftime, Coudet and his men found themselves with a 2-0 lead after goals from Gustavo Bou and Ignacio Malcorra. Santos pushed back during the second half, and were perhaps deserving of at least one goal, but ultimately struggled against Tijuana’s organized backline.
Following a previous position at the bottom of the league table, the win is undoubtedly a significant one for Xolos’ roster. Although there’s still plenty of improvements that Tijuana needs to make, Friday night proved to be a massive step in the right direction.
Here are three talking Xolos talking points from the recent victory.
1. A switch to a 5-3-2 formation worked beautifully for Tijuana
After weeks of testing out a 4-4-2 and 4-3-3, the 5-3-2 seems to fit Coudet’s style perfectly. The manager was able to push his fullbacks high up the field while still maintaining three central defenders in the backline.
Despite the lack of another attacking option, Damian Musto and Ignacio Malcorra had no problems connecting a large number of accurate passes going forward. Bou benefitted from the change as well and suddenly looked more dangerous with his possession.
It was exciting to see the team immediately showcase chemistry and cohesion on the field, especially after the boring start to the Apertura. There will need to be more matches to test whether the 5-3-2 is Tijuana’s best option, but for now, expect Coudet to try it out again in the near future.
2. Bou’s confidence is growing in the attack
While many can point to the change in formation helping Bou, the striker must also be given credit for taking it upon himself to step up for Xolos. Bou looked much more comfortable in the frontline on Friday, and with Luis Mendoza on his side, Tijuana was frequently dangerous during the first 45 minutes.
During a couple of occasions, Bou even attempted a couple of fancy and clever passes that fired up the thousands of fans in the Estadio Caliente. It might have taken longer than expected for these moments to emerge, but it was well worth the wait.
With two goals in his last two games, the Argentine is beginning to live up to his hype.
3. Coudet’s style was finally showcased on the field
Every week in the Apertura, I’ve typically brought up the same major complaint regarding Coudet. No Xolos article of mine is complete without a criticism about the lack of dynamic, high-pressing and aggressive soccer that was promised by the manager.
On Friday, Tijuana fans finally had the privilege of watching that style of play. Xolos were at times brilliant during the first half with their quick and proactive movement. The home side was dominating possession, and despite the fact that Tijuana was clearly doing better, it was fascinating to see Coudet constantly telling his team that they weren’t pressuring enough.
Once again, it’s only one win, but there’s plenty to be excited about for Xolos fans.
Tijuana’s best player — Ignacio Malcorra
I have to give this week’s award to the guy who had a role in both goals. After providing the assist for Bou’s opportunity in the 23rd minute, Malcorra later scored a powerful golazo during the 36th minute.
The midfielder covered an immense amount of ground for Xolos and was near-perfect with his passes in the attack. Malcorra’s energy and pressure were relentless during the first 45 minutes that helped clinch the win for Tijuana.
— LIGA Bancomer MX (@LIGABancomerMX) August 19, 2017
Post-game quote — Eduardo Coudet
“That’s the best improvement we had today: To feel as a team and see that our work is coming to fruition. But, the main idea is to keep playing the same way we played in the first 45 minutes.”