Morelia 2-0 Club Tijuana: Xolos Falter in Season Opener

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Morelia 2-0 Club Tijuana: Xolos Falter in Season Opener

Last Saturday, problems for Tijuana emerged as soon as the starting lineup was announced. Adjustments and changes were expected, but many were left

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Last Saturday, problems for Tijuana emerged as soon as the starting lineup was announced.

Adjustments and changes were expected, but many were left bewildered after the last tournament’s leading goalscorer, Dayro Moreno, was left out of the gameday roster.

Without a spot in the starting XI or the bench, it soon became clear that the striker would be leaving the team. By Sunday night, those rumors were confirmed after the club announced that he would be heading to Colombia’s Atletico Nacional.

Moreno’s omission, along with the recent loan of Gabriel Hauche to Toluca, proved to be detrimental against Morelia last weekend.

Both Ignacio Malcorra and Paul Arriola stepped into their positions, and although they had their occasional noteworthy moments, the boots of Hauche and Moreno were far too big for the backup players. This left Aviles Hurtado as the lone focal point moving forward, and despite his talents, he was left carrying too much of Tijuana’s attack.

Xolos’ atypical 5-2-3 formation didn’t do much to help either. Options like Juan Carlos Medina, Michael Orozco and Arriola struggled to make much of an impact in the new setup. Whether this says more about the players or the system is up for argument, but the key point worth noting is the fact that many looked uncomfortable in the setup.

Morelia, on the other hand, wasted no time in the first half. Moments after missing a penalty blocked by Tijuana goalkeeper Gibran Lajud, the home side immediately responded with a long-range golazo from Carlos Morales in the 20th minute.

Xolos did a decent job of pushing forward and stealing possession afterwards, but had a difficult time creating dangerous opportunities. As mentioned beforehand, starters like Malcorra and Arriola couldn’t do much to support Hurtado, who was left alone in the attack.

Recognizing the need for change, assistant coach Alvaro Galindo brought on Henry Martin, Joe Corona and Luis Chavez during the second half and brought off Arriola, Medina and Malcorra.

If we’re looking for silver-linings, there is something to be said about the impact the subs made when they were all separately brought in during the last 45 minutes. Corona was especially important after his inclusion in the 58th minute, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the American eventually pushes Medina out of a starting role.

Tijuana quietly controlled most of the possession for the second half, and just when it looked like they might sneak in a late equalizer, Morelia countered with a goal from Raul Ruidiaz in the 92nd minute. With little time left to respond, Xolos walked away from Saturday night’s match with a 2-0 away loss.

The argument could be made that without manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera, who was in the stands for a one-game suspension, Tijuana missed the energetic sideline presence that could have pushed the team to at least a draw. Also, just weeks after losing key players, a loss should have perhaps been expected for Xolos in their first match of the Clausura.

Either way, Tijuana will need to make some immediate improvements if the squad hopes to return to the playoffs.

That means that fringe players like Amando Moreno, Martin, Arriola and Corona will need to step-up when they are given valuable minutes. This also means that Herrera, who fielded an unconvincing 5-2-3 formation, will need to figure out which setup is best for Xolos. Whether that is a 4-2-3-1, a 5-2-3, or something entirely different, remains to be seen.

There is still plenty of time to bounce back, and with a home opener set for this Friday against Puebla, Tijuana has a golden opportunity to regain some confidence in the Estadio Caliente. If Xolos once again stumble, it could foreshadow another long season.