What a run from Tijuana.
Thanks to goals from Gustavo Bou and Luis Angel Mendoza, Sunday’s 2-0 win over Pumas marked the fourth victory in a row for Xolos.
It’s an incredible comeback from the Tijuana roster which was once ridiculed in the recent past. After an embarrassing 3-0 defeat by Monterrey in early August, Xolos found themselves without a single goal or point after Week 3 of the 2017 Apertura. Now, Tijuana is looking like the league’s most in-form team at an unexpected position at 3rd place.
Despite the fact that there is still a long list of games left in the tournament, new manager Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet has quickly inspired his roster and carried them into a playoff-worthy position within the top eight.
Here are three talking points from Sunday’s win over Pumas.
1. Once again, Bou can’t stop scoring
Bou has lived up to the hype. Following a quiet start in the Apertura, the Argentine striker has now collected a goal in five consecutive matches. It’s an incredible tally and just one shy of breaking a club record currently held by Dayro Moreno.
Although plenty of players have had a positive influence in Xolos’ newfound momentum, no starter has had more of an impact than Bou. At the striker’s current rate, it’s not too outlandish to assume that he has a chance at winning this season’s goalscoring title.
— @Xolos_En (@xolos_en) September 10, 2017
2. Iturbe or Mendoza? Who should start next to Bou?
The next question regarding Bou is which player should be given a start next to him. At the moment, two options are currently leading the chase: Juan Iturbe and Mendoza.
Let’s first take a look at Iturbe. The 24-year-old winger, who is a devastatingly quick and clever player, recently started in the win over Pumas. Iturbe highlighted his pace on a number of occasions but also struggled to connect with Bou in the final third. During a few noteworthy opportunities, Bou was clearly bothered with some of the passing and decision-making from Iturbe.
What about Mendoza? On paper, it doesn’t make sense why anyone would start Mendoza over Iturbe. Iturbe has better pace, shooting abilities and dribbling. Yet, what Mendoza currently possesses over Iturbe is the fact that he has a better connection with Bou.
Say what you will about the easy opportunity, but Mendoza’s late goal on Sunday won’t do much to hurt his standing with the Xolos roster. During next week’s game against Club America, it will be interesting to see who Coudet sends to the bench, or if he finds a way to give both the start.
— Xolos (@Xolos) September 10, 2017
3. Small space left for lineup changes
After eight weeks into the Apertura, it’s clear that Coudet prefers a 5-3-2 formation. Within that setup, certain names such as Ignacio Malcorra, Damian Musto and Gibran Lajud are undisputed starters.
That said, there are a few spots left that are still up for grabs. As discussed earlier, neither Mendoza or Iturbe have yet to solidify their role as a second striker alongside Bou. In the midfield, it’s also fair to wonder if either Joe Corona or Luis Chavez are better suited in one of the attack-minded roles.
With another newcomer like Miller Bolaños also thrown into the mix, we will probably continue to see slight alterations from Coudet over the next several weeks.
Tijuana’s best against Pumas — Damian Musto
It’s tough to fill the shoes of a former player like Guido Rodriguez for Xolos. Rodriguez is a tenacious defensive midfielder that was once one of Tijuana’s most important players during the previous two tournaments.
In Rodriguez’s former spot at the heart of Xolos’ midfield, Musto has needed to immediately take charge. Is the 30-year-old as aggressive as Rodriguez? No, but he has been able to compensate with excellent distribution going forward. In the last match against Pumas, Musto collected an assist for Bou’s goal and also finished as Xolos’ leading passer.
Not bad for a new signing that didn’t arrive to Tijuana until July.
Image via SofaScore