The game of soccer can really be unjust. Time after time it is shown that you don’t have to outplay your opponent. You just have to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net. The Tijuana Xolos started off their season against Monarcas Morelia this Saturday. The Xolos fell by a score of 2-0, a mirror image of their 2-0 victory over Monarcas last season. The Xolos proved to be the dominant team in this match, but that doesn’t play a role in the game of soccer. The bottom line was that the Xolos had 17 shots, but only four of the shots were on target. Meanwhile, the Monarcas had 10 shots and five on target. The Monarcas finished off their opportunities while the Xolos could not.
The Xolos were also without their star player, Dayro Moreno. The exclusion of the Colombian Striker from the lineup came as a big shock. The Xolos had not openly announced that Moreno would not play until the game had started. The decision not to start Moreno came from the front office. Moreno had reported late to the team’s training facilities at the beginning of the year. As a result, he would not play in this game. He would not even make it to the bench. Moreno would watch the game from the stands next to Xolos Owner, Jorge Hank Inzunza. The decision really came back to haunt the Xolos as Milton Caraglio and Aviles Hurtado could not be as clinical as Moreno is. The Xolos went with a classic 4-4-2 formation for the game. Manuel Lajud got the nod as the goalkeeper over veteran, Luis Michel, which turned out to be a solid decision despite what the score might suggest. Lajud made at least four key saves in the game.
The defense would be made up of Damian Perez, Victor Aguilera, Captain Jorge Valenzuela, and American-born Michael Orozco. The four men in the midfield for the Xolos consisted of Victor Malcorra, Juan Carlos Medina, Guido Rodriguez, and Chula Vista native, Paul Arriola. The strike force would be a deadly one in Avies Hurtado and Milton Caraglio. However the pair could not find a way to finish on Saturday.
Right off, in the first minute of the match, the Xolos would get their first opportunity of the game. A corner kick resulted in an opportunity for Colombian striker, Aviles Hurtado. Hurtado’s header fell far left of Morelia’s net. The Monarcas struck 10 minutes later in the 11th minute. A cross by Jorge Zarate resulted in a chance for Morelia’s star man, Raul Ruidiaz. The Peruvian Striker sent the ball just a bit over Manuel Lajud’s net.
In the 17th Minute, Morelia would get their first real chance to open up the score. Morelia midfielder, Rodolfo Vilchis, made an amazing pass to striker Raul Ruidiaz. Ruidiaz was left one on one with young goalkeeper, Manuel Lajud. Lajud’s inexperience showed, as he completely took out the Peruvian striker. Of course the foul would result in a penalty as it was inside the box. Surprisingly, the foul, which did merit a red card, only resulted in a yellow card for the 23-year-old goalie. 37-year-old midfielder, Juan Pablo Rodriguez, would be the man who would step up to take the penalty. Rodriguez is a specialist in taking penalties and is known to rarely miss. Well just as fate would have it, Manuel Lajud excelled in his first true opportunity to shine. The young goalkeeper would dive left and the result would be a saved penalty. You could really tell how shocked the broadcasters were in the missed penalty. They recalled 1999 as the last time that Juan Pablo Rodriguez missed a penalty.
Amazingly, the score would remain the same after 17 minutes. That, of course, changed soon after, in the 20th minute. Just like the missed penalty, the goal would also come as a big shock. Carlos Adrian Morales is a man who cares a lot about Monarcas Morelia. Just last year, we saw the 37-year-old break into tears after his team suffered an unjust loss. The veteran defender has had two separate stints with the Monarchs resulting in 311 appearances for the club. His first goal was in 1999 with Monarcas. Well, his latest goal came on Jan. 7. Morales got the ball far away from Manuel Lajud’s net. Carlos was positioned a few feet from the half moon of the box. Instead of passing it, Morales hit a rocket with the inside of his right foot which resulted in a marvelous goal for Monarcas Morelia. Not Lajud, Michel, or even Manuel Neuer could have stopped the missile that was projected by Morales foot. The Xolos were down 1-0 after 20 minutes.
After three horrible shots by various Xolos players that would go over the net of Carlos Felipe Rodriguez, a real chance came for the Xolos in the 42nd minute. A cross by Mater Dei Alum, Paul Arriola, would land on Milton Caraglio’s head. The Argentine striker positioned himself perfectly, but the header was far from perfect as it sailed far left of Morelia’s net.
Finally, after several missed chances, a penalty save, an amazing goal, and several bad commercials, we reached the second half of the game. Right off the bat, Xolos knew they had to switch something up to finish an opportunity. Paul Arriola was subbed out for striker, Henry Martin. Aviles Hurtado would now play where Arriola was and the strike force consisted of Martin and Milton Caraglio. The next big scoring opportunity fell into the laps of Monarcas Morelia. In the 47th minute, Morelia got a decent free-kick opportunity close to Manuel Lajud’s net. Defender, Mario Osuna received the green light to take the free-kick. The ball went just over the Xolos net. Manuel Lajud’s positioning was impeccable. He even let the ball just go over his net and not touch the ball to avoid giving a corner to Morelia.
The next chance for the Xolos came in the 51st minute. Argentine defender, Damian Perez, found his way up field and crossed the ball to the box. Milton Caraglio jumped over two of Monarcas defender’s. Unfortunately his finishing was still shaky as the ball fell wide of the net. The 57th minute brought another substitution for Tijuana. Juan Carlos Medina abandoned the playing ground and former Sweetwater High School student, Joe Corona, took his place in midfield. Corona turned out to play a big role coming off the bench. The San Diego State Alum played a part in nearly all of Xolos scoring opportunities for the rest of the game. In the 66th minute, Morelia would make a couple of substitutions themselves. Juan Pablo Rodriguez was taken off for a much more defensive option in Aldo Rocha. Then Rodolfo Vilchis was shockingly pulled from the game to bring in Colombian midfielder, Cristian Penilla. Vilchis had participated in nearly all of Morelia’s chances. The move was questionable by head coach, Pablo Marini.
The 71st minute brought another opportunity for the Tijuana Xolos. The play started off with a string of beautiful passes by the Xolos players in the midfield. The ball fell to winger, Victor Malcorra. Malcorra ran down the right side of the pitch. The Argentine midfielder delivered a potent strike, but Monarcas GK, Carlos Felipe Rodriguez, slapped the ball away to the other side of the pitch. The last two substitutions of the game came in the 72nd minute. Victor Malcorra was subbed off for the Xolos to make way for 20-year-old Luis Chavez. Morelia mirrored that and brought on 36-year-old striker Luis Gabriel Rey for midfielder Diego Valdes.
The 74th minute brought us a very peculiar play. Cristian Penilla had the ball towards the left hand wing of the Xolos net. Penilla crossed it into the area but Manuel Lajud dove and got the ball out of danger. Morelia midfielder, Jorge Zarate, tried to fool the ref by diving in the area as if Lajud had made contact with him. Zarate failed horribly and was even forgiven the yellow card which he deserved.
The final moments of the match brought us some of the best moments. The first one would come in the 84th minute. Cristian Penilla delivered a potent strike for Monarcas but it fell just wide of Manuel Gibram Lajud’s net. Then in the 87th minute, it would be Tijuana’s turn to strike. Captain, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, delivered a beautiful pass from many yards outside of the box. Milton Caraglio dropped the sphere perfectly with his chest. The ball then fell to Aviles Hurtado. Unfortunately, the powerful shot by the Colombian player resulted in an amazing save by Morelia keeper, Carlos Felipe Rodriguez.
Right after that play, Morelia launched a counter attack against the Xolos. Three of the Monarch’s attackers came up against only one of Tijuana’s defenders. Fortunately for the Xolos, Raul Ruidiaz’s cross fell straight to Manuel Lajud’s hands. The final key play of the game came in compensation time, in the 91st minute of the game. Chilean midfielder, Rodrigo Millar, sent a perfect pass in between two of Tijuana’s defenders to Raul Ruidiaz. The Peruvian striker found himself mano-a-mano against Manuel Lajud. A beautiful strike from Ruidiaz fell in the bottom left corner of Lajud’s net. That would be the finishing blow to the Tijuana Xolos. The final score was a definitely bitter 2-0. The Xolos had clearly been the dominant team, but that did not make a difference in the first game of the season. Morelia finished their chances and the Xolos proved that they clearly need the aid of their star man, Dayro Moreno. Hopefully, Moreno will be active in the home opener against Puebla F.C. next week or the Xolos could be in some real trouble. The ball doesn’t always roll your way, but keep on supporting your local soccer team. Fuerza Tijuas!