Club Tijuana could have been in sixth place of the Liga MX table this week. With a 2-0 lead over Queretaro by the 15th minute of last Friday’s game, Xolos appeared to not only have a good chance to move up the league table, but to also gain their first home win of the season.
Instead, Miguel “Piojo” Herrera’s squad went down to 10 men after a direct red to Javier Gandolfi late in the first half, and allowed four goals in the 4-2 loss at the Estadio Caliente. The defeat was devastating to the numerous local fans who poured out of the stadium before the final whistle. Supporters have had to watch the team stumble through seven home games without a victory and are likely anxious about the side’s tenuous grasp of eighth place.
Xolos still have time to maintain their spot in the top eight, but a difficult road now lies ahead for the border-town club. In fact, one could make the argument that the next two matches will be the most important of the tournament for Tijuana. The opponents: America and Monterrey.
This Saturday, Tijuana will travel to Mexico City and take on Las Aguilas in the Estadio Azteca. America has only lost once this season at home and has plenty of momentum with the current four-game winning streak in the tournament. On paper, Xolos don’t have much of a chance against America, but the argument could be made that the team’s fantastic away form might provide some Tijuana fans with hope.
Xolos are the only club left in the Liga MX without an away loss and will look to maintain that streak in Mexico City this weekend. It also must be mentioned that Herrera will be eager to put on a great performance against his former employers. Before his tenure with Tijuana or the Mexican national team, the manager was in charge of America for two years and helped the side win a 2013 Clausura title.
Now, Herrera will be returning to Mexico City for the first time since leaving Las Aguilas and will surely be motivated to gain three points.
As for the following match against Monterrey, it will be difficult to find very many Liga MX fans or critics who will have faith in Tijuana at home on April 15th. At first glance, the answer seems fairly simple: Rayados will have no trouble against Xolos. With an impressive attack and a current spot at first-place, it will be shocking to see Monterrey lose to Tijuana this month.
If Xolos struggled to find a victory in the Estadio Caliente against Morelia or Toluca, what are the odds of even finding a draw against arguably the most talented squad in Mexico?
That being said, stranger things have happened in the Liga MX, and if Xolos can survive these next two games with at least two points, there is still hope for the team going forward. After facing off against these two daunting opponents, Tijuana’s next three matches will be much easier against the likes of Pumas, Puebla and Atlas.
All three of the last games are winnable for Xolos and a key opportunity to gain nine points right before the playoffs. If Herrera and his squad can walk away with at least one victory against either America or Monterrey, there should be plenty of confidence in the team to finish the Clausura with enough points for a spot in the playoffs.
Yet, if Xolos lose both of the upcoming matches, pressure will mount on the manager who may have had high expectations in his first season in charge of Tijuana. The club still has a good chance of making it into the Liguilla, but must start gaining more points — especially at home.
Keep an eye on Tijuana. These next two games will not only be vital for points, but may also dictate the likelihood of a spot in the Liguilla for the team in this Clausura.