This Friday against Monterrey, a couple of familiar names will be facing off against Tijuana.
Aviles Hurtado, who was recently traded to Los Rayados over the summer, will be returning to the Estadio Caliente for the first time since his departure. After emerging as one of Tijuana’s best during the 2016 Apertura and 2017 Clausura, this week’s reunion will likely be bittersweet for both the player and Xolos fans.
The same could also be said for the managerial connection on the sideline.
Back in the 2012 Apertura, current Monterrey manager Antonio Mohamed had the privilege of leading Tijuana to its first and only league title. Although that’s common knowledge for many Xolos fans, Mohamed also has an affiliation with Tijuana’s newest coach, Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet.
When Coudet was still in his playing days, the Argentine was at one point coached by Mohamed in Club Atletico Colon. Despite the fact that Coudet’s tenure with Colon was very short, the Xolos manager has recently stated that Mohamed is one of his favorite coaches. Their style of play might not always be the same, but the connection between the two is undoubtedly clear.
Speaking of the style of play, many Tijuana supporters will keep their fingers crossed for continued improvements under Coudet’s new approach. On Tuesday, Xolos showed hints of progress and corrected adjustments during the 1-0 Copa MX victory over Puebla at home.
The return of Paul Arriola and Joe Corona is also a good sign, and a welcome added level of depth that will help Xolos in their second home game of the season.
That said, Friday’s match might prove to be one of the more difficult games of the year. With a stacked Monterrey attack that boasts names such as Dorlan Pabon, Rogelio Funes Mori and Hurtado, Tijuana’s defense is going to have to be near-perfect. If not, the team might earn a third league loss in a row.
Key to success for Tijuana — Protect the midfield
Mohamed has at times been flexible with his tactical formations and strategies, but for the most part, it’s easy to predict what Monterrey might look like. Los Rayados usually go with a narrow 4-1-3-2 or 4-2-3-1 that tends to run through the middle. The team is also infamous for casually launching numerous shots, many of which can be inaccurate.
So what should Coudet go for this Friday? One key to potentially frustrating Monterrey is by going with a formation with two defensive midfielders. Whether it be Damian Musto, Enzo Kalinski or a more versatile Joe Corona, adding in any of these two into the starting XI would be a practical decision.
Xolos player to watch — Paul Arriola
Arriola made a statement goal on Tuesday. In the Copa MX win over Puebla, the winger provided the game-winner which will likely help cement a starting role this Friday. The American was thrilling to watch, and with constant dangerous runs and dribbles in the attack, Arriola appears to be a missing link in Coudet’s high-pressure strategy.
Keep an eye on the 22-year-old who will not only be carrying over momentum from the Copa MX victory, but also from the USMNT after winning the Gold Cup title.
Predicted starting XI
This is a tough one, especially in the midfield. Alejandro Guido has been playing well and deserves more minutes, Corona should be given an opportunity to start, Kalinski has been solid and Musto appears to be making progress. Youngster Luis Chavez hasn’t been that bad either.
Whether or not the actual starting XI is announced beforehand, this is what I’m thinking we might see.
Predicted result — Xolos 1-1 Monterrey
After a dismal start to the season, I’m thinking Tijuana will continue to improve with a tight and difficult draw. I’m also expecting to see a bit more of that intense and dynamic style from Coudet that should at least secure one goal.