During the first 70 minutes of Friday night’s match at the Estadio Caliente, it looked likely that Leon was going to steal three points from Xolos. With a lone goal in the first half, Leon happily sat back while Tijuana struggled to create dangerous opportunities in the final third.
That is, until a penalty emerged for Xolos in the 72nd minute.
Ignacio Malcorra had no problems equalizing the scoreline off the penalty, which then propelled Tijuana’s morale and attacking momentum. Seven minutes later, Juan Martin Lucero solidified the narrow victory with a goal that sent the Estadio Caliente crowd into a frenzy.
Considering the state of Xolos after recent managerial changes and financial problems, as well as the building rivalry with Leon, the Tijuana faithful erupted into cheers once the final whistle blew. It might prove to be the last home game of the regular season, but at the very least, Tijuana fans will walk with their heads held high this weekend.
Here are three Xolos talking points from Friday’s victory.
1. Torres shined in his managerial debut for Tijuana
After Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet left his post as head coach on Monday, interim manager Diego Torres only had a few days to prepare his team. On top of all that, there was a substantial amount of pressure to not only get a win over an in-form rival, but also deal with alleged reports of locker room problems.
The occasion never got to Torres, and although Tijuana didn’t find its first goal until late into the second half, it was clear that his squad was the better side. Despite the fact that Torres’ style was far different from Coudet’s very attack-minded approach, Xolos looked quite comfortable in his more reserved 4-4-2. Following some tinkering in the second half, Tijuana easily coasted to a win.
2. Is the 5-3-2 gone for good?
Long live the 4-4-2 diamond! Well, maybe.
On paper, a high-pressing 5-3-2 seems to suit Xolos better, but Torres had no qualms trying out the 4-4-2. Before taking his current role with Tijuana, Torres also utilized a similar system with Xolos’ U20s. It worked for the senior side, but looking forward, it will require a bit more defensive work from players such as Damian Perez, Juan Carlos Nuñez and Matias Aguirregaray.
Will he stick with the four-man backline next week? Will he bring back the 5-3-2 against Pachuca in the Copa MX or Toluca in the regular season? We will have to wait and see.
3. Playoff hopes are alive…for now
Let’s be real here. Statistically speaking, Xolos are unlikely to finish in a Liguilla-worthy place in the top eight. Even if Tijuana gets a win against Toluca in the final weekend, Torres’ men will still need a few other results to work in their favor. That said, if Xolos earned a draw or loss on Friday, the team would already be out of the running for the playoffs.
There’s still hope for Tijuana fans who will probably need to make some Atlas, Toluca, Cruz Azul and Pachuca voodoo dolls.
Xolos’ best against Leon — Alejandro Guido
There’s no way of overlooking Guido’s crucial distribution going forward or the amount of space he covered. The American was also very impressive with his recoveries that helped kick-start a number of plays. It has been tough for Guido to find a starting spot for Xolos, but after the win, the 23-year-old deserves another place in the XI.
Postgame quotes — Alejandro Guido
On what tonight’s win meant for him: “It was thrilling man, especially against Leon which is a classic rival. We were really happy to get the result.”
On the importance of the victory for the squad after the recent events involving Xolos: “It was huge, because it’s a tough transition. Right now we still have a small possibility to qualify [for the Liguilla] and we’re hoping for the best against Toluca.”