Despite the fact that the Liga MX playoffs are still weeks away, last Friday’s game against Tigres felt as if the Liguilla had already started in Tijuana.
Tickets for the match sold-out earlier the usual, and with numerous stars like Andre-Pierre Gignac, Ismael Sosa and Guido Pizarro coming to town, it was easy for local fans to get anxious and enthusiastic about the final home game of the regular season.
The match not only represented an opportunity for Tijuana to show off against arguably the most talented team in the league, but also a chance to finish the 2016 Apertura with a perfect record at home: Seven wins in seven games.
Unfortunately for those supporters, although there was plenty to be excited about, the same could not be said about Xolos’ attack against Tigres.
After allowing an early goal from the visiting side during the 15th minute, Tijuana responded with a total of 19 shots against Los Auriazules, 11 of which were outside of the box. Xolos manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera threw more numbers forward in the 2nd half, hungry for a goal, but the roster failed to get anything past Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman.
Noteworthy attackers like Dayro Moreno and Milton Caraglio appeared out of sorts during the game, and struggled to find the back of the net on numerous occasions. Others like Guido Rodriguez and Aviles Hurtado attempted shots of their own but also walked away empty-handed from the match.
Tigres, on the other hand, did an incredible job defensively against Tijuana. Manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s starting XI was highly organized and especially efficient in the backline. With Guzman taking care of the occasional mistake, it’s no surprise that the club from Monterrey has only allowed four goals in the last six away matches.
In spite of the loss, Tijuana has still been able to maintain a spot in first place of the league table. With 33 points gained, Xolos are currently three points ahead of Pachuca and Tigres, who might not be able to reach Herrera’s team by the end of the tournament. In fact, with only one game left in the regular season against Veracruz, Tijuana only needs a draw to solidify a spot in first for the playoffs.
This is possibly why thousands in the Estadio Caliente were still singing and cheering after Friday night’s loss. Lessons were learned and points were dropped, but a spot in first place is still easily within reach. This kind of optimistic attitude was even seen with Herrera in the postgame press conference.
“I feel good, happy that the team was able to attack. We didn’t have the luck of scoring goals,” said the Tijuana manager. “Unfortunately, the team was not accurate. The team managed the time and had attacks. We hit posts, we missed some, the keeper saved some, that is soccer.”
The recent defeat was a tough loss, but also a good preview for what Xolos will have to deal with in the playoffs. If the squad wishes to fight for a title, it will have to overcome the attacking lapses that were seen during the recent game.
That said, it’s clear that Herrera, and Tijuana’s fans, are still confident.
Other Liga MX results from Week 16
Cruz Azul 2-1 Pachuca
Despite the impressive win for the Mexico City club, the three points gained were not enough to hold onto a spot in the playoff race. As for Pachuca, a place in the Liguilla is already confirmed.
Queretaro 2-3 Toluca
Thanks to a late goal from “Jerry” Flores, Toluca is still in the running for the Liguilla. A win against Santos Laguna next week would garner a playoff-worthy spot in the top eight.
Monterrey 4-0 Veracruz
Better late than never? Los Rayados were on fire with four goals against Veracruz. Monterrey has a tenuous spot in the Liguilla race and will need a few results to work in its favor next week.
Atlas 1-1 America
Worrying signs for America? Thanks to a late goal from Silvio Romero, Las Aguilas were able to narrowly sneak away with one point. Luckily, a spot in the playoffs is already set for America.
Leon 1-1 Chivas
A strange match that featured three reds in total. While Los Rojiblancos already have a spot in the Liguilla, Leon still needs to fight for a last second place in the top eight next week.
Necaxa 3-1 Puebla
After the win against Puebla, Necaxa only needs a draw against Chivas to secure a spot in the playoffs. With 26 points in hand, Los Rayos could even sneak in with a loss.
Pumas 1-1 Morelia
Adios Morelia. After failing to gain a win, the team is now officially unable to reach a spot in the top eight. As for Pumas, the Mexico City club is still in the running for the playoffs.
Santos Laguna 2-0 Chiapas
A battle at the bottom of the table which showcased an impressive performance from Santos. Looking at the visiting side, Chiapas has now gone 13 matches in a row without a win. Ouch.