Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Santos Laguna
When: Friday March 17
Time: 8:00 P.M. PST
Where: Estadio Caliente
TV: Azteca America
After week 10 of the Liga MX Clausura 2017 was postponed due to a strike by the referees, soccer is back in the Liga MX. This will be the sixth straight game at the Estadio Caliente in all competitions, and it should be a great match between two teams looking to make the playoffs this tournament. The match will also be a clash of cultures, as it will be a duel between the only two teams in the Liga MX who have official English-language Twitter accounts.
The Xolos are coming from a huge 2-0 loss in the quarterfinals of the Copa MX, against Monarcas Morelia, which knocked them out of the competition. The match was played last Tuesday, March 14, at the Estadio Caliente, and marked the end of the Xolos’ Copa MX campaign. Miguel Herrera used most of his starters in that match, and utilized the 4-3-3 formation he has been employing as of late. Unfortunately for the Aztec Canines, Joe Corona will not play in the game due to a red card in the week 9 game against Pachuca.
The most likely replacement for the San Diego native will be veteran Juan Carlos Medina, who had been playing in Corona’s role before he became the consistent starter for Miguel Herrera. Jorge Ortiz can also be an interesting option for Miguel Herrera, although he has not looked all that convincing in the playing time he has received. A more attacking option for Herrera could be Paul Arriola, and perhaps switching up the formation. It should be interesting to see what ‘Piojo does come up with in Corona’s absence for this game.
The week 9 matchup against Pachuca was a mess of a game for the border city side, falling 3-2 after leading 1-0 at halftime in that game. The Xolos fell apart in the second half of the game, not functioning as a unit, and looking shaky on defense. The defensive problems have been an issue lately. They were present in the 2-0 loss to Monarcas Morelia. Hopefully, that can improve. Maybe Miguel Herrera decides to go back to five defenders to solidify the defense in this game. This game will serve as a parameter to see where the team is at, as Santos Laguna is a tough opponent, but it is a side the Xoloitzcuintles should be beating if they are serious title contenders.
Santos Laguna was founded in 1983, and in this short period of time is already one of the most successful teams in Mexico, having five league titles and having been runners-up of the Liga MX five times as well. The ‘Guerreros’ last title came in the Clausura 2015 tournament, where the team was not considered the strongest side, but came away with the league title.
Currently, the team from Torreon is doing well in eighth place with 12 points, only five points back of Chivas de Guadalajara in first place. Like the Xolos, Santos Laguna was also knocked out in the quarterfinals of the Copa MX, falling to Cruz Azul by a score of 3-1 at home. Manager, Jose Manuel de la Torre, who came to be in charge of Santos Laguna in the middle of the last tournament, has made the team his own and has really established a winning mentality in Santos Laguna. ‘El Chepo’ de la Torre is a man who is accustomed to winning, having done it before with Guadalajara, Toluca and the Mexico National Soccer Team.
The Santos are a well-balanced team with a mix of experienced foreigners and young Mexican players. At the heart of this youth movement that de la Torre has implemented within the team, are four very young players who have made an immediate impact on the team. The four youngsters are, defenders Gerardo Arteaga (18) and Jorge Sanchez (19) and midfielders Ulises Rivas (21) and Walter Sandoval (21). The team also has a strong core of experienced center backs in Nestor Araujo and captain, Carlos Izquierdoz.
Finally, the strong attack that Santos Laguna does have, could also present problems for the Xolos in this match. The main three forwards for the ‘Guerreros’, Julio Furch, Jonathan Rodriguez, and Djaniny Tavares, have combined for eight goals this Clausura tournament. The Santos could really use the win from this game, having not won a game in five straight Liga MX games, having four draws in this span. The Xolos will have no easy task in this game, despite the run of bad form by Santos Laguna.
Club Tijuana and Santos Laguna have faced each other 11 times. The Xolos have won three games, the Santos have won four games, and there has also been four draws between the two teams. The biggest win for the Aztec Canines against the ‘Celestial Warriors’ came in the Apertura 2014 tournament where the Xolos won 4-1 at the Estadio Caliente. Three out of the four wins for Santos Laguna have finished 3-1, the other victory finished 3-2. The last game between the two sides came in the Apertura 2016 tournament, where the Xolos won 2-1 away from home. The last game at the Estadio Caliente between the two teams came in the Clausura 2016 tournament, where Santos Laguna won by a comfortable score of 3-1. Santos Laguna has had the advantage at the Estadio Caliente. In six games at the Mictlan, the border city side has only won one game, the ‘Guerreros’ have won three games, and there have been two draws. Santos Laguna has also outscored the prehistoric dogs at the Estadio Caliente 12-7 in those five encounters. Of course, these are completely different teams and “each game is a different story” for Miguel Herrera and company. The history between the two sides should not play a huge factor in this game.
Players to Watch
With the absence of Joe Corona in this game, it is almost impossible to predict what formation or what players Miguel Herrera will use in this game. Chula Vista Native, Paul Arriola, has received some on and off playing time, most recently starting in the last two Copa MX matches, having scored the lone goal against Club America for the Xoloitzcuintles, which gave them the ticket to the quarterfinals of the competition. In the quarterfinal match against Monarcas Morelia, Arriola was also solid, providing good attacking options, almost scoring a goal, and generating good link up play. The 22-year-old is a versatile player that can play in many different positions. If he does get a chance to play, Arriola should be able to make an impact in this game.
The Argentine striker has looked shaky in some instances this tournament, looking like a limited attacking option at times. In the game against Monarcas Morelia in the Copa MX, Caraglio was one of the bright spots, showing his worth, giving good assists on headers on two instances in the game. Caraglio’s headed passes were flawless, but unfortunately the Xolos could not take advantage of the opportunities. The Argentine striker will need to do more of the same in this upcoming game against an experienced center back partnership in Nestor Araujo and Carlos Izquierdoz, who provide a strong physical presence and good aerial ability as well. Caraglio will even need to be key defending corners and free kicks. Araujo and Izquierdoz have had two goals each this tournament which have come from headers, two of which have been via corner kicks. Forwards Julio Furch and Djaniny Tavares also provide a strong physical presence that Caraglio will need to contain. Caraglio will be important in those aspects of the game, and will need to be in top form to compete against Araujo and Izquierdoz in this one.
At 21 years old, Walter Gael Sandoval looks like one of the most experienced players out on the pitch for Santos Laguna. The midfielder did receive good playing time in the Apertura 2016, playing in 12 games as a starter, but has really begun to be an undeniable starter this tournament, having played in all nine games so far this Clausura. While the youngster has no goals, he has contributed a lot to the team in midfield, providing four assists. Sandoval is also among the players in the Liga MX who have the most kilometers covered, and the most sprints. The Mexican player has 93.48 kilometers covered, and 293 sprints, proving to be one of the hardest workers this Clausura 2017. Without Sandoval, Santos Laguna is not the same team. He should be able to have an impact on this game.
The match should be an enticing duel between two great teams this Clausura 2017. Both teams will be looking for the three points in this match as it is a very contested playoff race this tournament, and losing three points at this stage of the Clausura can prove to be vital. Historically, both teams have had encounters with plenty of goals to show for, and should provide a spectacle at the Estadio Caliente this Friday night. The prediction for the game is a hard-fought encounter which ends in a 2-2 draw, Aviles Hurtado and Victor Ignacio Malcorra providing the goals for the Xolos while Carlos Izquierdoz and Djaniny Tavares provide the goals for Santos Laguna. The match should be one of the best this weekend in the Liga MX Clausura 2017. Go out to the stadium or watch the game on Azteca America and hit the SAP button to hear the commentary of Nate Aburrea and the great English language broadcast the Xolos provide. Fuerza Tijuas!