Even the most optimistic Tijuana fan will tell you the Liguilla is slipping from the clubs reach. There is, however, still hope for a trophy.
Xolos face Atlas on Wednesday in a Copa MX quarterfinal. The tournament has entered its single-elimination phase, with Tijuana traveling to Guadalajara in search of a spot in the semifinals.
That wasn’t going to happen if things kept going the same way, and to that end the club parted ways Saturday with manager Ruben Omar Romano. In his place, at least temporarily, will be Raul Chabrand, the 39-year-old who has been in charge of Tijuana’s Under-20 team.
The new manager hopes his charges will be able to reverse the recent string of poor results and use a cup triumph to vault
“Hope is the last thing to die,” Chabrand said at a news conference Tuesday. “We have great hope that we will pick up the results and if this happens then we can think about maybe reaching the playoffs. Some might say we are crazy and we are. We are crazy with hope and positive attitude and this is what we hope to transmit to the players so that they can show it on the field on Wednesday and Saturday night.
“We will keep fighting until the end, and we will die trying to reach our goals.”
In addition to the enthusiasm that can come with a change on the bench, Xolos have a few more reasons for optimism. For one, Atlas hasn’t been performing much better than Tijuana lately, sitting 12th in Liga MX, though the club does enter on the back of a win against Morelia. Secondly, Atlas could be tempted to look past Wednesday’s cup clash and prioritize the weekend match against Guadalajara rival Chivas. Atlas, instead, is looking at the match as a stepping stone to league success.
“Our mentality is to have the best match of the week that we can take positively and can give us a big boost for big things in the league as well as in the cup,” Atlas goalkeeper Miguel Pinto told reporters. “So beyond if we can or not, the mindset for us is that it’s possible to play well in both matches.”
Pinto took the place of current Tijuana goalkeeper Federico Vilar, who played more than 50 matches with Los Zorros (the foxes). Vilar could have a back four in front of him rather than the back five Romano favored, with Chabrand saying Tuesday he generally plays with two center backs. Chabrand’s presence also could mean a return to the starting lineup for some players who weren’t favored under the previous manager.
“I think that like all coaches I like a balanced brand of soccer,” Chabrand said. “I like to attack as well as defend well, and the quality players like Juan (Arango) and Gabriel (Hauche) are always welcome. Maybe they haven’t been in their best form, but like I said before the entire squad will travel to Guadalajara hoping that some of the injured players are able to recuperate, that way we can count on everyone.”
The match takes place at 6 p.m. Wednesday and can be seen on ESPN Deportes in the U.S.