After demolishing Chivas 4-0 during Week 3 of the 2016 Apertura, Club Tijuana manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera utilized the same starting XI against Cruz Azul last Saturday.
Herrera’s decision paid off with a convincing 2-1 away victory against Los Cementeros in Mexico City. Colombian striker and newcomer Aviles Hurtado opened up the scoring for Xolos with a beautiful volley during the 32nd minute off a perfectly timed free-kick from fellow Colombian Dayro Moreno. Following the goal, Tijuana had no trouble controlling the game after Cruz Azul’s Julian Velazquez was shown a red card during the 57th minute.
With no threat from Cruz Azul in the second half, Herrera was in no rush to push forward or risk throwing too many numbers in the attack. Although the home side occasionally took advantage of open space left by Xolos defender Damian Perez, the team only managed to collect one shot on target during the entirety of the match.
During the 71st minute, Moreno scored his fifth goal of the tournament through a long-range shot from outside of the 18-yard-box. With no pressure from Cruz Azul’s defense and plenty of room, the 30-year-old was given far too much time to create the well-placed opportunity that goalkeeper Jesus Corona failed to stop.
Although the game appeared all but over after the second goal, Xolos defender Juan Carlos Valenzuela unintentionally provided a reminder of the defensive problems that the club still has to address. Following a cross from Cruz Azul’s Christian Gimenez in the 89th minute, Valenzuela attempted to clear the pass but instead placed it perfectly into the back of his own net.
Los Cementeros desperately pressed forward during the dying minutes, but it was too little too late for the home team who stumbled against Tijuana. As for Xolos, the three points gained were enough to not only gain a third victory in four matches, but also a spot at the top of the Liga MX table.
Looking back at the roster, the theme of an exciting attack and a potentially worrisome defense has continued through Week 4. While Gabriel Hauche, Guido Rodriguez, Hurtado and Moreno have all looked near-perfect moving forward, there are still plenty of questions regarding Tijuana’s backline.
Despite the fact that Perez provided the assist for Moreno’s goal, defensively, the player couldn’t do much to control his area. On the other side of the defense, American Michael Orozco didn’t give much confidence either with his coverage as a right-back. Victor Emanuel Aguilera and Valenzuela were slightly better as the two central defenders, but didn’t recreate the same kind of dominating play that was seen against Chivas during Week 3.
Herrera has the potential to have a very special team this season, but must first figure out who his best options are as defenders. Due to the fact that Tijuana has so far thrived with three strikers and three midfielders, it appears as though the manager will also need to continue utilizing a four-man backline as well.
As for now, supporters for the club should feel thrilled about the quick progress that Herrera and the roster has made during the second half of 2016. There are no guarantees this early in a Liga MX season, but if Herrera can continue logging excellent performances in the attack, the team might be able to go very far this season, and perhaps in the playoffs as well. Looking ahead, Herrera and his men will be keen on holding onto their place at the top of the league table when Leon comes to visit this Friday at the Estadio Caliente.
Other results from Week 4
Morelia 3-2 Atlas
Were it not for the two own-goals scored by Atlas, the Guadalajara side might have been able to clinch a second win in the Apertura. On the other end of the pitch, Morelia has continued to pleasantly surprise critics with a decent start to the tournament with seven points.
Tigres 1-0 Chiapas
Andre-Pierre Gignac is once again finding the back of the net. The French striker’s goal during the 55th minute clinched three points for Los Auriazules on Saturday night. The club from Monterrey is the only team left in the league that has yet to allow a goal.
Leon 0-3 Monterrey
Argentine Rogelio Funes Mori was the best Liga MX player of the weekend. With a hat-trick under his belt, the striker was able to give Los Rayados their first win of the Apertura.
Veracruz 2-4 America
After going down 2-0 in the first half, America fought back and gained an impressive 4-2 win over Veracruz. With two red cards shown to Veracruz and one for America, the high scoring match was arguably the most exciting of the weekend.
Necaxa 2-2 Pumas
Necaxa nearly had a win within grasp but allowed a late equalizer from Pumas’ Pablo Barrera in the 86th minute. The two goals scored by the recently promoted team are the only ones that they have scored so far in the competition.
Chivas 0-0 Queretaro
A dull and dismal game between two clubs who were more than happy to walk away with a point. At the very least for Chivas manager Matias Almeyda, talks of a “crisis” began to disappear after the draw.
Toluca 2-0 Pachuca
While Pachuca’s best players were getting minutes in the Olympics, the Liga MX side back in Mexico was struggling without five first-time players who are in El Tri’s roster. That number will soon be six after Raul Lopez leaves soon.
Puebla 0-0 Santos Laguna
A match that was highlighted by goalkeeping performances from both sides, especially Santos Laguna’s Agustin Marchesin. After an injury to his hand, Santos decided to place the player as a striker during the last few minutes of the draw.