Miguel “Piojo” Herrera couldn’t have asked for a better start. Just days after securing a 2-0 home win over Morelia in Week 1 of the 2016 Apertura, Xolos followed up the performance with a 3-0 victory against Toluca in the Copa MX.
The win against Los Diablos Rojos on Tuesday night marked just the second time that Herrera has been able to gain two victories in a row for Tijuana in all competitions. With an impressive total of 27,333 in attendance for Xolos’ Copa MX match, it was clear that numerous supporters still had faith in Tijuana. After all, it wasn’t too long when the club looked like one of the worst teams in Mexico during the Clausura.
After the 0-0 draw against Atlas in May, Herrera ended the tournament with no wins at home and with a spot near the bottom of the relegation table. At the moment, Tijuana has a narrow lead over Morelia and Necaxa in the relegation race. Although Xolos still have 33 more regular season matches before a team is dropped to the second-division next summer, Herrera will be eager to avoid another underwhelming tournament which would put his job in jeopardy. Gaining an away win against Puebla, a team that is also flirting with relegation, would provide a vital step forward for Tijuana this Sunday.
If Xolos claim three points this weekend, and Veracruz fails to find a win against Santos Laguna on Friday, Herrera and his men will likely be able to move up one spot in the relegation table. A place in the second-division should continue to be a serious worry in the long-term, but for now, there are plenty of reasons for Xolos supporters to feel confident for the Apertura.
Looking back at the first game of the competition, the trio of Aviles Hurtado, Milton Caraglio and Dayro Moreno appeared to have the potential to be one of the best attacking structures in the league. Newcomers Caraglio and Hurtado seamlessly transitioned into the team and proved to be exceptional against Morelia. Although Hurtado was substituted out for injury concerns in the first half, all signs seem to indicate that the 29-year-old should be healthy by this Sunday. In the midfield, Xolos looked impressive during Week 1 with the three-man line of Ignacio Malcorra, Guido Rodriguez and Juan Carlos Medina. As the lone defensive midfielder, Rodriguez stood out with his dominating presence and smart passing going forward. At only 22 years of age, the Argentine has the talents to eventually become one of the more exciting players in the league.
All that said, questions still remain over the defense. Whether new faces like Yasser Corona or Emanuel Aguilera will help take control of the backline, remains to be seen. There’s also the legitimate worry of veteran Federico Vilar maintaining his spot in net. Gibran Lajud has the talents to steal the place between the sticks, but the young Mexican will soon be heading out to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Defensive worries aside, the team has hit the ground running after the summer break and currently looks like one of the better sides in Mexico. It might be naive to make assumptions and guesses off of just a couple of games, but if Xolos can gain another win this Sunday, it will likely be a sign of more positive things to come for Tijuana. Herrera not only has the roster to avoid relegation, but also to fight for a spot in the playoffs. Despite the fact that Puebla will host Sunday’s match, man-for-man, Xolos should be able to at least walk away with a draw.