It didn’t look good for Tijuana coming into Friday’s match. Things still weren’t bright after the contest against Pumas, the Liga MX leader who has the league’s best attacking record and goal difference, but it didn’t go as bad as it could’ve.
Juan Arango scored the opener for Tijuana but couldn’t keep the Xolos from falling to their sixth consecutive defeat across all competitions.
Despite the recent struggles, Xolos had a decent shout for a handball in the box in the ninth minute, with Henry Martin’s header hitting Gerardo Alcoboa. But referee Luis Enrique Santander had a good view of the contact and allowed play to continue.
Tijuana interim manager Raul Chabrand kept with his habit of playing a back four, this time trying U.S. international Michael Orozco at the left back spot with Javier Gandolfi and Leiton Jimenez in the middle and Carlos Guzmán on the right.
The defense held tight through the opening 25 minutes but allowed Herrera to turn on a pass from Luis Fuentes just after. The striker had a good look at goal, but goalkeeper Federico Vilar put out a hand to make the stop.
Tijuana opened the scoring in the 31st minute with Venezuelan veteran Arango scoring another of his trademark free-kick goals. Pumas’ wall jumped at the right time, but Arango’s strike from around 25-yards out sailed over the defenders’ heads and made Miguel Palacios’ net billow.
It could have been two just six minutes later, but Dayro Moreno uncharacteristically blasted his shot wide after setting up a one-two with a back heel to Diego de Buen.
Instead, it was Pumas scoring next. Eduardo “Lalo” Herrera popped up from just outside the six-yard area to head in a crafty cross from David Cabrera and draw the score level.
Tijuana should have poked back ahead just one minute after the second half started. Several players poured forward and Moreno had a chance to poke over Palacios but again sent his effort wide before blasting the dead ball into oblivion in frustration.
Xolos narrowly avoided disaster in the 51st minute when Vilar came out to claim a long ball that he missed. Pumas’ Victor Sosa ran onto the ball but Jiménez was back to defend and was able to keep a shot or a good pass from putting the Mexico City club ahead.
However, Sosa did just that in the 58th minute, getting out to the right side of Pumas’ attack and firing a shot into the roof of Vilar’s net past the near post.
Palacios made an excellent save two minutes later, denying Martin who let the bounce three times then hit it on the half-volley from 15 yards out but couldn’t get his shot past the Pumas goalkeeper.
And Moreno made it a hat trick of near-misses in the 64th minute, shifting past a pair of Pumas defenders before pinging the post. Five minutes from time, Moreno again was denied, beating the goalkeeper but seeing his shot from a free kick cleared off the line.
Both former Mexico national team manager Miguel Herrera and current El Tri coach Juan Carlos Osorio oversaw the match, with Herrera in talks to take over Xolos’ managerial vacancy and Osorio scouting some (Pumas) players for potential call-ups. Herrera will have seen a team that has some good pieces but is lacking consistency and a real style. Osorio will have seen Lalo Herrera and Luis Fuentes as potential depth players who could fight for a future place.
Tijuana returns to action next Sunday when they head on the road to take on Puebla.