The Tijuana Xolos hosted Pachuca this Friday, March 3, at the Estadio Caliente. The match was set to be one of the best of week 9 of the Liga MX Clausura 2017, with the Xolos in first place and Pachuca in third place. The game did not disappoint in front of a sold-out crowd at the Estadio Caliente, being an exciting hard-fought encounter.
Miguel Herrera recently has been changing up the formations, but stuck with the 4-3-3 formation which earned him the victory against Monterrey in week 8 of the competition. ‘Piojo’ even went with the same exact starting players that were used against Monterrey last Friday: Gibran Lajud in net, with the backline of Victor Aguilera, Michael Orozco, Damian Perez, and captain, Juan Carlos Valenzuela. The midfield trio consisted of Joe Corona, Victor Malcorra, and Guido Rodriguez. Finally, the front three was made up of Milton Caraglio, Aviles Hurtado, and Juan Martin Lucero.
The first half of the game presented more opportunities for the Xolos going forward, despite having less possession of the ball.
A turning point in the game came in the 12th minute, when Michael Orozco made a harsh foul on Pachuca’s star man, Hirving Lozano. The 21-year-old was rushed off the pitch and taken to the hospital. 18-year-old Roberto Alvarado replaced Lozano, which clearly affected Diego Alonso’s team.
Pachuca does have a strong reliance on the young forward, which gave the away team little to no options going forward for the remainder of the first half.
The Xolos had the majority of the scoring opportunities of the first half, a key one coming in the 24th minute of the match. A corner kick by Joe Corona found Aviles Hurtado’s head, but unfortunately the strike went just wide of the net.
The lone goal of the first half at the Estadio Caliente fell late on in the 42nd minute of the match. A cross by San Diego native, Joe Corona, found defender, Damian Perez, who headed the ball in to make it 1-0 for the Xolitzcuintles.
The first half of the encounter ended with the Xolos having a total of nine shots and Pachuca having only five. The ‘Tuzos’ dominated in possession, having 59 percent possession, while the Xolos only had 41 percent possession. Although Pachuca did dominate possession, the Xolos were the clearly dominant team in the first 45 minutes. The first half was an intense encounter that foreshadowed that the game would be one of the best of the week in Mexican soccer.
The second half came around and Miguel Herrera went with an odd substitution that had a huge impact on the game. ‘Piojo’ decided to sub off defender, Michael Orozco, for Juan Carlos Nunez. The sub came as a surprise as Orozco had not been having a bad game, although he did have a yellow card, which may have been the deciding factor to take him off.
The second half started off in distinct matter, with Pachuca looking like a completely different team, providing great distribution of the ball and playing more as a unit. Pachuca immediately retaliated in the 51st minute, tying the game 1-1. 18-year-old Roberto Alvarado found a cross and put the ball into Gibran Lajud’s net to make it a tie game at the Estadio Caliente. This marked another turning point in the match as the border city side fell apart after that goal.
In the 54th minute of the match, midfielder Guido Rodriguez had to be subbed off the field due to an apparent injury suffered earlier in the encounter. Veteran, Jorge Ortiz, came on for Rodriguez, and Tijuana lost its focal point, the heart and soul of the team, which is Guido Rodriguez. A few minutes after the substitution in the 61st minute of the match, Pachuca made it 2-1. Jonathan Urretaviscaya and Franco Jara were alone against one defender and the Xolos’ goalkeeper. Urretaviscaya sent a beautiful pass to his teammate, Jara, who just tapped in the ball to make it 2-1.
Miguel Herrera made another questionable substitution in the 66th minute of the game when ‘piojo’ brought off Juan Martin Lucero for Henry Martin. Lucero had not provided much going forward, but Martin offered even less, not doing much for the Aztec Canines.
After the 70th minute of the match, the game got heated with three yellow cards in the span of seven minutes. The Xolos were falling apart even more, looking the inferior team in the match that did not know what to do. In the 74th minute of the match, Jonathan Urretaviscaya worsened the situation for ‘Piojo’ and company, making it 3-1 for Pachuca. In the 77th minute, San Diego native, Joe Corona, got his second yellow card of the match, and was sent off, putting the Xolos at a disadvantage with only 10 men on the pitch.
The Xolos seemed doomed to taste defeat at the fortress which is the Estadio Caliente for the second time this tournament. Milton Caraglio gave hope for the fans and for the border city side, getting a goal. The goal came too late, in the dying seconds of the game, in the 90th minute. Almost immediately after the fans were given hope, it was lost with the final whistle of the match by referee, Cesar Arturo Ramos.
The match ended as one of the best of the tournament with a thrilling 3-2 score line. Unfortunately, the Aztec Canines could not find a way to win. Miguel Herrera unquestionably also made an impact with his shaky decisions. The Xolos were dominated in the second half, despite that the score line may suggest that they put up a good fight. The match was a tough one for Miguel Herrera, the fans, and the players. ‘Piojo’ did not blame the referees for the loss,but did describe the refereeing in the game as “disgusting”. Miguel Herrera also said that Cesar Arturo Ramos “had a bad day, just like the team”.
The defeat ensures that the border city side is no longer in first place, as Pachuca now holds that position with 17 points, one ahead of the Xolos. The Aztec Canines will have two difficult encounters coming up, first against Club America this Wednesday, March, 8 in the round of 16 in the Copa MX. Then the Xoloitzcuintles will travel to the Estadio Corregidora to face Queretaro in week 10 of the Liga MX.
The Xolos will need to put the loss behind them and move on to the next tasks that come ahead. Fuerza Tijuas!