Things are getting worse and worse for Club Tijuana.
Last Friday, Xolos fell apart in the 3-1 loss against Pumas in Mexico City. There was a glimmer of hope for Tijuana when Dayro Moreno scored an equalizer in the 62nd minute, but two late goals from Los Felinos in the last 15 minutes of the match solidified the defeat for the visiting side.
Los Xolos knew full well what three points, or even one point, could have meant in the race for the playoffs. If the club would have found a way to secure a victory, Tijuana would have been at a spot in 11th place and just one point behind eighth.
Instead, the squad finished with a fourth loss in a row and an ensuing spot all the way down in 14th. Los Xolos have now amassed just 16 points in 15 matches, and since April 1st, have allowed 15 goals in the last four games. To put that into perspective, that’s just as many as Chivas and Pachuca have given up all season.
Essentially, a good summary of the past few matches for Tijuana is this: There was a chance to fight for a position in the top eight, but the team instead collapsed in a spectacular fashion. In the last nine games, manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera has only been able to emerge with one victory and still has yet to find his first win at the Estadio Caliente.
With Xolos essentially out of the running for the Liguilla, Herrera must finish the season with dignity. Since taking over, the former Mexican national team manager has yet to live up to the high expectations that were put upon him when he took over late last year. Tijuana needed an energetic and powerful presence in the club, but that spirit from the 48-year-old hasn’t translated very well onto the pitch.
Now, with just two games left in the regular season, Herrera only has a couple of opportunities left to gain points in the Clausura and just one match left to obtain a first home victory. Collecting points isn’t just a matter of self-respect either for the manager or the team, it’s vital for the permanence of the club in the league.
Once the new season rolls around, Los Xolos will unwillingly enter the relegation race in the Liga MX. Others like Morelia, Puebla, Veracruz, and the newly promoted Ascenso team will fight for salvation in the 2016 Apertura and 2017 Clausura. The Tijuana ownership has big plans for a renovated stadium next summer that will increase capacity to 33,333 in the Estadio Caliente, but it will feel bittersweet if completed around the same time as a potential relegation.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Herrera and company still have time to turn the team around before a possible move back to the second-division. Also, despite all of the doom and gloom talk, there is still a very small chance that the team is able to sneak into the playoffs. A couple of weeks from now, I might be eating my words if Xolos collect two wins and have multiple results work in their favor.
Until then, Herrera needs to close out the season on a positive note. This might mean doing something as drastic as benching a struggling veteran like goalkeeper Federico Vilar and giving an opportunity to 22-year-old Gibran Lajud or 20-year-old Adrian Zendejas. Other young and hungry options like Amando Moreno and Jesus Alonso Escoboza should also continue to receive minutes and perhaps a more significant role for the squad going forward.
At the very least, this upcoming Friday, Xolos must do something that they have yet to accomplish in the tournament: Win at home. It’s the least the team could do for the local fans.